In case you haven’t noticed, a lot has changed in the last 20 months and just as many employers were looking to get staff back into the workplace, we appear to be heading for another winter of working from home.
As an employer, you need to look at your workforce and find ways to protect them and your business.
From Monday, if you staff can work from home, then they should do so. This will mainly apply to office based employees. This is only guidance from the government, but if someone gets covid as a result of your actions (or inaction), then they could have a case against you. Communication is going to be essential. Document what is agreed. Always hope for the best, but plan for the worst!!!
Those in retail and hospitality, care, trades and manufacturing will still be required to attend work but all covid precautions must be in place.
This includes social distancing, the wearing of masks as appropriate, cleaning routines stepped up, good ventilation and for some businesses two or more shifts, so that if one shift gets infected, the other shift can step in.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure that their staff are working in a safe environment. This includes both physical and psychological safety. If people are working from home, you need home worker risk assessments. If you have people on their own in the office, think about their safety.
Update your company risk assessments and ensure that they are sent to staff, available on request AND well communicated.
If you have employees who are at risk from domestic abuse or violence, you might want to think about allowing them to work from the office. There are a lot of useful resources available by clicking on the ‘safe spaces’ icon on the right hand side of our website pages.
If you have young workers living in studio flats or a room in a house, they too may benefit from being in the office.
More guidance is expected shortly, but you have 2 working days to prepare your business for the return to home working.
Working from home
There’s no going back to the way things were pre-COVID and one of the ways to get on board with the ‘new normal’ is HYBRID WORKING.
So how do you create the right environment?
Where do you start?
Firstly, employers should understand that it is no longer ‘one size fits all’. Remote working has its benefits, but face-to-face interaction with colleagues and teams is equally as important.
Employers can schedule ‘Office time’ to hold strategy meetings, socialisation amongst teams and reviews/appraisals. This can be weekly, biweekly or monthly depending on the needs of the business. This really helps to boost employee engagement and collaborative working, as the relationships built in face to face time are then carried over into online relationships.
Equipment and training
Employers should ensure their employees have the tools and equipment to work efficiently wherever they are working.
Equally, you should ensure your people managers know how to successfully manage their teams remotely.
Those working remotely should have the same training and development opportunities as employees working on site.
Whilst hybrid working can have its advantages by fostering a healthy work-life balance, it can also lead to an unhealthy blurring of the lines between ‘work-time’ and ‘non-work’, so it is important for employers to maintain regular contact with those working from home to identify any wellbeing issues. Employers could consider:
- Appointing employees and managers to become Mental Health First Aid trained and communicating this among the team to ensure employees are aware of contacts within the business.
- Training on mindfulness and wellbeing, including sleep, diet and exercise to help employees to take responsibility for their self-care whilst working remotely.
- Ongoing mental health support for all employees including managers, to prevent them feeling isolated.
- Encourage employees to have frank and open conversations with colleagues/managers.
- Training line managers to recognise when team members may be affected by poor mental health, such as a reduction in productivity levels and presenteeism, and giving them the tools to support employees in need.
Don’t become complacent! Just because it is working NOW, doesn’t mean it will continue to be that way! Continue to assess those who are hybrid working to ensure it is effective and working for the employee and your business.
For anyone changing to hybrid working on a permanent basis (not just during plan B or lockdowns), a change of terms and conditions will need to be issued. This will also need to state the address that they will be contracted to work from. This doesn’t need to be a whole new contract, but a simple variation to terms letter or addendum.
Employees should inform their landlord or mortgage provider and house insurer to discuss any implications of homeworking. There may also be tax implications if an employee wishes to work some of their remote time outside of the UK.
If you want to move to Hybrid working, you should have a clear policy and procedure which outlines what is expected of employees and equally, what they can expect from the business in terms of support for hybrid working. You may already have a policy on flexible working and as hybrid working is a form of flexible working, you can amend your policy to include hybrid working.