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Home working: Making it work for everyone

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HomeworkingAn increase in the use of broadband, laptops and PDAs mean that working from home has never been easier. Tim Holden explains about the policies and procedures that need to be in place to ensure that the arrangement works well for both employer and employee.



A recent study revealed that whilst most managers claim to trust subordinates that work from home, one in three has a desire to monitor home workers more closely. As part of the shift from being managers to leaders, HR is at the forefront of equipping such individuals with the skills to engage home workers, rather than alienate them and drive them into the lap of their competitors.

Indeed, providing a home-working regime that truly motivates key talent by dovetailing their home responsibilities with their work is unlikely to be able to be immediately replicable elsewhere, and so can be a powerful retention tool.

Making it work

Career development and bonus schemes should not end for employees who work from home – they should be encouraged at every available opportunity to seek promotion and training. Team meetings should take place on a regular basis to ensure that a team ethos exists, in addition to hot desking arrangements where applicable.

“HR is at the forefront of equipping individuals with the skills to engage home workers, rather than alienate them and drive them into the lap of their competitors.”

The benefits of home working include reduced emissions from commuting, leading to a reduced carbon footprint for the benefit of all.

Home working should be detailed on the jobs section of the website, ensuring that candidates apply who may have not realised such an option is available. The door should be left ajar for people who try home working and find that it doesn’t work for them as they feel too distant and isolated.

Identifying the home workers of tomorrow

HR has a part to play in finding prime candidates who meet the following criteria:

  • Perform a function that doesn’t require extensive interaction with other employees or the use of equipment found only on company premises;

  • Have a compelling personal reason such as an excessive commute or family responsibilities that require working part of the time from home;

  • Have the temperament and the discipline to work alone;

  • Can be absent from the office without creating an inconvenience for others in the organisation.

Implications of home working

We recommend that the following be taken into account:

Working hours
Need to be no more than 48 hours per week or sign an opt-out agreement, with breaks at least very six hours – timesheets may need to be provided if there is time and attendance software involved.

Handbook
Disciplinary rules around dress code and appearance may need to be revised.

Equal opportunities policy
All employees should be provided with the option of home working, rather than just those with family responsibilities. Where a member of staff has acquired a disability, this may be a valuable way of keeping their skills and experience within the organisation.

Job description and person specification
These documents may need to be altered to reflect revised duties and responsibilities for home workers.

Reward
Should employees benefits from a subsidised canteen, meal allowance or luncheon vouchers, then a sum commensurate with the amount involved may need to be provided. A London weighting may need to be removed, whilst a season ticket for train travel may be rescinded. In addition, the figures involved with overtime or shift pay may need to be amended, as will the bonuses paid for teamworking where the homeworker is no longer working as part of that team. A job evaluation may need to take place to ensure there are no issues around gradings and equal pay.

Trade unions
It is important that home workers have equal rights in terms of union membership.

With a growing awareness of work-life balance issues, the desire employees have to work flexibly, and the high price of commuting in terms of time and money, we believe that home working is likely to increase in the foreseeable future. HR can seize this opportunity as an area that can make a difference in terms of engagement, retention and absenteeism – all of which can be measured to demonstrate genuine added value at little or any additional cost.


Homeworking: Who should be informed?

The employee should be advised to contact the following organisations:

Local Authority: Is planning permission needed? Are business rates applicable?

Mortgage provider: Assuming the employee’s lender is still in business, home workers should advise them accordingly. In practice there is unlikely to be any significant impact.

Insurance provider: Some policies will not pay out unless the premium has been increased to include risks for business use.

HM Revenue & Customs: The VAT registration limit at present is a turnover of £67,000: check the website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.

And finally…

Health & safety: All home workers need guidance on how to comply with the five stages of risk assessment: identify any hazard; decide who might be harmed and how; assess the risks and remove them; record the findings; and check the risks periodically. HR can take a role here in considering the seating and layout of the workstation, testing and certification of electrical equipment, safe extension leads and adequate heating/lighting/ventilation.


Tim Holden is managing director of Fluid Consulting.

2 Responses

  1. Oops!
    Hi Jennifer and thanks for spotting that typo! As you will see, it has now been corrected.

    Many apologies,

    Lucie Mitchell
    Editor

  2. Helpful article – NB typo
    A helpful article, continuing to raise awareness of this way of working at a time when making savings on office space can be highly relevant. Just picked up a typo – the threshold for VAT registration is £67K not £670K.

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