In 1998 11 per cent of the UK’s workforce worked from home, equivalent to 2.9 million people. In the last year alone this has risen by more than 60,000 and the number of people working from home has reached record levels. The UK now has 4.2 million people choosing to work at home, equating to 14 per cent of the workforce.
Developments in technology have allowed more people to work from home. The majority of contact is now made by email and when contact is made over the phone it is often by mobile phone. Smart phone technology now allows people to check emails, edit documents and even have a video conversation from almost anywhere.
Home working has also become more attractive to those who do not want to travel long distances or spend hours in traffic jams on their way to and from work. The cost of travelling has also risen over recent years due to the rise in the price of fuel. And sometimes they just need somewhere quiet to focus on compel work. The rise and rise of the communal office can be great for sharing information, but difficult to find peace and quiet.
People have also become more focused on their work life balance. At the end of June this year, any employee with 26 weeks of continuous service will be able to put in a request for flexible working. This has previously only been an option for those with dependents. With this in mind the number of people working from home could continue to rise. When allowing an employee to work from home there are a number of things that employers must take into consideration.
Health and safety
Many of these issues are similar to those in an office. You need to ensure the employee has a suitable work station and electrical equipment is safe to use (laptops, printers, scanners etc.).
Nowadays it seems so easy for hackers to break into a system and misuse the data they find (only a few weeks ago eBay was affected by this). It is important to think about the data that an employee will be using and how it will be kept secure. There should be a dedicated office and equipment you supply to the employee should not be used by other members of the household. Employees will also have a number of issues to address such as ensuring their home insurance extends to business use.
Many employers don’t allow employees to work from home as they say they are not able to manage them. For example, are they watching the World Cup when they should be working? Perhaps not now post Costa Rica’s defeat of Italy and an ignominious trip home for Hodgson, Rooney and Co, but you can grasp the concern. You can monitor hours of work and agree productivity targets and deadlines. Introducing homeworking should be done with proper training and guidance. Make sure that home-based employees are included in team activities. It is reasonable to request an employee to attend relevant training and periodic team meetings and their terms and conditions of employment should cover this. It’s also a good idea to have some periodic social events which include the whole team – people really do need to interact with other people on a face-to-face basis from time to time.
With such advanced technology, it is easy to keep in touch. Be sure to plan regular communication with the employee working from home, emails and phone calls are fine, but face to face communication should happen too. If it is not possible to physically meet up regularly, use video calls (Skype) to keep in touch.
For advice on home working and all aspects of HR get in touch.
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