Pre-coronavirus, some employers may have thought that homeworking would not be suitable for their business. Or perhaps, had considered testing the waters of remote work but hadn’t found the time to put a trial into motion.
This quickly changed when the government made working from home a critical component in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses that could facilitate remote work were asked to do so, and what may previously have seemed like barriers to remote work had to quickly be addressed to protect health and keep businesses operational.
Is home working here to stay?
The Office of National Statistics reported that 49% of workers were still working from home by mid-June. Will they be heading back to the office once a COVID-secure risk assessment deems it safe to do so? Or are we on the verge of a monumental shift in working practices?
From conversations with clients, we know that some are considering making home working a permanent fixture, after realising it is a viable option for their business. There are obvious benefits, such as social distancing and reduced overheads.
If a continuation of home working is something you have been thinking about for your workforce, a plan can help to ensure a smooth transition and highlight potential HR hurdles that you could face.
Employers may be surprised to find that permanent working from home can be quite different to the temporary set up of recent months. So, before you press send on that “We’re not returning to the office” email, it might be helpful to have a read through the below.
Things to think about before making your business fully remote…
1. If it hasn’t already, the novelty of newly working from home will wear off and you may discover a dip in productivity. How will you manage this in the long term? Moving project management online and finding fresh ways to keep employees engaged will help.
2. Makeshift desks will need an upgrade. It’s amazing how some employees have creatively continued working during coronavirus. But workstations need an assessment when considering remote work for the long haul. Can staff work comfortably and focus?
3. Employee health and safety is still your obligation. Although you’ll no longer have a premises to maintain, health and safety still matters. A risk assessment for homeworking can help to protect employees and your business and should be updated periodically.
4. Contracts need updating. By continuing home working for those who would ordinarily be working elsewhere, you are making a permanent change which needs to be reflected in updated contracts. You can add a homeworking policy which details your new processes.
5. Internet downtime. A power cut may not have happened during lockdown, but it will one day. When you’re sitting next to each other at work, you can speak to one another and find ways to manage. How will employees continue to work in the event of Internet downtime? Best to think about this now and have a backup plan in place.
6. Losing human connection. Some difficult conversations can benefit from human connection. How can this be achieved when managing a remote team? Regular contact is crucial, not just to monitor workflow but to understand the well-being of your team. You may also want to consider meet-ups for employees living near each other, as this can help to combat loneliness and strengthen team dynamics.
7. Company culture could change. With everyone now working from home permanently you may notice some informalities creeping into your company culture. This could end up being a good thing if employees are less stressed. Just make sure it doesn’t go so far as to cross the line and that company policies are clear and accessible.
8. Remote inductions for new hires. You may not be hiring now, but one day you will be. How will you introduce new recruits to the wider business and make sure that they have everything they need to hit the ground running? A remote induction can be achieved, but you may want to start thinking about it well ahead of your next recruitment drive to be prepared.
9. Protecting your assets and your data. Now that you have decided employees won’t be returning to the office, you’ll want to make sure your equipment does return when you part ways. If you haven’t done this already, log who has what and put in place a clear procedure for departing employees to return equipment.
Similarly, careful consideration should also be given to the protection of your data. Do employees have adequate cyber security in place?
10. Storage. With so much else to think about, storage might not be the first thing on your mind. But if you are shutting up shop for the long haul, storage needs consideration. Can you downsize (rather than lose physical premises altogether), increase cloud storage or relocate some items?
11. Working from home, anywhere in the world. Some employees may see this as an opportunity to request to work from home abroad. Initially you may feel this would be fine if they have good WiFi. But there is much more to consider, such as employment laws of the host country and immigration rules for starters. A request may come your way, so it is a good idea to think about your stance on this sooner rather than later.
Getting the most from your remote team
Homeworking is a positive step towards flexible working which has many mutual benefits for a business and its employees. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. Managing a remote team for the long term requires a unique approach to people management, something that our HR experts are here to help you with.