How to Manage Employees Who Work From Home

High speed internet and software developments have made it possible to have a highly productive remote workforce. Find out how here...

How to Manage Employees Who Work From Home

Because you don’t have to provide them with office space, home-working employees represent a flexible and highly cost-effectiveness option for your business. Some employees also have a legal right to request flexible working, something you have to look at seriously.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about working from home including:

  • Which industries and people suit it best
  • The potential benefits
  • The technology involved
  • The potential risks

What jobs particularly suit working from home?

Some jobs are more suited to working from home than others, such as roles that don’t require constant face-to-face contact with colleagues or managers.

Typically these would be positions in computer programming or web design, writing and editing, research or translation, administrative or archiving work, technical support and maintenance customer service.

These are just a few examples but should give you an idea of the kind of roles that would suit remote or flexible working.

What kind of person is suited to working from home?

Not everybody has the necessary self-discipline or skillset to successfully work from home. Although employees can be trained, there are certain traits you should look for as a guideline.

Time management is obviously an essential – home workers should be disciplined and not require constant supervision to complete tasks on time. They should also have a strong sense of self-sufficiency in order to motivate themselves when alone, and be confident communicators as they’ll be spending a lot of time on the telephone and sending emails. A strong grasp of IT and telecoms equipment is another must.

Working from home means there is less of a binary divide between work and leisure time, so they should be able to manage this properly.

What should be in a home office?

A professional remote worker should aim for a slightly more sophisticated set up than a laptop on the kitchen table. Create a space that’s conducive to a good work ethic.

A home office should include:

A working environment: Workers should have a discrete area for business tasks if they are to do their job effectively. They may need to discuss where to put this with housemates or family.

Secure equipment: Home workers should have a lockable safe, cabinet or desk to keep sensitive documents away from prying eyes, and have appropriate IT security to make sure information on their computer doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Health and safety: Home workers need to ensure that their workplace is compliant with health and safety, much in the same way as an office. A risk assessment must be carried out to check for potential hazards, especially in relation to furniture and electrical equipment.

Telephone lines: If they will be making and receiving a large volume of calls, it might make sense to have a separate line put in for work purposes.

IT equipment: More or less essential for home workers, they should at least have a computer with internet and email access.

Insurance: Home contents insurance policies normally exclude any equipment used for business, so you could be at risk of losing out if a home-working employee gets burgled. Check your business’ contents insurance to see whether it covers off-site equipment.

Planning permission: This is not normally needed if the employee lives in the same place they work, as long as only one room is used for homeworking and the work does not lead to noise, a lot of foot traffic or extra parking.

Tax and business rates: Homeworkers can normally avoid paying business rates by ensuring the room they work in has a secondary purpose as a part of the house – such as a living room or kitchen.

What are some of the benefits of having employees work from home?

A remote workforce can provide a host of financial and operational benefits to you as a business.

As you don’t need to give them office premises or equipment, you save both space and money, while employees who work from home also don’t waste time commuting and can in theory work with fewer interruptions and distractions.

Remote working also allows more flexibility – you may be able to keep some people in your business you otherwise might have lost by allowing them to work from home. This is especially relevant for employees who have to look after young children during the day.

The calming and familiar environment of an employees own home can reduce stress and increase productivity, while someone who is too sick to come in to work may be well enough to work from home. It also opens up bigger recruitment possibilities, with the option to pull in talent from all over the world.

What are some of the risks of having employees work from home?

Of course there is a flipside to working from home – lack of a structured office environment can carry its own risks such as poor communication: It’s easy to lose touch with people who work from home and you may find it difficult to monitor performance, especially if you have multiple remote workers.

It may cost more initially to train a remote workforce and having an employee deal with sensitive information outside the confines of the office can give your business major security headaches. You need to make sure you’re active in managing your homeworking employees, or it could lead to confused goals, standards and systems and a lack of ongoing training and face-to-face feedback can see work skills and quality go downhill.

How do I set up an employee to work from home?

There are five easily implemented steps you can take to successfully set up a remote worker:

  1. Prepare a homeworking contract if necessary
  2. Set up provision for homeworking training
  3. Introduce procedures so your remote workforce no what you expect
  4. Start with a pilot scheme to test the waters
  5. Review your homeworkers regularly to check its working

When do I need to draw up a homeworking contract?

A formal contract isn’t always necessary, but sometimes the nature of the work will differ from what an employee used to do to the extent you will need to modify their existing contract.

Generally, a contract should be modified to cover the terms and conditions of a new arrangement. In particular it should cover where they will be based and include a right to terminate. Both employer and employee should have the right to end the arrangement at any time if things aren’t working.

You should provide and insure equipment for remote workers stipulate in the contract that it is only to be used for business purposes.

The employee should agree to carry out a risk assessment in relation to health and safety, the costs of which should be covered by the company. Standard terms and conditions such as salary, hours and holiday pay should not change.

Remember that just because you have entered a homeworking arrangement with an employee does not now mean that they are self-employed; they will still be an employee of the company, with all the rights and duties that this entails.

How can I stay in touch with employees who work from home?

Although face-to-face meetings will be impractical when an employee works from home, it’s still important to maintain regular contact.

A short telephone call can be as effective as a meeting, but remember that they interrupt work. Email remains an essential tool and should be your primary method of communication as it doesn’t interrupt as much as a phone call. Employees can prioritise emails and deal with multiple queries at once.

Videoconferencing tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts can be used to allow employees to take part in meetings and conferences in the office remotely. You may also need to convert paper-based processes such as an internal memo system into electronic ones to allow remote employees to stay in the loop, without the delay that postage entails. Cloud-based storage systems such as Dropbox can allow you to stay in touch easily.

How do I manage the technological risks of working from home?

Allowing employees to use personal computers or work remotely increases your risk of an IT security breach, but you can minimise these risks by following a few simple steps.

A properly prepared and secured work laptop is much safer than a personal computer belonging to the employee, so provide remote employees with telecoms equipment.

You should also store files on your work network rather than allowing staff to store sensitive information on personal or local hard drives. Hook them in to your office network so they can store and manage their files within your own secure system. Broadband is essential for this.

Finally, there is always an increased risk of people gaining unauthorised access to your systems when telecoms equipment is off-site, so make sure at the very least any computers being used are password-protected, with proper virus protection. Remember that new equipment might be quite expensive, and you may face further costs training employees to use it.

1 Comment

  1. Great article, Ryan. Definitely sharing! Managing remote employee workloads is a little different from the office but modern technology offers many resources that make it possible to telecommute and keep your business running smoothly. As long as your remote employee is equipped with all the essential tools needed to work from home, both the company and the individual will benefit.

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