Giving staff the opportunity to work from home

Many businesses are increasingly offering their workforce the opportunity to work from home for some or part of their working day.

For your employees, the advantages include:

  • Cost and time savings on commuting to work
  • More flexible hours to accommodate family responsibilities
  • A more comfortable and peaceful environment

For you and your business, the benefits include:

  • Higher productivity, as employees can work longer, with fewer interruptions
  • Employees who are more loyal, more motivated and less stressed
  • A wider pool of potential employees from which to recruit
  • An enhanced reputation as a family-friendly and socially responsible organisation
  • Reduced office space and resource needs

Think carefully

Before you allow your employees to work from home, there are some important considerations you need to take into account.

Firstly, home working clearly suits some roles more than others. Traditional desk-based office jobs are among the most suitable roles for home working, along with:

  • Customer service
  • Administration
  • Telesales
  • Marketing

If some of your employees are allowed to work from home while others aren’t, then you need to consider what kind of a message that sends out. Where possible, it’s best to keep your whole workforce happy, rather than just some.

Next, it’s important to ask each employee how they feel about working from home. It may be perfect for some, but others may thrive in a busy office environment and feel disillusioned and lonely at home.

Think about how working from home could affect team spirit and the culture of your workplace: do you want to risk changing it?

Finding the right balance

If you do decide in favour of home working, the next thing to consider is the amount of time that your employees spend at home and in the office.

If you allow your employees to work from home entirely, it’s important not to lose touch with them. You should still manage and support them as you did before. They should still attend any important meetings, one-to-one sessions and development and performance meetings. Sickness, holiday, discipline and grievance procures should also be followed in exactly the same way.

Make sure that you include any adjustments to policies, procedures and methods of management in your home-workers’ contracts of employment. You may need specialist help with this to ensure that you have covered all the legal requirements.

Some businesses choose to divide their employees' time between the home and office environment throughout the week.

Keeping track

It may be a bit more difficult to monitor your employees’ performance and productivity levels if they work from home. Make sure that you have a robust tracking system in place, so that you can accurately determine how much work your employees are getting through, and whether this is better, worse, or the same as before.

Setting up for success

For most businesses, having employees work from home means providing, installing and setting up equipment, including things like:

  • A workstation: usually a desk and a chair
  • A laptop or PC, with the necessary software licences and internet connection
  • A dedicated phone line
  • A printer
  • Some stationery

Additionally, you may need to upgrade your business insurance to cover this equipment and your employer’s liability.

Safety first

It’s also worth remembering that even though they work in their own homes, home workers are still your responsibility in terms of health and safety.

This means carrying out a relevant risk assessment, taking into account:

  • The testing of any electrical equipment
  • A workstation assessment
  • Lighting levels
  • Trailing cables and other trip hazards
  • Employee training to ensure they work safely
  • Recording accidents or near misses.

Safe and secure

Another consideration for you is how to keep your data secure. Any sensitive client, employee or business information must be treated in exactly the same way, wherever it’s stored.

You need to make sure that secure passwords and encryption software are used for all PCs, as well as internet security and firewall protection.

Trial period

In many cases, it’s best to consider a trial home-working period, with a small group of employees. Monitor how it affects productivity, motivation and your business in general before making a decision to extend the programme.

Further information

BBC News