The enforced changes to peoples and organisations working lives and practices over the past year has been enormous and what initially looked like a temporary adjustment, has turned into a full scale remote working revolution. The size and speed of change has been tumultuous and as we emerge from the current lockdown measures with many employees permanently set to WFH on a full time or hybrid basis, these changes have the potential to bring significant advantages for both parties.
These benefits however will only be realised if associated elements are handled professionally, empathetically and lawfully. Employers still owe the same duty of care for employees whether working in the office or at home and will therefore potentially have to satisfy these duties remotely.
Whether an employer of 2 or 200 staff or if just considering taking on your first employee, four key HR elements to consider when adopting a WFH policy, will likely include:
Employee Contracts Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out the minimum information that an employer must give an employee in relation to their working terms and conditions. Changes to an employee’s existing contract are understandably a very sensitive issue but adjustments will be needed to accommodate changes relating to their work location, working hours (or a shift to task based working practice) and pay levels. In respect of the latter, this may require dealing with the most sensitive of issues, pay reductions. This could be associated to reductions in location allowances (London Weighting) or travel /commute allowances which have previously been offered as goodwill payments. Many of these changes should be relatively straight forward where the employee consents to them due to good communication, reasonability of changes and awareness of self benefits. However, where they are not onboard, the situation can become far more complex with imposition of contract changes leading to constructive dismissal claims.
Employee Wellbeing As covered in our previous article - Acknowledging WFH Health and Wellbeing, the need to pay particular and considerable attention to this matter should be at the forefront of business planning in the WFH world. Failure to address associated mental and physical health related aspects is likely to have a significant detrimental effect on both parties. To avoid a feeling of isolation, technical issues, poor fitness, confidence drain and poor work conditions to name a few, key aspects to consider include: o Quality Communication o Appropriate Equipment o Associated Support and Advice provision o Awareness of Procedures and Systems o Provision of, or access to WFH Products and Services o Implementation of Health & Safety policies (risk assessments etc)
Employee Output Historically, this has probably been the number one barrier to allowing or enabling employees to WFH. The ability to monitor and oversee an employee’s working practice as opposed to assessing their performance output has clouded the logic but for many organisations over the last year, where productivity has remained strong, this has clearly proven not to be the case. There are increasing numbers of technological advancements that enable employers to monitor and manage their employees and to a lesser or greater extent, some of these may be mutually beneficial such as time management tools like Wrike and Monday.com. . However, whilst there will be instances of underperforming employees or forms of misconduct that require monitoring, for most organisations, it will ultimately come down to ‘mutual trust’ and a move towards an output or performance based policy, as opposed to time based.
Employee Management Whether adjusting employee’s contracts to accommodate fulltime or hybrid WFH, the need for managers to provide quality remote management of employees is essential. The use of digital platforms like Zoom, Teams, Slack and Google Hangout provide the opportunity to undertake regular virtual one to one management meetings but the need for occasional engagement at ‘head office’ for mentoring, training and development sessions will for many, still be key. It is likely that Learning and Development (L&D) budgets are going to grow considerably over the coming months and years as organisations establish new ways of enhancing the knowledge and expertise of their biggest assets. The need for organisations to review and update their HR related Policies, Procedures and Documentation has never been bought into such focus as now. These elements should be evaluated internally or by using a 3rd party expert and necessary changes implemented and communicate to all. Failure to legally comply with all obligations could be very costly.
In summary, certain conditions of workplace associated law will likely be adjusted to accommodate new WFH practices but for now, much will hinge on the interpretation of existing laws. In parallel, consideration of adjustments to employee’s wellbeing, output and management are equally as important. Therefore, transparency and engagement with its employees and the business’s ability to adjust to an evolving workplace environment, will ensure the move to a WFH policy will have the organisation’s human resources, fully engaged for years to come.
The WFH Zone is the UK’s first online portal designed to assist organisations and individuals in the process of setting up to work from home (WFH) on a full time or hybrid basis, in the most cost effective and ethical way. Our service helps employers and employees find quality suppliers of a range of Services and Products specifically associated with a work from home zone.