A mutual agreement that enables employees to work from home some or all of the time, rather than at your premises.
Modern communications and information technology has made homeworking (sometimes called ‘teleworking’) more viable than ever.
Much depends on the tasks you need your employees to complete, of course. Some tasks cannot be achieved in a domestic setting. Moreover, some employees might not want to work frmo home, or may not be suited it. For it to work, the employee must have effective time-management skills, be disciplined, motivated and self-sufficient. They’ll also need good communication skills.
You may see productivity gains; free from the usual workplace disruptions and time wasted on commuting, some employees can get significantly more done at home.
With fewer people in the office, you may also see a welcome reduction in your overheads. And if allowing employees to work from home helps them better meet their domestic commitments, this may in turn increase their motivation and help ensure their loyalty to your business. It might even enable you to attract talented people.
Some staff members might be tempted to abuse your trust, while having to monitor and manage staff working remotely can add to your workload. Most successful businesses rely on effective teamwork, and having some staff working at home can hinder efficiency if you don’t get the right technology and systems in place.
You’re likely to have to invest in additional technology to facilitate homeworking - and you may encounter some communication problems even despite this. You will also have to take additional steps to guard against theft of your equipment, data or information.
If they do comparable jobs that can be done just as effectively at home, then yes, you should offer homeworking to all employees. If you don’t, you are guilty of favouritism, which can cause serious problems.
Homeworking could well be part of flexible working conditions you are legally obliged to offer to certain staff members.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees – including homeworkers.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must carry out a risk assessment of the tasks carried out by employee. This means identifying potential hazards and taking sufficient steps to prevent harm to the employee or people who may be affected by their work.
Employees who use computers regularly – including homeworkers – are entitled to an eye test paid for by their employer.
Other items you might need to buy include a desk and chair, filing cabinet, drawers and shelving. If you have no other option, you’ll also have to pay for a dedicated business telephone line (installation and bills), as well as a broadband internet connection, of course.
There are lots of options– everything from a simple phone call or email to video conferencing. However, the important thing is not to neglect face-to-face contact. It makes the employee feel less isolated and more part of a team, while giving you both the opportunity to discuss progress and any problems they might be encountering. You might even be able to find ways to improve productivity and efficiency.
Depends on the employees and the job, really. Managing employees who work from home is inevitably more of a challenge than managing those who work on your premises.
Life will certainly be a lot easier for you if they are trustworthy, hardworking, well motivated and have everything they need to be able to do the job (that includes knowledge and skills as much as technology).
If in any doubt, monitor the employee’s output and compare this with expected productivity if they were based at your premises. Right from the start, homeworking employees should know exactly what is expected of them. Setting goals and deadlines can remove any doubt.
As and when they happen, you and your employee should seek to find solutions to any problems caused by their working from home. Also be sure to include homeworkers in any social activities and make sure they know what to do in an emergency.
Find more articles, videos and tools about homeworking in the Resources box to the right.