It’s a difficult time for businesses—the coronavirus is presenting many unique situations. And it’s important you adapt to them to support your employees and daily operations.
One of the biggest changes we’ve all seen is the need to work from home. Remote working, as some professionals call it.
And while this is now mandatory for many staff, you may have to hastily put together a policy. Due to coronavirus, remote working is proving an essential move.
This’ll explain what you expect of your employees during this period. As well as covering some of the legal requirements.
So, you can read the rest of this guide to find out everything you need to know.
*Also, you should know we’ve opened our HR helplines to any businesses affected by the coronavirus. Need quick answers to COVID-19 questions? Get in touch: 0800 783 2806.
Please check our coronavirus resource hub for extra support.*
Do you have to offer remote working?
Although it’s not a legal requirement at the moment under UK employment law, many businesses are enforcing working from home policies.
That’s, primarily, to make sure their employees are safe during the pandemic.
So, if your mindset is, “Should I allow my employees to work from home for the coronavirus outbreak?” It’s up to you, but remember that you do have a duty of care to your employees.
You should put their health & safety first. And because of the nature of the coronavirus outbreak, the safest possible option is to let employees work from home.
However, this depends on the type of industry you’re in.
For example, many construction workers are still working on projects across the UK. Obviously, they can’t work from home.
If this is the case, you can make sure your employees are sticking to social distancing suggestions from the NHS. That involves staying two metres (six feet) apart when possible.
You can also furlough non-essential staff, to limit the risks your workforce faces.
Another option is to allow flexible working—coronavirus means you may not need staff to fulfil their standard working week.
So, you can adjust their schedule. With the permission of your employee, of course.
Your working from home policy
There are a batch of requirements you need to consider for this.
But it’s best to break it down into manageable steps, so you can tick them off your list as you complete them.
So, we have here seven points to follow. Although you can adapt these to your business needs, as you see fit.
These are our recommendations:
- Normally, you’d work out who gets to work from home. Because of coronavirus, you should try to make this viable for as many employees as possible.
- Work out the equipment you need for each member of staff.
- Take into consideration your health & safety requirements—there’s more on this point further below.
- Work out your security requirements for this time, particularly with cyberattacks in mind.
- If you want to monitor performance, you can put these initiatives in place—there’s more on this point further below, too.
- Create your policy and make it as detailed as possible. Outline the working hours, KPIs, and communication requirements.
Of course, because of the unprecedented nature of coronavirus, you may come across teething issues as you adjust.
But remember this is only a temporary situation to make sure your employees are safe and well.
So allowing for flexibility during this time is important.
Employer rules for working from home during coronavirus
Okay, so you can treat the situation as a normal remote working situation. But, with the nature of coronavirus, there are a few extra things to keep in mind. You should:
- Pay your staff as you normally do.
- Stay in touch as much as possible.
- Make sure your employees are safe and well—mentally and physically.
Of course, you may want to establish rules for them for when they’re working.
This really depends on your business and what you’re trying to achieve each week. But you should look to build trust between managers and remote workers.
So, you can set rules such as:
- An agreement on work performance and how you plan to measure it.
- The type of communication you want—and how regularly it should take place. For example, daily or weekly catch ups on Skype.
- KPIs for your employees to meet each week. You may already have these in place, so you can monitor if staff are still meeting them.
- You may also want to offer training, so staff can perform their jobs better while at home.
But working from home is a flexible arrangement. And you should look to manage it as you want to.
And to do that, you should familiarise yourself with the pros and cons it offers your businesses. That way you can adjust your policy to remove any problems.
Disadvantages of working from home for employers during coronavirus
For many employers, it’s not an ideal situation. You may prefer your employees on your premises where you feel they’ll perform to the best of their abilities.
So, there are some downsides to remote working. These can include:
- Difficulty tracking employee performance. If you have worries about that, you can set weekly KPIs for your staff to meet.
- Setting up each employee with the right equipment—this may prove expensive and time-consuming, as each employee needs the right technology to do their job.
- Some roles simply aren’t suited to working from home, which may lead to a drop off in productivity.
- The risks of online security breaches increase.
- Some employees may find the experience demoralising, if they’re particularly sociable in your business.
- If employees have families, there could be interference from children or relatives during the working day.
Remember, to deal with some of these issues you can furlough some employees temporarily.
If you think they won’t be able to complete their roles from home, then it may prove the best option for your business.
Ultimately, during the pandemic you may simply want to limit the risks your employees face. And to do this, the best route is to enforce homeworking.
If you trust your employees, they’re sure to do their job as normal.
And they may also excel in the circumstances—plus, modern technology means many employees can do their jobs from home. And with little interference.
The benefits of working from home for employers during coronavirus
It’s not all bad news, though. You can use the opportunity to experiment with remote working—it may suit some of your employees more effectively.
Some of the benefits can also include:
- An improvement in work-life balance. For most employees, remote working removes the daily commute. Which many professionals find stressful and demoralising. Working from home removes that, allowing them to focus entirely on their tasks.
- Advancing on the point above, this could mean you enjoy better productivity thanks to remote working.
- Staff motivation will be higher.
- You can enjoy financial savings on overhead, with a reduction in office space and electricity usage. As many businesses don’t have much of a choice on the matter, it’s best to head into remote working with a positive frame of mind.
Stay in regular contact with employees—daily. And look to address any issues as and when they happen, to ensure productivity stays as high as possible.
Working from home expenses during coronavirus
Okay, so you’ve got the basic idea in mind. But you should also be aware of the costs of working from home. For you and your employees.
For example, employees may have to purchase new equipment so they can do their job properly. Or, you may have to fund that for them.
Your staff will also see an increase in their electricity bills, as they’re now at home more. You may wish, as a business, to support them with that increase.
Again, from an employer perspective, you may also need to purchase new software for your business.
This’ll ensure everyone can keep in touch, and do their job properly, so it’s usually a good investment for you.
Homeworking tracking during coronavirus
If you’re looking to keep track of your employees’ work during remote working, there are plenty of ways to do that.
First, keep in mind if you’re using tracking software—you must let your employees know it’s in use.
Your staff might not be happy about it, so explain your reasoning. You’re after all, keen for your business to continue with the same productivity levels.
A simple approach to employee monitoring during coronavirus is through communication.
There are plenty of tools to use to help you keep in touch. And many of them are free! Such as:
- Google Hangouts.
- Facebook chat.
It’s important for your staff to keep in touch, so the above tools are pretty essential.
And they can support you with your policy, as well as your rules for working from home.
Geolocation tracking for home working is another possibility. There are apps you can use for that, which let you know where your employees are at any given time.
You’ll need to get your staff to agree to this, of course.
Health & safety at home during coronavirus
It’s important to remember your duty of care to employees. So, if your staff is working from home, then you must remember the importance of health & safety.
You must ask yourself:
- Whether they can perform their job safely from home.
- How you can keep in touch with them.
- What activities they’ll complete during a working day—and, again, if these are possible to complete safely.
- What sort of control measures you may need.
You should take out employers liability insurance for working from home during coronavirus. That’s EL insurance, for short.
It’ll help to cover you in the event a member of staff makes a claim against you because of an injury.
You should also provide your employees with instructions on how to work safely at home.
Common tips include the following:
- Carrying out a risk assessment, to see if there are issues that may result in an injury.
- Having the right equipment in their home office, including a comfortable chair that properly supports their back.
- Instructing staff to take regular breaks, including standing up to move around regularly.
- Taking a trip outside your home once a day—this is allowable under current government regulations for exercise purposes. Or to buy food. And that’s it! But, remember, it’s a stressful and complex time with everchanging rules.
So, get in touch with us if you need help: 0800 783 2806.