A client contacted us when he received this letter from one of his team. We’ve been experiencing a lot of these sorts of questions and, understandably, there is a lot of concern for those businesses who, prior to March 2020, had no staff working from home. Having gone to the trouble of making sure people had access to the technology needed to work from home, many businesses encouraged this, supported by the Government’s advice to ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, Save lives’ (remember that?). But this week Prime Minister Johnson told the nation to go back to work, which has caused its own challenges for many who had not presented themselves at their workplace for 4 months. If you’re seeing an increase in staff wanting some (or total) flexibility, either for childcare or other reasons, we can provide advice. For this particular client, it went something like this:
1. Any request for a change to working arrangements should be seen as a Flexible Working Request. There are rules about how you should manage these requests – time limits, procedures and reasons why you might decline it and you are legally required to follow the law on flexile working requests.
2. To be able to agree to someone working from home effectively, you’ll need to consider a range of things, including the technology that will be needed, security, their health and safety – an individual risk assessment should be done – and who picks up the cost of any additional equipment? Ideally you’d have a written policy so that everyone knows the expectations on them, and a formal agreement that can be reviewed on a regular basis.
3. Consider what you need to put in place so that you can be reassured that the person is doing what you pay them for! This is likely to need a combination of communication (increased, and different), planned team and supervision meetings, discussions about expectations and objectives and regular follow ups. You might want to revisit their job description and set shorter (quarterly or monthly) targets, with formal reviews along the way.
4. Relationships can suffer – or flourish – due to the lack of face-to-face contact and the different approach you will need to take to arrange team meetings and communicate with each other in a different way. Consider the effect on working relationships and what you can do to maintain them. It’s worth thinking about how you will you know that your projects are on track, all staff are being adequately supported and what, if anything, is suffering.
5. Motivation can be an issue – you’ll need to think about how you make sure that they are focussed on their work (particularly with small children around) and how flexible you can be about the actual hours worked (if the work can be completed at 10pm, and this fits with childcare, then you might be more inclined to agree to it than if this role is customer-facing and so is required between 9 and 5). You might have to encourage them to work through the difficulties that they face at home, including techniques of time management, managing stress and dealing with how you deal with your own feelings which might include a lack of trust and a suspicion about their working hours and commitment.
Flexible working that includes homeworking can be a real benefit for employers and employees, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. To make it work for everyone, a clear plan and approach is needed – as ever, we can help. If you are a retained client, then contact your named consultant, for enquiries about our homeworking toolkit, please either telephone 01206 700690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
For retained clients a number of template letters, forms and guidelines for both flexible working requests and homeworking are available from our client resources portal.
For non retained clients the HR Elite Homeworking Toolkit can be purchased for £99 plus vat – 26 supporting documents including managers checklists and guides, template homeworking agreement, template policy, guides on managing and motivating homeworkers, guides on managing performance and objective setting and a guide on ensuring effective communication with homeworkers – and a whole lot more.
Retained clients will receive a 10% discount when purchasing the Homeworking Toolkit.