Employees work from home for many reasons. It may be the employer’s choice in an attempt to keep overheads under control, or alternatively the employee may have had a request authorised under flexible working laws to allow homeworking.
However it comes about, there are some general principles that employers need to consider when their employees’ home doubles as their workplace.
Have a Policy
Working from home presents employers with several issues, both practical and otherwise, that need to be ironed out from the start. To that end, a written policy will ensure that the stance is set out from the outset and provide a ‘go to’ document in the event that any confusion or questions arise.
If homeworking is not the norm in an organisation, it is important to remember homeworkers when issuing any communications out to employees. If you’re sending an email, include them on the distribution list but remember that they will not need to know everything that office based staff need to know e.g. to ensure the staff kitchen to kept tidy at all times. Remember that employee engagement has strong links to communication and involvement.
Make sure homeworkers have a list of names and telephone numbers of people they will need to contact as part of their duties.
Organise catch ups to ensure that the homeworker feels connected to the workplace. These may be daily whilst the homeworker is new but may be made less frequent as time passes.
Make sure the employee has all the equipment they will need to be able to job the job properly including laptops, printers etc. Think about what will happen if they break – will the employee have remote IT support? Consider their location too. Does it have good wifi access? What contingency plans will be in place if their internet access falters?
Don’t forget that your duty of care extends to homeworkers so ensure that, from a health and safety point of view, their workstation is set up correctly.
Where the home is also the workplace, the employee may face temptations which take their focus off their work. The policy should set out exactly what is expected in terms of productivity and this should be effectively supervised. Monitoring on a greater level may need to be undertaken with a homeworker to ensure that they are performing to the required standard.
If the employee will be in possession of sensitive or confidential documents, you must ensure that they are able to take appropriate measures to ensure these documents are stored correctly. Provision of lockable cabinets etc should cover this.
In addition, agree with the employee that the equipment you provide to them to carry out their work is to be used for work purposes only, or that the homeworker’s passwords remain secret to prevent anyone else in the household from accessing your work systems.