Six months into the pandemic and a chance to assess – Did you get home working right? It was all a bit of a rush when lockdown came in but now might be the time to reflect. Are any changes needed? Is it working? What should you do differently? What have you forgotten to do?
Now is a great time to regroup and refocus.
From the 1 August the Government guidance on working from home changed – As an employer, you can start welcoming employees back to a COVID safe workplace. But even so, it looks like home working is here to stay – whether on a part-time basis or full-time basis. So let’s recap some thoughts on home working.
10 tips for employers with home workers
Review your home-working policy
Have you got one in place? Is everyone clear on what they should and shouldn’t be doing when working from home? A home working policy can set clear expectations around the key areas like the management of employees remotely, equipment, security and confidentiality. You can put one in place now to make sure everyone knows where they stand.
Conduct a Health and Safety Risk assessment
Did you carry out a risk assessment or ask employees to do a workstation assessment themselves for their home workstation? If not, get one done asap if home working will be continuing. The sooner any issues which crop up are addressed, the better. Visit The Health and Safety Executive website for more information.
Talk to your employees
In all the madness that we’ve experienced living through this pandemic, are you talking enough to your employees? Do you really know what is going on with them and how they are coping? Make sure you regularly touch base, preferably by a method that is most comfortable for that employee. Be a good listener don’t just talk. Communicate any updates. Share experiences.
Check wellbeing and mental health
Encourage your employees to take regular breaks from work, to stay in contact with colleagues, to keep active and exercise, and to make time for activities they enjoy. It can help to reflect on what helps them feel more positive (and what doesn’t). Do you have an Employee Assistance Programme or any other tools to offer struggling employees – publicise them!
Special care for shielding employees
Is a return to work the right decision for shielding employees? If your employees have a disability (in the legal sense i.e. under the Equality Act) you need to consider any reasonable adjustments to help them with their role. This might be to continue working from home.
Employees with child caring responsibilities
Have your employees been able to get nursery places or child care for all their children? Does it cover all of their hours? As there is likely to be a reduced number of places, you may need to be flexible here and home working could be the solution to help them work around responsibilities.
Contract of Employment
Does your contract allow for a change in location e.g. from “Swindon office” to “home”? If not, have you got the employee’s consent for this arrangement i.e. homeworking? If not, consider formalising the option. Get the employee’s written consent now if home working is going to continue for some time. Also consider the GDPR provisions in the contract and policies – Do you have robust guidelines setting out your expectations around processing and storing information?
Appraisals, Reviews and Training
Appraisals and reviews don’t need to stop just because your employees are working from home. Keep them up. It is important everyone knows how they are getting on and if any changes are needed. Be kind and compassionate too. Are you making sure employees are keeping up their training and personal development? Don’t let this slide.
Schedule regular team meetings
Don’t give up on team meetings. They are a good way to check in as a group and help build cohesion. People can throw around some ideas and thoughts that might help the rest of the team – whether about IT glitches, client updates or blocking out noise! Also, keep an eye on your company culture – is it sliding out of focus and is there something you can do to reinforce its shared values and attitudes?
Do a Survey
Think about doing a survey to assess the whole kit and kaboodle. This will give you an insight into any kinks in the system, problems people are facing and the benefits of home working and help you shape next steps.
References and further reading