Approximately, 4 years ago, back in 2019, the country was periodically put in ‘lockdown’ as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Employers reacted hastily, putting arrangements in place with employees being required to work from home, where this was possible.
When the lockdown ended, some employees gradually returned to the workplace. However, a lot of employees continued with the home working arrangement. There has been publicity about businesses (specifically big well-known companies) seeking to encourage (or require) staff back into the workplace. Despite this, there is still a strong appetite by employees for home working or hybrid working arrangements.
The UK sits high in the table of statistics for people working from home with an average of 1.5 days a week (according to a recent study from The Institute for Economic Research). The USA comes in at 1.4 days per week and the EU at 0.8. That said, this is below the desired 2 days a week that people say they would really like to work from home!
Reasons employees give for preferring to work from home are that it saves them travel time; saves travel costs; enables them to concentrate with minimal distractions that may arise in the workplace; and their wellbeing as a key factor. Other reasons – which employees might not share with their employer – is that they have the flexibility to pop away from their workstation and attend to the washing machine or other domestic issues; be at home to receive deliveries; or to assist with childcare arrangements.
Some Factors for Consideration
From an employer’s perspective, there are a lot of factors to take into account:
- Is the role suitable for home working? (if it was viable during the pandemic, why is it not viable now?)
- Can the employee work independently at home? Are they motivated/self-disciplined?
- Can the employee be suitably managed when working at home?
- What Health & Safety measures (risk assessments / DSE) and wellbeing measures need to be implemented?
- Can the job be done remotely – do they have access to the materials needed/can they speak with people they need to speak to – through remote technology?
- Does the employee have suitable broadband / secure network connections?
- Does the employee have a suitable workstation? Is a desk/chair required to be provided?
- Do they need other equipment – e.g. secure filing cabinet, shredder, laptop/desktop computer, printer/scanner etc.
- Do you need to notify insurers that individuals are home working – what is covered/not covered? Does the employee need to have separate insurance/notify their home insurers?
From an employee perspective, they need to consider:
- Any tax implications.
- Any restrictions placed by their landlord, or mortgage provider, on homeworking at the property.
- Any conversion of a room/garage/outbuilding to an office – whether planning / building control permissions are required.
The above are just some factors that need to be considered.
With more employees demanding flexibility, it doesn’t look like the changing face of work is going to revert anytime soon. Employers are going to need to consider carefully any requests for home working / hybrid working that come in from an employee; and have policies and procedures in place to handle such requests.
We have reviewed and updated our home working documents, which are contained within the members area on the Sentient website. The documents include guidance and relevant template documents including an example of the Home Working Policy Statement, and an example of the Home Working Procedure. You can use these documents as a starting point, and edit as appropriate, to reflect your internal policy / procedural position.
In addition, on 29th November, Graeme Edgar (HR) will be hosting a webinar on the HR implications of Home working; and he will be joined by Juliette Collinson (H&S) to talk through the Health & Safety factors to be considered.