Home working is growing in popularity as employers try to accommodate the modern reality of people juggling different priorities.
There are numerous reasons for home working to appeal to employers.
- It can reduce overheads. If you are running short of office space, it may be appropriate to get some people working from home to avoid having to fork out more money on bigger office space.
- It can boost productivity. Many employers believe that employees can get on with work in a more productive way without all the hustle and bustle of the office.
- It can increase employee retention.
- It can also widen out the pool of applicants available. For example, some applicants may be put off applying for a job in a particular location because it is so far from home, but they would consider the job working from home.
For employees, it can help them achieve a good work-life balance, save them long and costly commutes and lower their stress levels.
It may look like a win-win situation, but there are a number of things that employers need to think about.
Although technology is fantastic and employees can video conference, attend webinars and deliver most things by email, not all roles will be suitable for home working.
Employers in, for example, manufacturing, retail, health care or security, may have roles that require face-to-face contact, physical presence in the workplace or handling specialist equipment. These types of jobs do not lend themselves to home working.
Contracts of Employment
In the employee’s Contract of Employment, you should cover the place of work, hours of work, equipment, expenses, insurance, health and safety and the right to enter their home.
You will need to think about what equipment they require to be able to work at home.
This could include computers, printers, office furniture, internet access, telephones, and stationery.
The contract should state who provides what equipment and who is responsible for paying.
Access to employee’s home
The employer should reserve the right in the contract to enter the employee’s home, for example, to install or maintain equipment necessary to carry out their work, carry out any health and safety assessments or recover company property upon termination of employment.
Confidentiality of information
It is important to ensure the security of confidential information. You may set out in their Contract of Employment that they need to encrypt or protect by password all confidential data, lock computer terminals, use a shredder or confidential bin for disposal and keep all papers secure when not in use.
You should also think about their anti-virus software and how information is backed up.
Health and safety
Employers have a duty to protect the Health and Safety of all their employees, including home workers.
You need to carry out a risk assessment of the employee’s working environment and take the necessary steps to reduce and control these risks. Depending on the nature of their work, common risks could be slips, trips and falls, display screen equipment, manual handling, and stress. In an office type role, for instance, you need to consider whether they are working in a safe place, there is good lighting and if there are tripping hazards.
It is far easier to manage an employee when they are in the workplace and you can keep “an eye on them”. Are they really working or doing laundry and watching the latest episode of Coronation Street?
This is why communication key. You should frequently be in touch – whether this is by email, daily calls or weekly video conferences – to see how they are progressing, where you stand with projects and if they are hitting those deadlines. It is also essential to keep them in the loop to ensure they feel integrated in the team and understand the goals trying to be achieved and the direction that the business is heading towards. You should also think about any training or development opportunities to make sure they feel engaged.
Not all employees can cope or enjoy working from home. It is not all about wearing your pyjamas, drinking pots of tea and being able to work without distractions. Some people feel isolated and lonely – they can miss office banter and team camaraderie.
You also need to ask yourself: are they able to work alone for hours on end day after day? Are they self-disciplined and self-motivated? Can they cope with limited supervision? Can they separate work and life commitments effectively? If the answers are no, it is likely that home working is not the right option for them.
Get them to come into the office to touch base, attend meetings and participate in social events and make sure that they can talk to someone within the organisation if they are finding the arrangement difficult.
If you need helping drafting the contract or are experiencing issues managing a home worker, contact your Employment Law Adviser for advice and support.