Ongoing changes to working arrangements due to the pandemic highlights the importance of employers safeguarding the wellbeing of their teams whilst maximising the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future. Sarah Furness gives you her top 5 tips to promote effective home working
1. Support, support and more support!
Many employees will not be used to working from home as much as they are now, and they may be feeling isolated or struggling with their motivation. It is important for managers to provide adequate support and this should include regular communication and “check ins”. Although many of us are feeling “zoomed out”, there is still something to be said for having casual catchups and trying to replicate the office chit chat via video calls. If you are concerned about an employee’s performance or conduct whilst they are home working, again support and communication is key. Ask yourself: Have you been clear on what is expected of them? Have you discussed with them whether there are any barriers to them achieving their objectives? Have you considered what you as the employer can do to assist?
2. Consider your policies and procedures
We are of course all hopeful that COVID-19 is not for the long term. Therefore, permanent changes to existing policies and procedures are not necessary. However, it would still be worth considering your policies and procedures and whether any temporary adjustments should be made when managing your employees. For example, if you need to arrange a “virtual” disciplinary hearing, how are you going to accommodate the employee’s right to be accompanied? Do you need to alter in the short term your sickness absence notification procedure? Have you set out clearly to staff what is expected of them if they or some-one they live with develop COVID-19 symptoms? Have you considered what you will pay employees if they need to self-isolate or stay at home to look after children who need to self-isolate? Now would be a good time to introduce stand-alone home working and COVID policies so that staff are informed and treat consistently. We can help with this.
3. Be flexible!
Although nurseries and schools are open, unfortunately many parents are finding themselves in a position where their children are being sent home to self-isolate for two weeks. Also, the need to select one set of grandparents for “child-care bubbles”, means many parents are still struggling with their childcare. Be realistic of what you can expect of your staff if they are having to provide care at the same time as working.
If you are concerned that an employee’s performance is being hindered, talk to them on an informal basis first. If you suspect employees will want to retain flexible working arrangements in the longer term and this isn’t your preference, remember to follow your flexible working procedure to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law. You need sound business reasons for rejecting flexible working requests.
4. Be proactive with mental health
2020 has been difficult and the second national lock down will not have helped employees struggling with their mental health. Consider if there are any initiatives you can implement to help such as: training some employees to be mental health first aiders so that staff have somebody to turn to; introducing an employee assistance programme which provides employees with a help line and counselling support; or training managers so that they can spot signs of poor mental health within their team and provide support accordingly.
5. Invest if you can
If most of your employees are working from home, query do you need to invest in your IT systems to ensure that they are working as effectively as possible. Some employees may be working in small, cramped spaces with inadequate equipment. Have you carried out risk assessments to ensure that they are ergonomically supported? You may also need to implement further security to safeguard against cyber-crime and to ensure compliance with the GDPR. Another way to invest is to train your managers in how to support and manage their team employees remotely. We can help with this.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Sarah.