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Guide to home working for managers

8 minute read
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This guide looks at the legislation and best practises for home working, covering the statutory right of qualified workers to request to work from home and how line managers may effectively address the practical challenges that come with it.

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What is a Guide to home working for managers?

The purpose of this Guide to home working for managers is to provide you with a flexible and customisable document to serve as a robust and effective starting point for you.

By using our Guide to home working for managers, you can streamline your process, maintain consistency and accuracy, and save time, and it can be easily adapted to fit your specific scenario.

Guide to home working for managers
guide to home working for managers

Guide to home working for managers


Introduction

Home working is the term used to describe a situation in which a worker agrees to undertake some or all of his or her job for the employer from the comfort of his or her own home. Home workers might work full or part time.

Although home working arrangements and management of home employees are not without obstacles, they can give benefits to an organisation. An arrangement in which an employee conducts some or all of his or her job from home can, nevertheless, be very productive with careful thinking and preparation, as well as regular good communication.

Why should homework be permitted?

Working from home can provide a variety of major benefits, but they must be objectively assessed against the possible drawbacks. Working from home is not for everyone, and not all occupations are ideal for doing so.

Advantages and disadvantages of home working

Advantages

  • Because of the reduction in the requirement for office space and other overheads, the organisation will be able to save money.
  • When it comes to recruitment, the manager may be able to cast a broader net because it doesn't matter where the employee resides as long as he or she has access to a computer and a phone.
  • Individuals who cannot stay away from their homes for extended periods of time will be included in a larger pool of talent.
  • Time that would have previously been spent travelling to work may now be used for productive work.
  • Home employees are likely to be motivated and so productive since they have control over how and when they execute their work.
  • Home employees are less likely to be interrupted by colleagues than office workers.
  • The presence of a personal problem does not always necessitate the employee's absence from work, hence absence levels may be decreased.
  • Absences due to transportation issues or extreme weather can be avoided.
  • Working from home can assist to foster a culture of trust and personal accountability.

Disadvantages

  • Individuals who lack adequate self-discipline or drive to work from home have the potential to misuse the system.
  • Some home workers may work excessively long hours and believe there is no distinction between their professional and personal life.
  • The employee's job may be disrupted by family members or domestic concerns.
  • Where people operate in relative isolation from one another, it may be difficult to foster and sustain a team spirit.

If hardware, software, and documentation reside outside the office, there may be worries about system and internet security.

Suitability

Some people are naturally inappropriate for home working because they lack self-motivation or self-discipline, or they are easily distracted.

If a home working arrangement is to be effective, both for the organisation and for the employee, the home worker must have or develop specific abilities and attributes, such as:

  • self-discipline;
  • the ability to work with no direct supervision;
  • a reasonable degree of independence;
  • self-reliance;
  • the ability to plan work and prioritise effectively;
  • good organisational skills;
  • effective communication skills; and
  • an ability to cope with potentially conflicting demands between work and home/family.

If the employee has a family at home, there may be some friction between the need to complete the task and the needs of the family. Before consenting to a home working arrangement, the manager should confirm that the employee has thoroughly thought this topic through and has worked out how to cope with any potential difficulties.

If the employee, for example, has small children, he or she will need to arrange childcare so that he or she can completely concentrate on work.

Contractual considerations

When a new home worker is recruited, or it is decided that an existing employee may do all or part of his or her job from home, the line manager must address and document a number of contractual problems.

Working hours

As part of the home worker's employment contract, the management and the home worker must agree on whether the home worker will:

  • be required to work specific hours.
  • be subject to a certain amount of hours per week or month, with flexibility in when those hours are worked, and maybe a necessity to be reachable by phone at specific times. or work without any set contractual hours and have performance evaluated based on product delivered.

Whatever alternative is chosen, both the line manager and the home worker must remember that working time legislation applies to home employees. The legislation basically states that it is the obligation of the employer to guarantee that employees do not work excessive hours (i.e., more than an average of 48 hours per week) unless they have specifically consented in writing to "opt out" of this restriction. As a result, the management should discuss this issue with the employee and impose a limit number of hours that he or she may work.

Homeworkers, like other employees, are entitled to regular minimum breaks and a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid leave each year. Because the manager will not be present in the employee's home to supervise hours and rest breaks, it is critical that these issues are addressed in the contract so that the home worker is clear about managing his or her own hours and rest breaks within the law and in a way that ensures health and safety are maintained. Holiday dates should be scheduled in the same manner as office-based personnel.

Sickness

Employees who work from home should be subject to the same rules regarding sick leave as those who work on the employer's facilities. As a result, the home worker's contract should oblige him or her to call the manager if he or she is unwell and unable to work, and to provide medical certifications for illnesses lasting more than seven days.

Communication

Several difficulties may need to be addressed in terms of the most effective and efficient ways for the management to communicate with the home worker. The manager may desire to establish a minimal degree of communication with the home worker, such as the frequency of email reporting or phone contact. The contract for the home worker should also specify how frequently he or she will be expected to attend the workplace for training, performance assessments, and general meetings, among other things.

Depending on the nature of the work, arrangements may be required for work to be brought to and collected from the employee's home. It should be clear from the start who will be in responsible for setting up this and how it will be carried out.

One major management worry will be the effect of employees working in relative isolation from one other and from management on collaboration and team spirit. This may be mitigated in part by establishing frequent phone and email connections, as well as scheduling team meetings in the workplace at regular intervals.

Such meetings will have the dual benefit of keeping the manager aware of changes in the department's work and in the organisation as a whole, as well as allowing home workers to discuss any relevant issues and difficulties with the management and with one another.

Remembering to include home workers in any office social activities can also help them feel like they are part of a team.

Communication between managers and home employees will be essential to the success of a home working arrangement. The manager, not the home worker, will be responsible for putting in place and adhering to appropriate communication and support procedures from the start. The connection between the manager and the home worker is critical to the success of the home working arrangement, and the success of any working partnership is always dependent on frequent and efficient two-way communication.

Appraisals

When establishing a home working contract, the line manager should agree with the employee on the methods that will be utilised to provide informal feedback on performance as well as formal assessment. The issue of continued managerial assistance for home workers will also be critical.

One way to address these demands is for the line manager to set up a meeting with the home worker at agreed-upon intervals, either in the employee's house, at the office, or at another mutually suitable site. Such discussions would have the dual objective of discussing future performance, output, standards, training needs, and targets, as well as addressing any difficulties that have occurred in order to find answers. An agreement in which the manager visits the employee at home should, of course, be implemented only with the approval of the home worker.

Practical considerations

Employing people to work from home raises a number of practical issues that must be solved by management in conjunction with the employee.

Furniture, tools and equipment

One point that must be decided upon before to any home working agreement is whether the organisation or the home worker will furnish the furniture, tools, and equipment required for the home worker to accomplish his or her task (and who is to take responsibility for maintaining them).

Obviously, if the organisation provides and pays for any tools and/or equipment, such as a computer, the manager will be allowed to select how it is used and any rules or limits that apply to its usage. The management can then instruct the employee not to allow members of his or her family to use the computer, lowering the danger of security breaches, viruses entering the system, or data being mistakenly updated or erased.

The manager may also want to think about having the company install a dedicated phone line in the employee's house. This reduces the possibility of disagreement between the home worker and members of his or her family who may seek to use the phone during periods when the manager may also need to call the home worker.

Health and safety

Home workers are subject to the same health and safety duties as employees who work on the company's facilities. As a result, the company will be responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of every home worker it employs, as well as ensuring that the facilities and equipment are safe.

To proceed, when a home worker is employed or an existing employee transfers wholly or partially to home working, the manager must ensure that the employee's home environment is suitable for home working (for example, in terms of the amount of space available) and as hazard free as is reasonably practicable. Depending on the nature of the task, the home worker must be made fully aware of any possible health and safety dangers, as well as adequately taught in the use of any equipment and materials essential for the job.

The home worker must take adequate actions when working from home to adhere to the company's health and safety at work policy in all aspects. If the job requires the use of a computer, the manager should give the home worker with written instructions and procedures for using visual display technology and ask the home worker to sign a copy, certifying that he or she has read, understood, and agreed to them.

Employees who work from home are also required to conduct risk assessments. As a result, the management should arrange (with the written approval of the home worker) for an appropriate health and safety officer to investigate the employee's home and undertake an evaluation of the environment, work activities, and equipment to be used for the task. This should be done before the home working arrangement begins.

Employees who work from home should be expected to report any accident or incident at home to the management in the same manner that employees who work on the company's premises are.

Insurance policies

Before beginning a home working arrangement, the management must ensure that both the company's and the individual's personal insurance policies adequately cover the employee to work from home. Policies such as employers' liability insurance, for example, may need to be expanded to protect employees who work from home. Other rules may need to be changed or expanded in order to include any tools, equipment, and/or materials supplied to the employee for usage at home.

Personal insurance policies protecting the employee's house and its belongings must also be assessed to see whether they are valid for home working. Failure to notify the appropriate insurance company regarding home working may result in the home worker's insurance policies being voided. As a result, the line manager should acquire proof from the employee that he or she has notified the insurers about the home working arrangement. If an additional premium is required as a result, the manager may decide to arrange for the company to cover the expense, while this is not required by law.

If the nature of the home worker's employment requires the company's clients to visit the employee at home, this might create another area requiring additional insurance coverage. The majority of standard house insurance policies do not cover this.

The manager should also encourage the home worker to contact his or her mortgage provider to see whether the mortgage agreement has any limits or conditions that may impair the employee's ability to work from home. Similarly, if the property is rented, the employee must ensure that the owner (whether a private individual, housing organisation, or local body) has no objections to the sort of work proposed by the home worker.

Security

If the home worker's position requires dealing with confidential or sensitive material, the line manager should take precautions to ensure that all paperwork is kept securely and that the danger of any potential breach of confidence is kept to a minimum. If there are children in the house, for example, proper safeguards must be implemented to prevent them from gaining access to file cabinets or the home worker's computer.

Written guidelines should state that the home worker must inform family members (or anyone living in the house) that no access to the computer used for the employee's job is authorised. A unique password for the computer should also be set up and the employee should be instructed to utilise it. Any file systems should have sturdy locks, and any paperwork belonging to the organisation should be kept under lock and key at all times except when in use. These guidelines should be included in the contract for the home worker, and the home worker should be asked to sign to confirm that he or she has read, understood, and agreed to them.

If the home worker is likely to obtain or use personal information about individuals in the course of his or her work (whether in manual form, in the body of email correspondence, or in computer files), the home worker must be trained in the requirements of data protection legislation in relation to data security.

The contract for a home worker should also include a provision allowing the organisation to make periodic checks of the employee's house at agreed-upon times to ensure that all working arrangements remain secure.

Perspectives on home working

There is still an established attitude regarding time and "presenteeism" in many businesses. Some managers believe that an employee's success is determined by the amount of hours spent at work, despite substantial evidence that working long hours does not boost production.

If home working is to be productive, line managers must shift their thinking and focus on enabling workers to do their responsibilities effectively and efficiently rather than on the amount of time they spend at work.

Line managers, therefore, should not assume that a certain job is inappropriate for home working without first completing an impartial analysis of the job's duties and responsibilities as well as the many methods in which it might be accomplished. Home working may be effective in a variety of positions if the arrangement is properly set up and handled.

The fear of losing control

One of the most prevalent hurdles to the effectiveness of home working is the line manager's fear of losing control. The line manager may be accustomed to "keeping an eye" on employees and monitoring timekeeping, performance, and standards. When an employee works from home, the line manager is no longer able to directly oversee the individual. Managing home workers necessitates the capacity to "let go" and the desire to trust and create confidence in the house worker's talents.

Managing homeworkers effectively

An employee who works from home may sometimes worry about how he or she will be able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the manager how much work has been done, or that he or she has been working diligently. Effective communication and a level of visible trust and confidence from the manager will be essential to reduce the likelihood of these worries turning into problems.

Effective management

To facilitate effective management of a home worker, the line manager should:

  • draw up a plan of work and ensure that it is expressly agreed by the home worker;
  • set clear, specific and achievable targets with defined timescales and ensure that these are understood and agreed by the home worker;
  • define and explain standards to be achieved and procedures to be followed in order to maintain quality;
  • put in place a mechanism for regular appraisal of the home worker's work based on his or her output;
  • ensure that promotion prospects are not damaged as a result of the home working agreement and that the home worker is informed of opportunities for advancement within the organisation and encouraged to apply for them in the same way as staff based at the organisation's premises;
  • when considering a home working arrangement, talk to the prospective home worker about self-motivation and self-discipline to try to ascertain whether or not he or she will be able to cope with working on an unsupervised basis;
  • discuss training needs with a view to meeting any initial training requirements and encouraging the home worker to identify any ongoing needs for training.

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