I hope this discussion between myself and Ruth Johnson – consummate HR Professional and Director at INK Group – directs you towards making better informed decisions regarding your home working policies. I also hope it provides some reassurance, and allows you to assess the positive potential and the possible pitfalls of remote working.
Watch the full discussion below…
It is perhaps a little self-gratifying of me to note just how illuminating the content of my recent chat with Ruth Johnson of the INK Group was. But there isn’t an employer in the world at the moment who isn’t having discussions with their employees or conversations with the management team about the short, medium and long term possibilities (and consequences) of home working.
If you currently asking any of the questions below, then listening to this discussion a listen is an absolute must…
- Are current contracts worthless?
- What are my responsibilities as an employer to home working staff?
- What are the implications and considerations I should be giving to Health & Safety?
- What are the implications and considerations I should be giving to Data Protection?
- Should we be making contractual changes immediately?
- Is there a difference between ‘asking’ an employee to work from home and ‘allowing’ them to work from home?
- What additional ‘hidden’ business costs are associated with allowing home working?
- How can I create a framework of guidelines to teams who wish to work outside the office?
- How to manage the potential for overworking and the associated stress?
- What should employees be aware of when working from home?
- What are the potential (unintended) pitfalls for discrimination when considering who can and cannot work from home?
- How is culture impacted by home working?
Times are a’changing
30% of employees state they would prefer to work from home 3-4 days a week
7% wish to be fully remote
43% would like to work from home 1-2 days a week
Leaving just 20% who wish to return to the office full time
– Statistic from The INK Group survey
In my role as an advisor, I’m hearing from agency owners who are in the midst of navigating their current work from home policies. Some are feeling pressure to update or rewrite contracts and many are offering employees everything from expenses to cover their broadband, to the delivery of chairs and desks and the potential for adaptation of working hours. Few have any concrete advice from which they are basing their decisions; many are inadvertently missing large chunks of knowledge in this new geographically fragmented workplace.
Whilst proffering all these extras is without doubt another show of how business leaders really recognise the value of their talent, I can’t help but wonder; what really are the consequences for this desire to work remotely on both employees and employers?
My chat with Ruth combines the questions and discussions I am having daily with clients, and her invaluable advice as a highly experienced HR professional.
- Why businesses should be cautious about what they offer as ‘fixed’.
- Working from home is still a relatively new and novel. Steer clear of offering absolutes in favour of creating clear temporary working guildlines with a view to reviewing them
Health and Safety
- We discuss how duty of care as an employer remains the same for employees working from home as it does in the office
Considerations for business owners:
- Issuing a self assessment for those working from home to ensure they have a safe and secure working environment
- Requesting a home visit to check the appropriateness if you feel necessary
- Bearing in mind cost implications to make sure you are fulfilling your duty of care
- The importance of documenting your auditing process
- Taking time to consider the fragmented cost saving of ‘dumping the office’
- A matter of semantics – until working from home becomes custom and practice, asking someone to work from home is different rather having given them permission to. This directly impacts your health and safety considerations
“This is NOT an exercise in covering your backside just in case something goes wrong, this is an exercise in making sure nothing goes wrong in the first place” – Ruth Johnson, INK Group
Data Protection and Security
- We discuss the importance of data protection and the steps employers can take to ensure security remains front of mind for employees working from home
- Data is a huge risk area for remote working
- House/flat shares, open computers, unsecured networks – risk is multiplied many times when employees are working from home
Maintaining Brand Identity
- The risks and impact home working may have on brand identity
- Considerations on how to maintain your brand value in a home working space
- How do you make sure your customer who is dealing with your home working team has an experience which is fluid and professional?
Space or Base
A concept I am speaking to my clients a lot about is that of space or base. Most people will need some sort of office from which to maintain engagement, meetings and development, but what this looks like is up for debate.
- We discuss the differences between having a place to be based as a business, with people choosing whether to work remotely, or having people work remotely and dedicating a space whereby they can come together
- The ultimate ambition is to create a framework that enables anyone to work from anywhere to do their best possible work
o Same client experience
o Quality of delivery is the same
o Employees gets the same development opportunities
Guidelines of Expectation
- Flexibility is a huge plus for home workers but can impact on the smooth delivery between clients and remote working teams
- Create core office time – when will ALL your staff be available?
- Give clear instruction to stop employees from overworking not just underworking
- Without this, employers may see a rise in employee stress and undue churn
Extra costs – reasonable for the business to assume with home working
- Commuting costs to the office
- Consider expenses of home working – tax free allowance for businesses offering home working (£26 a month)
I would love to hear if there are any specific questions you are asking yourself as a business leader, or if you have put in place any policies or guidelines which are working well. In the coming weeks we will be putting together a number of short articles focussing on the questions raised during the conversation so please share, contribute and add to the discussion.