Although the government has urged companies to return to the office, over the last year lots of us have realised that home working can actually work. But is it the right decision for your organisation in the long-term? And what adjustments do you have to make?
Many companies in the UK will be considering whether returning to the office is the right move. After making adjustments to ensure that teams can work from home, bringing everyone back to the office may seem like more hassle than it is worth.
But long-term working from home comes with its issues. And if you want your employees to be just as productive and supported as they would be in the office, some adjustments will have to be made.
Home working issues
1 – Equipment
The first and most obvious issue that comes with home working is the set up. If you’ve taken on new employees in the last year then you probably know first-hand that getting a new hire set up remotely can be a hassle.
Things like laptops, extra screens and phones have to be shipped before the start date. But things like a suitable desk chair, table and wrist support can be forgotten in the excitement of taking on a new hire.
Working on an old dining chair or in bed can quickly lead to health issues that impact your employees for years to come.
It’s always a good idea to hold regular home workers risk assessments to ensure that you’re giving them the equipment they need.
2 – Insurance
Speaking of all of that expensive work equipment sitting in your employee’s homes, do you have an insurance plan that covers loss, theft or destruction of property outside of the office location?
A good working setup can be expensive, especially for workers in more technical roles. The last thing you need to happen is a drink spilled or laptop stolen.
But insurance that covers equipment isn’t the only thing you need to think about. Employers liability insurance covers job-related injury and illness claims from your employees, and you might want to check that it is valid for remote workers.
3 – Expenses
Your home working employees can see their household bills take a bit of a beating. When you’re not at the office all day your heating, electricity and gas bills can skyrocket.
Your employees can claim money back from HMRC to cover these expenses, you might want to think about whether you should contribute to those too. Most organisations don’t do this, on the basis that staff are generally saving travel expenses but a small allowance for those who have not chosen to work from home might be worth considering.
Once an employee is permanently based at home, then you’ll need to consider other expenses including postal and courier services or even travel if you need employees to come into the office for meetings.
4 – Benefits
If you haven’t taken a look at your benefits scheme in a while you could be missing a trick. No one cares about fresh fruit in the office if no one will be there to eat it!
Instead, look out for new ways to give your employees great benefits they can enjoy from home.
Gym memberships, phone plan reimbursements and healthcare plans can be a goodway to give your employees value and make them feel taken care of.
5 – Contract changes
Permanent working from home could mean that you need to update your employee’s contracts. Details about their location and working hours could be incorrect, and it’s best that contract reflects what happens in practice.
When it comes to working hours you might want to consider whether you need the team to work the traditional 9 – 5, or if you can offer more flexibility, and allow some staff to do their work in the evenings instead.
Any changes to contracts need to be made with agreement from the team, so make sure you discuss their wishes and any proposed changes.
6 – Data protection
Issues like data protection and privacy can come up when working remotely.
It’s best to iron out your processes for keeping things secure, what would happen if equipment is stolen, passwords are lost or documents go missing?
If you haven’t moved all of your work to the cloud, your employees might even need access to a locked filing cabinet or a shredder.
7 – It doesn’t always work for everyone
Sometimes no matter the changes you make and issues you do resolve, some of your employees will be unable to work from home full-time.
For some there isn’t enough space, decent wifi or peace and quiet to do their best work. Some of your employees will simply miss the social aspect of working in an office and find the isolation hard to manage.
Don’t assume that cancelling the office lease is going to be the answer for everyone. Talk to your team and really understand what they want before making those big decisions. They might have been happy to work from home initially, but the novelty could be wearing off now. If you notice any of your employees struggling, it’s best to bring it up to see if you can get to the root of the problem, you might end up with a small office hub, an element of working from home some of the week or organise a local co-working space for them to use.
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