Homeworking is becoming more popular, but there is a still a perception that it is hard to manage. Working mums outlines the main areas to consider.
The number of homeworking jobs advertised by Working Mums is at an all-time high as employers seek to cut costs and retain skilled staff. Among jobs advertised recently on the site are home-based customer service workers, sales staff, home-based estate agents, marketing positions and advertising executives.
The recession has focused many managers’ minds and they are looking at creative ways to retain skilled staff and cut costs. By opting for homeworking, they can cut their overheads and research shows homeworkers tend to be more productive than office-based staff, more loyal and have a lower sickness rate. Employees get more flexibility to manage their home and work life and lower or no transport costs, depending on whether they work full time from home or come into the office some days.
Despite the positives, some managers are worried about the logistics of managing staff who work remotely. Before any request is granted, serious consideration needs to be given to whether a job can be done remotely. Homeworking is particularly suitable for research, data inputting and projects that need concentration and focus. It may not be suitable for other jobs which require a lot of face to face meetings.
Once a decision to grant home working is made, key things to bear in mind are:
1. Management style - managing remote workers requires a different mindset. Clear targets have to be set and regularly monitored. Guidelines need to be set down about expectations, for example, that childcare is in place.
2. Managers have to ensure remote staff are included in everything from training to social events and office gossip. This can be done by ensuring they have access to office email so they pick up all the circular office emails and through regular contact with their colleagues by both phone and email. Technological advances mean that there is an increasing number of ways to ensure this is done, from phone conferences to virtual meetings using Second Life, although the latter is not yet widely used for such tasks. You may also want to set up regular face to face meetings where employees come into the office and have a chance to catch up with colleagues.
3. Ensure that your remote employees have access to Broadband and that you have some sort of computer support available if they need it. You will need to agree payment for any work-related use of phones or computers. Employees may need to install a work line to make it easier to distinguish work from home calls.
4. Managers have a duty under Health and Safety legislation to check remote employees’ work stations.
5. Insurance – as part of domestic home insurance declarations there is normally a question as to whether any business purpose exists in the home. As accidents can happen, normally an employer will pay any excess on the employee’s home insurance if this is significant – it can be negligible if the home working is infrequent. Employers may also have an extended policy of their own to cover laptops etc outside of the office area, and also perhaps additional accident cover for claims away from the office.
6. IT security – homeworkers may use their computer for home as well as business-related work so they may be exposed to more viruses. Plus home security can be less robust that office-based systems. Companies should ensure that they have a clear policy on security, for instance, ensuring a home-based employee has advice on the latest IT security measures and does regular back-ups of information. If they are dealing with confidential data, it is advisable to have a fully worked out IT security plan which applies to them.