With the desire of the freedom to work from home having been a dream for many, no-one could quite possibly have imagined it to become a phenomenon to occur so abruptly for us in 2020. Since the sudden pandemic forced a WFH scenario around the world, despite the challenges of Covid, many have felt the benefits such as:
And, unsurprisingly, this way of working, has proved very favourable with employees. In a post-pandemic world, the majority of people would prefer either a WFH way of life, or a hybrid in which they work 2-3 days per week in the office and 2-3 days per week FH (e.g. Nationwide survey of staff).
There are however, those who are itching to get back to the office due to feelings of isolation and lack of collaboration among colleagues, as well as domestic distractions – so employers and managers should talk to employees and:
Due to the immediate requirement of work forces to WFH, this may not have been written into contracts, but if place and time of work has been left to management discretion, “you may not need to worry about issuing a new contract” (www.lawdonut.co.uk). But it is necessary for WFH agreements, to state that workers should not work longer than agreed hours as per the Working Time Regulations 1998, including a maximum of 48 hours per week, unless they signed an opt-out agreement. You can head here for more info on changing contracts.
An update of your company ‘Working from home policy’ in the Staff Handbook is also required and a re-issue of it.
Can you refuse a WFH request?
Almost all employees with at least 26 weeks’ service have the right to ask for flexible working which can include working from home. You must consider requests in a reasonable manner. You can only refuse a request for one of the eight business reasons allowed by the legislation.
Employers have a legal duty to protect health and safety of employees, including those working from home (Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974), this includes checking they have appropriate insurance to cover homeworkers and to undertake risk assessments.
It goes without saying that in Covid times, it wouldn’t be acceptable to head into each employee’s home to perform these risk assessments, but questionnaires can be done by the employee for the employer to identify hazards and take steps to remove them. Employers must keep a record of the findings and keep risks under review. (For example you can check out High Speed Training’s Questionnaire here).
Employers should avoid asking employees to use their own equipment and should arrange for a computer, phone and software to be available/sent to them which they should ensure to be safe and suitable, they must also provide appropriate eye tests on request.
Ideally, all employees should be set up with a fit-for-purpose work chair, desk and for the equipment to be set up professionally. We have a one stop online shop – dufoyer.com which is our home office website that you can send your employees to, to ensure they have an office environment that allows for correct posture in the best chair possible, laptop screens which are positioned at eye height and to be using external keyboard & mouse wherever possible. We have a post with lots more information on correct WFH set-ups, here.
It is important to consider whether employees are taking confidential documents home and if so, whether they have cabinets to store them away from children, and if not, would you provide them? It also may be an idea to re-issue data protection policies whilst working from home.
Employers may want to think about:
Regular communication with employees is beneficial; regular check ins and check outs at the start and end of the working day using video conferencing programmes, including dedicating parts of the call to something not work-related. Five to ten minutes of general chatting or virtual “tea breaks” can encourage a sense of community, which is lacking physically when WFH.
A WFH scheme is at the discretion of the employer (post-Covid, of course), but it seems many businesses will be allowing for this due to:
But this does not mean this is the end of the office, in actual fact, it’s the most exciting time yet for office spaces. Intrigued? Read our post about the movement of offices in 20201, here.