Did you know that 4.2 million employees in the UK now regularly work from home? And perhaps more interestingly, 1.8 million would like to do so according to the TUC.

Home working has been shown to boost employee engagement, something that UK small businesses struggle with, as employees feel they have much more control over how they work for you, so it’s certainly worth considering if it works for your business. So what should you do if you want to help your employees work from home a bit more often?

We’ve put together five tips for managing home workers right here, to ensure that you get the most out of your staff when they’re working away from the office:

1 – Check in as regularly as possible

It might seem cumbersome, but checking up on how your staff are progressing with their tasks – just as you might do in the office – is important to ensure that they’re working at their best.

Giving them ample warning to expect a call from you, and that you will be checking how they’re getting on, will ensure that they understand it’s not just a day off for them to do what they want.

It’s not just about cracking the whip though, you could also communicate what’s going on back at HQ, reminding them to take the necessary breaks and check that they have everything they need. That way your employees feel valued, and are not constantly under pressure to prove they are working.

2 – Set expectations

Helping staff to understand what is expected of them whilst they are out of the office, and ensuring they know that they are still subject to company policy, is crucial to getting the most out of home workers.

How should you do this? Firstly, making it clear (normally in writing) what is expected of them when you agree to a home working request helps to ensure that the employee understands that they are working from home, and it isn’t annual leave.

Also, setting tasks to be completed whilst they are working from home can help. Not only does it allow you to set measures for your employees’ performance whilst working away from the office, it can also mean you don’t have to check in so often. The onus is on them to do the work and complete the task or tasks assigned to them – and, if they cannot, give you reasonable feedback for why.

3 – Make sure staff have the right technology whilst ‘on the go’

Emails are often not as effective as getting up and speaking to someone, if you don’t grab someone’s attention straight away, an urgent request can get lost – especially if the sender’s too polite to click ‘high importance’!

But when someone is working from home, it’s that little bit more tricky to get away from email communication. So it can be very useful to give employees the tools to get in touch with their colleagues through different means if needs be.

There is a host of useful technology to help with this. For example, chat platforms like Skype can be set up and used by employees to get the answer they need more quickly than might be possible through a phone call or email. And just gives them another channel to badger those unobservant or forgetful team-members!

It can also make checking in periodically that bit easier for you too, and gives you video conferencing options which can help encourage staff to get out of their pyjamas.

4 – Make sure they are clear on Health & Safety

Usually working from home simply means sitting at a desk and using a laptop. However, depending on the equipment they use, you as an employer could in fact be responsible for their safety – even in their own home.

For example, if you provide the laptop or any other electrical equipment for them to use, ensuring that it is safety tested (and actually safe to use) is important.

Also, you may wish to provide them with information on the use of Display Screen Equipment, to ensure that they don’t cause any unnecessary strain on themselves whilst working at home. It is important that you encourage them to work from a proper work station especially if they are working from home for a prolonged period. You don’t have to do a visual inspection, but it might be sensible to ask them to complete and return a risk assessment.

5 – Don’t overdo it

The final, and perhaps most important point when it comes to working from home is that it’s advisable to keep working from home for those that really need it, and can prove as much. This could be to have quiet concentrated time to work on a big project or simply to accept delivery of a new washing machine without having to use a day’s holiday.

Obviously, don’t be unreasonable about it, there’s an element of trusting your employees that can go really far towards keeping them engaged in your business. However, not approving every home working request that comes your way – can help to ensure employees understand that it’s a perk, not a given right.

Like any method for improving staff motivation and engagement, allowing them to work from home every now and then lets them know that you care about their wellbeing and their input – wherever they are.

Keep these five tips in mind – and you’ll be on your way to being a great employer, helping your employees to achieve a simple wish of working home every now and then.

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