Homeworking After Lockdown – Could Companies Allow Homeworking as a Permanent Option

Since the outbreak of coronavirus earlier this year and subsequent lockdown that was enforced in March, many companies moved overnight to homeworking. The government is now starting to ease the restrictions and are allowing more businesses to reopen, some will be considering whether the arrangements could become a permanent thing.

A survey conducted by XpertHR found two-thirds of HR professionals thought employees would be reluctant to return to the workplace when lockdown is over.

Recently Twitter announced that their employees could work from home forever if they wished to, Facebook and Google have said their employees can work from home until the end of the year. Avanti Communications have also said that employees can do their jobs from home permanently.

As businesses start to reopen and employees slowly return to work, it is recommended that employers talk to their employees to see how they feel about returning to the workplace. Not all companies will be able to facilitate employees working from home, whereas others may be starting to look at whether this could be a permanent option.

Some employees may have found that they are more productive at home without the interruptions they get in the office and would prefer to remain working from home, they may have created their own office space and have the necessary equipment needed so may question if this can become a permanent agreement.

Not all employees will want to carry on working from home, others may prefer office working and being with their colleagues, some may not have a dedicated space to work from and are just using their dining table as a temporary desk, or they have too many disturbances at home for it to become a long term way of life.

Things to consider for homeworking to be permanent

Employers considering homeworking being a permanent way of life for employees need to ensure they consider the following:

  • Talk to employees:

It is vital that employers talk to their employees to see how employees are feeling about returning to the workplace, if a company is looking at allowing employees to continue to work from home then they need a discussion with employees about their workspace and routine for working from home. Home working employees need to be able to separate a place of work and their home at the end of the day, so they do not find themselves constantly checking emails or doing a bit more work as they are not ‘leaving the office to go home’. These employees will require regular one-to one discussions and managers will need to look out for signs of this and remind employees that they do need to switch off from work at times.

  • Electronic risk assessments:

These will need to be done to make sure that an employee’s home workspace is suitable to work from on a long-term basis. During the pandemic, many employees have found themselves having to get by working from home, if this is to be a continuous arrangement companies need to ensure employees have the necessary equipment and that all equipment passes the relevant safety tests.

  • Data Protection obligations:

 Employees who use their own equipment will need to have up to date anti-virus software. Data protection can easily be forgotten when employees are out of the office environment, especially if the equipment is being shared with family members also. If employees are to remain working at home, then refresher training on General Data Protection Regulations will be required.

  • Support for managers is crucial:

Managers need to have trust in their employees as they will not see them on a daily basis, this may require extra training for managers to enable them to competently set employees more specific and shorter objectives and be able to provide adequate coaching to remote employees. Managers need to avoid asking employees to provide a list of everything they have done on a daily basis. Employees cannot be micromanaged when working remotely.

  • New procedures and processes:

Processes will need to be reviewed and updated to work post pandemic. Flexible working policies will need to be in place, including working hours, performance reviews updated to accommodate being done remotely. Weekly team meetings and one to one meetings will need to be agreed, communications and technology policies should be updated so all employees use the same systems and methods of communication, not all conversations will need to be done via a video link. Absence management policies should be updated to include remote workers and how they report absence.

  • Employee mental wellbeing measures:

When looking at permanent home working, the mental wellbeing of employees is vital for companies, measures need to be in place to support employees if they need it. Working from home can be isolating as employees are not working with their teams so they can feel alone and not part of a team. Loneliness can impact a person’s mental health. Managers need to ensure they are including remote workers in team meetings and discussions and consider how they communicate to these employees, some communications by email is fine, but there needs to be interaction such as group calls or video calls for everyone to connect.

Companies should look at having an Employee Assistance Programme in place which offers independent support to employees.

If you would like further information on remote working, please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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