Coronavirus Impact – Guidance On Home-Working

Coronavirus-A Guide For Employers

As of 23rd March 2020, Employees MUST work from home where possible during the current Coronavirus lockdown.

Schools are now closed until further notice for all children, apart from the children of critical workers who have no other childcare options and cannot work from home. (See the Government’s “critical workers” guidance for more information)

Many employees are now trying to balance work with childcare.

The Government has enforced business closures for many companies.

This blog will help you decide if home working is possible for your business. And how to effectively manage homeworking for your team.

Business benefits of homeworking

You can continue trading, albeit in a potentially reduced capacity.

Where relevant, you could explore delivering products and services online.

You can take the time to:

  • undertake administration you haven’t previously had time to do
  • plan for future growth
  • prepare marketing campaigns for when things get back to normal

Showing flexibility and understanding to staff will:

  • foster loyalty
  • help motivate your team
  • increase their desire to help the business in the future

Suitable roles for homeworking

Working from home is traditionally best suited to:

  • office-based roles
  • customer service roles using telephone calls, emails, webinars, on-line helplines and video conferencing.

The time is exceptional. Think creatively and consider any ideas from your team which can help your business.

Upskilling Staff / Cover Contingency Plans

Ensure your team are as skilled and knowledgeable as possible. Don’t rely on key individuals to be solely responsible for certain tasks. You may find team members can’t work due to illness or other factors.

Identify the areas of your business where home working is practical. Upskill everyone to mitigate risk and keep as much ticking over as possible.

Alternatives to working from home

For businesses allowed to remain open, and where homeworking isn’t possible, employees are still allowed to attend work.

Where homeworking isn’t possible:

  • Make changes to increase the distance team members work from each other
  • Utilise empty meeting rooms or reception areas to create temporary working spaces
  • Introduce temporary layouts or rotate shop floor tasks to increase space between workers
  • Stop all face to face meetings
  • Ensure colleagues only communicate by phone, email, messenger, pagers, walkie talkies etc.
  • Stagger start and finish times
  • Introduce temporary shift patterns to minimise the number of employees coming into contact
  • Close communal staff rooms, canteen areas.
  • Risk asses the use of external catering vans
  • Ask staff to bring their own food and drink and eat alone in their vehicles, outside (at least 2m apart) or at separate workstation·
  • You should also introduce additional cleaning – ensuring supplies are ordered.

If normal work reduces consider using time for:

  • maintenance
  • decorating
  • deep cleans
  • or other tasks that otherwise may not happen.

All options should be explored to help you continue operating.

IT Infrastructure for home working

Identify what infrastructure needs to be in place to allow remote access for your staff. Options to consider include:

  • Office 365 Teams
  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • VPN connections
  • SharePoint or similar packages

Quickly explore the options and costs.

Remember for some staff Wi-Fi access, speed or reliability may be an issue.

IT support for remote workers

Ensure staff know who to contact for technical help when homeworking. Also organise back up support should your main IT support contacts be unable to work.

Homeworking health & safety risk assessment

Normally, a home-based risk assessment would be necessary for homeworking. This is not currently possible.

Advise staff on how to set up a home working space, but take a pragmatic, common-sense approach. Staff may need to work from their sofa or kitchen table rather than a correctly set up office space.

If you have a Health & Safety department, get their advice on reducing risk for staff.

Employers Liability Insurance / Home Insurance

Ensure your business and employees have the right insurance in place for them to work at home.

Equipment for homeworking

Businesses are usually responsible for providing equipment for homeworking. For staff not already supplied with equipment, you may need to arrange leasing, or allow staff to use their own for work.

If staff are using their own equipment, consider how to manage:

  • confidentiality
  • data security
  • virus checking

Agree with staff about any expenses which may be incurred working from home. You may agree that these are offset with the removal of commuting costs.

Communication & Team Meetings

Some staff may feel isolated working from home. Others will thrive and love the lack of interruptions!

It will be important to schedule regular phone calls and keep in touch with individuals by email.

Scheduling regular virtual team meetings using Zoom or Skype will also be key. Daily updates can be shared. Online meetings will also allow some social interaction between team members.

You could also consider setting up social media messaging applications. These will allow colleagues to informally stay in touch.

Contact details and phone numbers

Ensure mobile phone numbers and email addresses are up to date. These should be circulated to colleagues and any key business contacts or suppliers.

IT and data security for homeworking

Consider how you will manage:

  • document confidentiality
  • virus checking for staff home computers
  • password management
  • administration rights for access to key systems and tools

Ensure you have a backup plan in place in case staff managing areas such as your website fall ill. Do you have someone else who can make changes in their absence? Are passwords only known to 1 person?

Trust your staff when they are homeworking

Homeworking and trust go hand in hand. A lack of trust is often why some companies don’t encourage homeworking. Employees will want to keep earning. This should be enough reason not to abuse your trust. However, if you feel your trust is abused, you can review the situation.

Productivity & Self Discipline Working From Home

Staff routines at home will be different from in the workplace. Accept people will be balancing home life with work. This will be especially challenging if they have children.

Focus on what is achievable and set realistic projects or expectations.

To help colleagues remain productive and motivated:

  • Set times for supervision catch up phone calls
  • Agree tasks for the week
  • Ask individuals to share progress updates
  • Use IT to track work in progress
  • Stay positive and show appreciation for work achieved
  • Adapt and adjust as the situation changes

Work Patterns and Rest Breaks At Home

Be flexible around working patterns. Staff who have other family members at home may need to juggle different demands. Particularly if they have young children.

Normally, home working shouldn’t be mixed with childcare or other caring responsibilities. But the current situation is not a normal one. Whilst circumstances may not be ideal, homeworking will reduce financial pressure for staff and allow you to keep running. Keeping busy will also benefit their mental wellbeing.

Clarify people’s personal circumstances and agree on what they can realistically achieve at home.

Agree when they will work and how much flexibility you will provide around working times. Depending on what they’re doing, getting work done is more important than strict start and finish times.

Be clear on any times they must be available for work, or for scheduled calls or web meetings.

Remind staff to take regular breaks. Also agree on sensible boundaries around working start and finish times.

Encourage staff to get fresh air and exercise. People’s own gardens are obviously ideally suited to this. If wanting to exercise away from home, staff should follow the current government guidelines .

Hours Worked & Pay

When working from home normal salary should apply.

Confirm whether staff should work normal contracted hours or fewer hours. If less than usual hours are needed, confirm this and agree with them how this will affect their salary. For example, mutual agreement to revert to hourly pay.

Confirm how staff should record their hours. Also decide if you need timesheets or remote access to clocking in/out systems.

If Staff Become Sick When Homeworking

If staff become ill when working from home, manage this as sickness absence. Normal reporting and sick pay entitlements will apply.

Timescales for Homeworking

Keep staff updated as the situation evolves. Clarify as soon as possible:

  • how long homeworking will continue
  • any changes to the work or number of hours needed
  • if staff may need to stop working from home and be laid off temporarily
  • when they can return to work under normal or adjusted circumstances

Salary payments when changing Terms & Conditions or laying off staff

Remember that you must pay staff as normal, unless:

  • You have specific clauses in your employment contracts around layoffs / reduced working hours
  • You mutually agree temporary changes to terms and conditions or working patterns with staff

Excepting the above, normal salary must be paid even if you don’t offer work.

The UK Government is offering a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. They will now pay up to 80% of staff salary during the coronavirus pandemic for staff who are not working, and who would otherwise be laid off. All UK businesses are eligible.

See the Government’s Business Support page for more information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 

See our Coronavirus Contingency Planning blog for more information around changing terms and conditions.

Do you have any questions around homeworking? Get in touch today. Contact Debbie on 07885 370054 or email debbie@concilum-hr.co.uk

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