Working From Home

by Barbara Buffton

Managing a home worker

It is helpful for both you and your employee to have a company home-working policy to refer to. This would cover all the major relevant issues such as communication procedures, security, equipment and furniture, health and safety, risk assessment of the employee’s home and so on. See also What needs to be in place.

In addition, you need to consider the following issues.

The work

Does the work lend itself to home-working? To work effectively, home-working has to meet the business needs of the company as well as those of the individuals concerned. There may be other flexible working arrangements that might be more appropriate. See Barriers to home-working.

The employee

Is the employee suited to home-working? You should both consider all the relevant factors before deciding if home-working is a good option. Check What kind of person is best suited to home-working?

Trust

Home-working is about trust. The focus should be on the actual work produced, not on how or when the employee achieves it. In fact, research has shown that with fewer interruptions at home, it is likely that employees will be more productive. So long as they do the work you ask them to do within the agreed timescale, does it matter how many actual hours they work?

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.

Thomas Jefferson

However, it might be your company policy to monitor the actual hours employees work and you need them to fill in time sheets, which still requires an element of trust.

Ideally, before agreeing to home-working, you should feel confident enough to trust the employee to work efficiently. If you have any doubts, try a period of occasional home-working or agree to a continuous trial period for a specific length of time and carefully monitor the employee’s output.

In most cases, a show of trust will be repaid with conscientious diligence.

Action

‘Presenteeism’ doesn’t always show commitment and productivity – it can often lead to absenteeism!

Management training

If you have little or no experience in managing home workers, then you may benefit from training in remote team management.

Communications

You must define how often permanent home workers must come into the office and contact colleagues via telephone and/or email. You must also agree on arrangements for collecting and sending work-related post.

It helps to have pre-arranged times when the home worker can consult you. Equally, everyone from colleagues to clients needs to know when the home worker will be contactable.

It is important to distinguish between the employee’s home telephone number and business number, if they have both. The employee’s home telephone number should not be divulged without their express permission.

Effects on the rest of the team

You must ensure that home-working arrangements do not adversely affect the productivity of the rest of the team. The work done at home must fit in with the work of other team members who continue with traditional working arrangements. It is also important not to spend more time on managing the home worker at the expense of other team members.

Target-setting

It is good practice to agree specific objectives before home-working begins so that both you and the employee know what is expected.

Monitoring and review

You can use such objectives or targets to monitor how the employee is progressing in regard to quality and quantity of work and if they need any assistance, training and/or support.

It helps to review any home-working arrangement (including health and safety considerations) regularly, for example every six to twelve months.

Health and safety

You must ensure that the home worker knows to take appropriate breaks. This may be achieved by agreeing a core-hours working pattern, so that the employee has time to incorporate adequate rest periods. Also see the section in What needs to be in place?