‘Working from home’ to ‘home-worker’: Supporting your staff through the transition

As many businesses start to bring employees back into the workplace the heat is on to find ways to minimise risk. One way is to keep onsite employees to a minimum so that social distancing measures can be satisfactorily met. Many employers are currently reviewing job roles to see whether these can be done just as well at home on a longer-term basis.

As a result, we may find that many people continue to work from home for several more months and in some cases, this may become long term. While ‘working from home’ has been a temporary measure, employing a ‘sticking plaster’ approach has bridged a gap. Admirably, people have worked whilst perched in a dusty corner with limited IT provision and constant distractions. But if this is to become a more permanent solution, there are lots of things that need to be considered to make sure that workers are supported in the home to execute their role both safely and effectively.

Here are a few pointers to get you started:

1. Spaced Out. Make sure that employees have a suitable workspace with room for a desk, chair, and access to a plug socket. There needs to be enough space for them to sit comfortably. If they do not have a suitable chair or desk, can equipment be borrowed from the workplace?

2. Screen time. Help your employees to conduct a DSE (Display Screen Equipment) Assessment. Once it has been carried out, ensure that they can access the correct equipment recommended in the report.

3. Totally wired. Promote safety. Remind employees to check that there are no trailing wires that could be trip hazards. This can be done through company comms channels or you could run a specific promotion on home-worker safety.

4. Tooled up. Ensure that employees have the correct tools. Most modern roles will require access to a laptop, phone and a printer. Employees should be using work equipment rather than using their own. If they are buying their own supplies make sure they are reimbursed. It may be more cost effective to deliver office supplies to their home or ask them to call in to the workplace at a quiet, pre-arranged time.

5. Technically unchallenged. Once they have the tools, check they have the tech magic that goes with it. If their broadband and wi-fi access isn’t up to speed, perhaps you could help to arrange better provision or supply boosters where needed. Do they have work mobiles? Are office phone lines being correctly diverted? Check in regularly to make sure everything is still working as it should.

6. Be flexible. Most homes aren’t set up to accommodate everyone being in the house at once so employees may experience multiple demands on broadband or an increased noise level at different times of the day. They may not be able to work standard 9am – 5pm hours. Where possible, try and be understanding and flexible about the working day. Productivity may be better outside normal hours.

7. Data protection. Employees may not be in the office, but this does not mean they can ignore data protection – GDPR still applies. If anything, handling confidential materials outside the confines of a secure work-based environment, means it is more important than ever. Remind employees that they should keep documents in a filing cabinet or locked box away from prying eyes and promote the use of passwords on devices and files. It may be a good time to run a mini promotion or training refresher on good practice or simply circulate info to all personnel via appropriate comms channels.

8. Health & Well-being. Encourage employees to stay active and healthy whilst working from home. Promote the benefits of a healthy diet, hydration and physical activity through various comms channels. Check out our blogs for tips on healthy eating, ways to incorporate activity into your working day, maintaining your mental health whilst working from home and many more. Run a themed employee health promotion online or set a team challenge – this is also great for staff engagement.

9. Check in Regularly. With workers spread far and wide, communication can be hard. There’s a lot of room for mistakes and misunderstandings. Ensure that employees have a clear brief and update it regularly. Set achievable goals, agreed deadlines and a procedure to check in when needed. As well as monitoring work requirements, make sure you check in regularly on a personal level to see if their circumstances have changed, how they are coping and what adjustments need to be made.

10. Listen. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and things will change at an alarming rate. Have an open dialogue with your workforce and see how they feel about the situation. Be open to suggestions and be as honest as you can. No-one has any answers but by working together you can find outcomes that will work for you and your workforce – which is ultimately good for your business.

If you have employees who cannot work from home but you are concerned about them returning to the workplace due to health issues we can provide support through a Covid-19 medical risk assessment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call to discuss this process further on 01228 513687.