Many organisations already have working from home policies, but if your small business is new to the concept, you may be wondering how best to support your employees. Working from home could actually offer a new, and more productive way of working that you might want to adopt in your business in the future. However, whilst the current emergency measures are in place, you need to make sure that you consider some key factors to ensure that your working from home measures are successful.
Even if you already have working from home arrangements in place in your small business, there is no time like the present to review them and make sure that they are fit for the purposes of this current, and ever-changing, situation.
Our top tips for supporting your staff with working from home successfully are:
- HAVE A POLICY: this might be a very basic document if you’ve never operated working from home before, so don’t make it complicated. Set out transparently what your expectations are and make very clear what the support network around your employees will look like.
- MAKE SURE THAT STAFF HAVE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT: Difficulties with technology or access to equipment may cause additional stress and anxiety for your staff. Make sure that you provide the right equipment (eg) laptops, tablets, work mobile phones, etc, and keep a track of what has been issued and to whom. If staff are utilising their own equipment such as a mobile phone, then you may want to reassure them that there will be a system for reimbursing the cost of calls.
- THINK ABOUT HEALTH AND SAFETY: Whilst your employees might be working from their own homes, during the time that they are engaged in duties directly related to their employment, don’t forget that you still need to ensure their safety. They are still your employees, and you still have a duty of care to them. You can find out more about your duties on the Health and Safety Executive website here. Draw up a risk assessment checklist and complete this with your employees. Remind them that they still need to avoid everyday hazards such as trailing wires, screen glare, etc. If they live alone, then consider your existing lone working policies. If you don’t have one, then build this in to the new policy. It might be something as simple as an agreed time for them to check in with you at the start and end of the day. Measures like these will show your staff that you view their wellbeing as important.
- STAY IN TOUCH: Out of sight is NOT out of mind. There is a danger that staff will feel isolated if they do not have the normal, day to day contact with their colleagues. Encourage continued collaboration. There are a wealth of applications that allow cloud team working, or video and conference calling. Make sure that you use them. For example, consider undertaking 1:1 meetings using WhatsApp video.
- DATA SECURITY: Make sure that staff understand that they have to be extra vigilant about ensuring the security of your business information. If they need to take confidential paper files home with them, ensure that they are transported in appropriate bags or containers. Perhaps consider scanning and uploading business-critical documents to a shared cloud system to avoid files having to be taken out of the office.
- BE CLEAR AND CONSISTENT: Send an email to all of the staff involved setting out the relevant policies, documents and considerations, and ensure that key points such as safety and security are highlighted. By sending one overall message to all staff will mean that the messages are clear, consistent and that everyone is acting in the same way.
- THINK ABOUT HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Be clear that the new working from home policy is not designed to make people who are ill carry on working. Ensure that staff follow the standard procedures for reporting illness so that you can keep a record of their absence. Also encourage your staff to take the normal breaks that they would have if they were in the office, and to take time for their wellbeing outside of standard working hours. Times are challenging for everyone, and there is likely to be cases of families being taken ill and additional pressures being added to your employees who are working from home. Recognise this and take the time to remind your staff that you care about them. There are resources available from many organisations, such as MIND, to help us all through these difficult times. This is also a good time to remind staff of the standard advice on how to protect ourselves from Coronavirus.
- REVIEW THE ARRANGEMENTS: At the time of writing, it is unknown how long the current public health protection measures will be in place. Monitor the situation and advise your staff that a review will be undertaken every day (or every week on a given day) at a specific time. Then send the same communication to all staff so that they are clear on the organisation’s current stance in the light of any new government guidance.
For current government advice on the Coronavirus outbreak for businesses, click here.
We’ve devised a free checklist to help work through the key points. Click here if you’d like to receive it.
Best wishes to all in these difficult times.