Once upon a time, allowing employees to work from home was a flexible 'nice to have' for many organisations. Now, in the face of a devastating global pandemic, home-working policies are helping businesses to survive.
Not only that, working from home comes with an unprecedented wealth of additional challenges. For example, there is a new need for many people to keep on top of their workload, whilst simultaneously educating their children from the kitchen table.
Not to mention those people who do their best work in an open and collaborative environment, now forced to isolate themselves with their laptop (and perhaps a partner whom they are fast realising they don't get on with).
In short, the new rules are very different to those we've ever seen before. It is therefore worth taking some time to review your home-working policy and procedures, to ensure they not only work for your employees, but are able to benefit your organisation as a whole.
Assess the practicalities
Allowing employees to work from home shouldn't be seen as a free-for-all, or a process of simply issuing everybody with a laptop, then leaving them to it.
You will need to ensure that any designated home-workers have the right tools, the right connectivity, and that their work can be done effectively from home (if not, you could consider placing them on paid leave, or furloughing them under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme).
If you don't already have one, devising and issuing a dedicated home-working policy will help to clarify the procedure for everybody, outline how it will work for your organisation in practice, and answer employees' questions.
Keep home-workers connected
To help people stay connected with your organisation, ask managers to check in regularly with their team members – particularly those who are new to working from home. Offer additional support to those who are feeling lonely or isolated.
You could go even further by arranging virtual coffee breaks, or after-work catch-ups, to keep everybody smiling and motivated during what is an incredibly confusing time.
Be as flexible and supportive as possible
As noted previously, some people will be struggling with additional demands on their time. They may have to home-school their children every day, or take care of vulnerable family members.
With nearly everyone at home permanently, every aspect of life is now being lived under one roof. As an employer, this naturally calls for greater levels of flexibility and support.
So, relax deadlines if you can, don't expect everything to run as smoothly as it did before Covid-19, and laugh off any situations involving noisy children gate-crashing your Zoom meeting.
In doing so, you will motivate and encourage your employees to support your organisation as best they can.
How will Covid-19 affect future home-working?
The future of work appears very uncertain, with many commentators predicting the death of the traditional office. However, take heart from the fact that this unusual situation may not herald a permanent shift into home-working for all.
Instead of measuring different ways of working for individual effectiveness, we have all been forced to make a lot of rapid and unprecedented changes, in response to a global crisis that, thankfully, will one day come to an end.
Until it does, we must all try to exercise as much clarity, flexibility, and compassion as we can.
Further information and support
The CIPD website includes some useful resources to help prepare organisations for home-working, including a pre-implementation survey, and some additional policy guidance.
If you would like to discuss your organisation's home-working procedures in further detail, or to outline the steps you need to take towards policy implementation, our expert team at Viridian HR would be very happy to help. Simply get in touch.