Coronavirus: are your working from home policies up to date?

Alan Price, HR expert and CEO at HR software firm, BrightHR, discusses what essential steps employers need in place for home working

With coronavirus cases continuing to increase, an option that many employers should be exploring right now is permitting staff to work from home. While some companies may already have homeworking agreements in place, for others this may be a first-time scenario. Whatever the situation, there are a couple of things to bear in mind.

An employer’s duty of care towards their workforce remains the same regardless of where they conduct their work, be it at another office, a client’s office or, indeed, at their own home. However, certain practicalities will need to be taken into account during a homeworking situation, such as conducting a risk assessment of the property and ensuring that staff have everything they need to conduct their role fully. Therefore, employers may need to be prepared to make adjustments to their usual approach to this issue and double-check that the appropriate health and safety checks are outlined within company policy.

Some managers may be put-off from the idea of homeworking due to a concern that it will be more challenging to supervise staff in these situations. Thinking some employees may take this as an excuse to binge-watch Netflix and spend not as much time on work. However, if an employer is transparent in their expectations of the employee while carrying out work at home, this is unlikely to be a real issue. Trusting employees to continue to carry out their tasks as normal is key to a successful transition to remote working

The best way to approach this is to apply targets to home-based staff in the same way as they are applied to office-based staff. Implementing a reporting system daily or weekly, where the homeworker lets their manager know what they have completed in that time frame, is vital. In this way, management can maintain a degree of control over employee activities and ask them to justify why tasks are not being completed.

Company policy, and all homeworking agreements, should outline that the company reserves the right to terminate the arrangement at any time if it is not deemed to be a productive situation. It should also be made clear that the employee may face disciplinary proceedings if they deliberately exploit the situation and their conduct is not up to the usual expected standards.

As coronavirus continues to spread at an alarming rate, workplaces will likely be considering closing their offices in the coming weeks; therefore, it’s vital to consider remote working preparations now.