Recent research from Cezanne HR shows that there is a growing appetite for home-working, with almost 40 per cent of employees surveyed in the UK saying they would be happy to take a lower paid job if it gave them more freedom over where to work.
There are real advantages for companies who are willing to embrace this trend. They stand to gain from higher retention and lower turnover rates, improved engagement, and a more flexible, productive workforce.
But reaping these advantages relies on home-working arrangements being effectively managed. Here are our top tips for making sure it runs smoothly for all parties involved:
Lay the ground rules at the start
If home-working is to be successful, it’s important to have a proper framework in place from the outset. What factors will you take into account when considering a request to work from home? Is the decision based on role, seniority, performance? Will it be reviewed periodically? How often should they come into the office? What kind of flexibility is expected – for example, could they be expected to come in at short notice?
Home-workers also need to be clear about their goals and priorities, what is expected of them, and how their performance will be measured. This is, of course, important for all employees – but even more so for set-ups where there are less opportunities for daily face-to-face contact and check-ins.
The clearer you are from the start, the easier you’ll find it to manage expectations.
Get the practicalities right
Put time in up-front to discuss the practicalities of how home-workers will interact with the business, clients, and the rest of the team. Think about how you will manage communication, share information, and provide access to documents or equipment. Here are some of the questions you may want to consider:
- What kind of technology will people need to manage themselves and work collaboratively with others? How will they access their email, shared documents, the company intranet, timesheets, HR system, or other any other business software their office-based colleagues are expected to use?
- What training is required? Remember that not everyone will be automatically comfortable using some of this technology – they may need time to get used to new ways of working and support with how to get the best out of the technology.
- Will the employee provide their own equipment, telephone lines and connection to the internet, or will they be provided by the company? If so, what are the implications for set up, maintenance, insurance, taxation, etc.?
- How is sensitive information handled? Does data need to be encrypted, or documents shredded?
- Who will manage health and safety? Employers have a duty of care for all their employees, and the requirements of all of the health and safety legislation apply to homeworkers.
Keep the team in the loop
It’s not unusual for colleagues to be concerned (or even sometimes resentful) about the home-working arrangements of others. Make sure you brief the wider team on the business case for remote working, and tackle any issues or questions that are raised. You also need to share the details of how it will work in practice, so that everyone is clear about how work will be organised, and how and when they can contact colleagues. A written policy in you HR portal can be a good way of making sure that everyone knows how it works.
Keep in touch
Set up a regular mechanism for keeping in touch with employees who are working from home, whether it’s a daily catch-up or weekly Skype call. This isn’t about monitoring people and checking they are not in front of the TV in their fluffy slippers, but about keeping the lines of communication open so that there are regular opportunities on both sides to discuss issues, raise questions, and keep track of progress on important projects. If there’s a perception in the business that homeworkers “don’t work the hours”, it may be worth putting in place a formal reporting procedure or keeping simple timesheets.
Don’t leave remote workers out
It can be easy to forget people if they are not right under your nose. Ensure home workers are included in development opportunities, and invited to attend important meetings and team social events – some face-to-face contact is important, both for you and for them. In fact, research suggests that homeworking is most effective when employees spend some of their time in the office each week. Without some contact, they can feel isolated from the team and find it harder to do their job effectively.
Managing remote workers is not the same as managing people face-to-face. Don’t assume your line managers will automatically have the skills to do this. You may need to provide them with mentoring or training to help them manage the different dynamics and get the best out of their people.
What are your tips for making home-working successful? Let us know how you get the best out of your remote workers.