Lockdown has brought a whole host of surprises, changes and challenges to employers the length and breadth of the country (and the world!), but the most prevalent has been the pivot to home working. Office-based businesses and employers have, in order to maintain their workforce operating at an acceptable level, largely allowed staff to work remotely – allowing them to continue working and earning whilst also staying safe, socially distanced, and, in many cases, caring for their children who are unable to attend school.
Of course, working from home is not a new practice; and most big brands already offer facilities and options around this for employees who are able to perform their role remotely. However, there has never been an event before that has sparked such mass change in typical work practices, and so many employers and employees are facing challenges around such rapid adaptation.
A Duty Of Care
Employers have a duty of care over their workforce to ensure they are safe in their workplace. Usually, for homeworkers, this requires a health and safety risk assessment, along with the supply of any required specialist equipment and regular ‘check-ins’ to maintain a healthy working relationship (both in terms of relationship management and physical health). However, the swift move to home working has meant that many employers haven’t been able to meet those requirements as quickly as they’d have liked to. That is, for the most part, understandable: but now it’s time to start taking things seriously.
All remote workers should have risk assessments and relevant checks completed on their home working set-up – especially if they’re not returning to the office. Involve your Health and Safety team and HR departments to review requirements and work on ways to offer reasonable adjustments.
Lower Business Overheads AND happier employees?
Of course, one of the main reasons lots of businesses are choosing to continue with remote working for employees and not incorporate them all back to the office as before is the financial impact. Companies are able to lower several costs by operating with a remote workforce. It’s also considered less stressful and time consuming (and in some instances even costly) for the staff involved – as there’s no cost, time or effort required for a commute, business attire, or out-of-home meals. Recent surveys by industry bodies have found that large percentages of those now able to work from home have found the practice less stressful, empowering and more flexible.
This seems a win-win on the surface, but there is work to be done. Any long-term move to remote working should be analysed for its risk, discussed with affected employees, new contracts drawn up and new working policies implemented. In order to ensure that you meet all necessary requirements (as well as best practice ones) to extend your remote working facilities, it’s best to chat with an expert who can help you form a comprehensive checklist of tasks and practical support to carry out.