According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the number of home workers between 2008 and 2018 rose by 74%. That equates to 1.54 million people choosing to work from home or remotely, whether that's in a local coffee shop or shared co-working environment.
Through our experience as HR consultants, working with business owners from all sizes and sectors, we understand that the idea of staff 'working from home' can make some feel uneasy.
The fact that they can't see the person physically in the office leads to doubt as to whether they are actually working - perhaps they are having a lie-in, watching TV or quite possibly enjoying an 'extra' days holiday!
This cartoon depicts the dilemma very well - credit to Doug Savage.
So what can employers do to not only feel comfortable with staff working from home but to embrace the trend and use it to their advantage? We share our top tips!
The 5 Golden Rules to Embrace Working From Home
Set out guidance for staff working at home clearly in your employment documentation. This is essential to ensure that everyone in the organisation understands what is expected of them and to set a standard for all to follow. There are lots of factors you will need to consider for example there may be some roles for which home working is not suitable; health and safety responsibilities i.e. that work stations are suitable; additional policies for any staff working with sensitive data i.e. security of laptops etc. If you are unsure where to start or feel your employment policies could do with a refresh, we can help.
Bring your IT and data security policies up to date to limit risk of data breaches (and big fines!) 2018 saw legislation regarding personal data boosted with the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. More responsibility has been placed on businesses regarding how they hold data and what they do with it. When it comes to remote workers the risk of a potential data breach is increased because of factors such as: - staff operating in a less secure environment than they would normally be when in the office - client data potential accessible to unauthorised individuals - data lost through theft or sabotage of portable devices such as laptops There are lots of options for employers to tighten their security including data encryption and encryption of portable devices. This article from HJS Technology, "GDPR and the remote worker" highlights the importance of data security and a number of options for protection.
Check in regularly with remote workers to minimise the impact of feeling isolated. A common theme from surveys of remote workers and sole workers is that working outside of an office can lead to feelings of isolation. There's no one around to bounce ideas off or to boost morale. This has contributed to the growth of co-working and shared working spaces, where individuals can rent desk space as they require to then work in an office-like environment. If you have staff regularly working from home, make sure you consider ways of checking in and offering the interaction digitally so they don't feel all alone.
Utilise technology and software to support home working. There is so much technology available to support organisations using remote working to their advantage, and you probably use it every day when communicating with friends and family. For example, you can continue to have face-to-face or team meetings using video calls like Skype and Zoom. There's also cloud-based team collaboration software like Microsoft Teams that also supports video meetings as well as file sharing and business messaging. Tools like breatheHR can also help you to make HR processes like requesting holiday and updating employee personal details, more streamlined and digital. You can switch to paperless processes that have a digital record of each step.
Use the benefits of remote working to your advantage! Being open to including remote working could help you to recruit individuals with the skills you need to bring into your business. You're not necessarily limited to the local market. Offering remote working as an option could also be seen as an employee benefit and potentially attract people to come work for you.
We understand change can be unnerving when running your own business. You're responsible for most areas of your business and the fear of getting something wrong is often enough to halt any progress or development.
Our team of experienced HR consultants are a great source of reassurance and guidance for our clients, especially when the business is planning for growth. We offer a confidential discussion if you feel you're stuck when it comes to your people management and HR processes. Just call us on 01722 325 833.