Working from home, the new normal

Published by Sarah Ediss on 15 July 2020

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During the UK lockdown, working from home has become the new normal for a large number of employees. It is likely that, when the UK is finally free of this pandemic, businesses will continue to allow their teams to undertake an element of home working. Global Workplace Analytics estimate that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.

Allowing staff to work from home either on a full or part-time basis can bring a range of business benefits including greater staff motivation and increased productivity. We have set out a few areas you should consider whilst exploring this new way of working.

Health and safety

It is an employer’s responsibility to keep their team safe whilst working, even where this is at home. The Health and Safety Executive have a useful page setting out how to protect home workers ( www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm ) which includes carrying out home workstation assessments. You should also review your business insurance to manage this change in risk to ensure you are fully covered. You may need to provide equipment to enable your team to work from home effectively and therefore you should review your business contents insurance.

Staff development and performance management

Monitoring employee’s performance where they are working remotely can be challenging and therefore it is really important to have the correct systems in place to manage this. There will need to be more trust within your team. New ways of collaborating may be required, and it will be essential for managers to engage their teams to ensure productivity remains high. This includes ensuring training programmes continue irrespective of the remoteness of your employees. Once this environment is in place regular performance reviews should enable a manager to set goals and give constructive feedback and ensure employees are meeting their objectives.

Maintaining the wellbeing of your employees while they work from home will also need your attention. There may be feelings of isolation, difficulties “unplugging” from work and difficulties in remaining motivated. These challenges shouldn’t be underestimated.

Systems and procedures

If you have been trialling remote working during this time, you will have realised that some of your systems and procedures need to be updated to ensure this is a sustainable and effective way to work into the future. A complete system review is likely to include a move to paperless working. Alongside this comes the challenges of scanning post in, moving to electronic communication with customers rather than post, IT capacity issues and very importantly an updated GDPR policy to cover home working activities. Data security must not be compromised by a change in working practices and with the level of fines which could be issued by the ICO, it could be a costly mistake by the business if there is a breach never mind the reputational damage that a company could suffer.

During lockdown we have also seen an increase in attempted cybercrime as fraudsters take advantage of remote working. Your teams should be reminded of this increased risk and to be ultra-vigilant to suspected attacks.

Taxation

There have been some useful tax measures introduced to specifically address the current COVID-19 situation including a temporary exemption to any income tax or national insurance implications for an employee where an employer has reimbursed them for home office equipment that has been purchased to enable them to work from home. There is also a fixed weekly rate of up to £6 per week which can be paid by an employer without any tax implications to cover additional costs of working from home. We have a useful article on our website which covers the tax implications of working from home in more detail.

Communication

The key to successful working from home will be communication. You will need to establish a good routine on how to share information and which digital platforms you will be using. Don’t drown your employees in too much information but make sure you set up regular interaction points every day. Make sure you share group and individual achievements and include everyone in team meetings whether they are in the office or working from home.

The pandemic has thrown a large proportion of the workforce into an impromptu experiment, testing working from home on a much larger scale than we would have imagined at the beginning of the year. If we learn from each other and our employees, we may find that this new normal could be really positive for our businesses. Talk to us at Kreston Reeves about our experience of remote working and we may be able to share more thoughts on how you can make this work successfully.

If you would like to discuss the topics explored in this article, please contact us.

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