Home working from an employer's view - part 1

Increasing numbers of employees are asking their employers for more flexible working arrangements.

In the UK, for example, this right is now enshrined in law for those employees who have commitments to care for someone at home. The Netherlands is another country where flexible work arrangements have strong legal support to accommodate parental and care duties. The type of flexible working available can include many different types of arrangements from shift work, flexitime, part-time or job share and will largely depend on the type of work involved.

An increasingly popular arrangement is home working (or telecommuting as its becoming known) and whilst there is plenty of guidance for employees as to the advantages and disadvantages, there is little help for the employer. With shortages of office real estate and spiralling costs of commercial desk space, increased use of technology to allow for virtual work interaction and other such factors, home working has many advantages to offer employers. 

Successful experiments with home working have been reported by many organisations, such as the telco company O2 in the UK, who altered their work arrangements to accommodate the attendance challenges predicted when London hosted the Olympic games in 2013.

It is worth remembering that in many countries the obligations of an employer towards his or her staff is exactly the same as if that employee were in the office. Checks on health and safety, annual appraisals, remuneration and so on are expected to be the same no matter where the work is carried out. So what else should an employer be aware of before agreeing to a home working arrangement?

  1. Finding the right staff – not everyone is suitable for home working. The distractions of the home environment do not make it easy for everyone to give their work their full attention.  For new employees you need to use some sort of assessment to determine who has the necessary self-motivation and concentration, but it more difficult to apply these kind of tests to the existing workforce. In that case you should look at their attitude to work, the preparedness to work outside normal hours and their focus on getting the job done

  2. Setting up the home office - most of the equipment a home worker needs will be provided by the employer.  You need to ensure their workspace is safe and suitable for the work involved. You need to ensure that IT can, and will, support remote working and that any software is licenced for use outside the office. Don’t forget that homeworkers remain your responsibility even though they’re at home

  3. Getting the process right – working from home must suit both parties in the sense that it shouldn’t make the process of work more complicated or time consuming.  Agree with your employees exactly how things will get done, who does what and by when and ensure that contact on these issues is regular and clear.  Also make sure you have a back-up plan if something goes wrong – this is easy in an office but needs a different plan for homeworkers

There are several other critical factors to be considered before implementing a home working arrangement, and we'll cover these in detail next week.