National work from home day is on 20th May. With another train strike recently and the finding that trains, when they are running properly, are so over-packed that they exceed the conditions required to transport cattle, home working seems a very attractive option! Indeed, many surveys find that workers would like to be able to work from home, if not all the time, then at least occasionally, to take the pressure off the commute.
Home-working not only benefits us individuals but also employers. Global workplace analytics analysed over 4,000 studies, reports and articles about Agile work and found the following most common advantages for companies that establish such programs. For the full articles, see http://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/resources/costs-benefits
In summary, the findings were:
Advantages of home working
- Improves employee satisfaction, with 2/3 of people wanting to work from home, 36% would choose it over a pay rise
- Reduces unscheduled absences, with workers continuing to work when sick or able to return to work more quickly following surgery or medical issues
- Increased productivity with 2/3 of employers reporting an increase of up to 35/40%. Employees spend 60% of the commuting time they save performing work for the company.
- Saves employers money, in office space, reduction in turnover etc.
- Equalizes personalities and reduces potential for discrimination
- Cuts down on wasted meetings. Web based meetings are better planned.
- Increases employee empowerments – forcing people to be more independent and self-directed
- Increases collaboration – without logistics getting in the way
- Provides new employment opportunities for the un and under-employed
- Expands the talent pool – by reducing geographic boundaries and providing access to disabled workers, parents and senior caregivers
- Slows the brain drain due to retiring booms. 75% of retirers want to continue to work but they want the flexibility to enjoy their retirement
- Reduces staffing redundancies and offers quick scale and scale down options
- Takes the pressure of transportations systems
- Ensures the continuity of operations in the event of a disaster
- Improves performance measurement systems
Obstacles to Home working
- Trust – correct communication systems need to be put in place to overcome initial trust issues
- Company culture
- Not suitable for everyone or every job. Social needs must be addressed, using innovative solutions such as virtual outings and online games
- Homeworkers need to be comfortable with technology, self-directed and have a defined home office space
- Access to a reliable internet resource
- Employment Law
To overcome these issues, managers need training on how to assess a home-worker on their output, not their input and workers helped with open communication on their progress. If the right systems are put in place, barriers are easily overcome.
For detailed guidelines on home working, IOSH have published a brochure for employers and employees: http://www.iosh.co.uk/~/media/Documents/Books%20and%20resources/Guidance%20and%20tools/Out%20of%20site.pdf
Health and Safety for homeworkers
Employers have a duty of care for all their employees and the requirements of the health and safety legislation apply to homeworkers. The employer is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment to check whether the proposed home workplace’s ventilation, temperature, lighting, space, chair, desk and computer are suitable for the tasks the homeworker will be carrying out. The employer is responsible for the equipment it supplies, but it is the employee’s responsibility to rectify any flaws in the home highlighted by the assessment. HSE guidelines on the minimum requirements of a safe workstation set up including the following:
- An adjustable chair that suits the user’s needs, with lumbar support
- The computer is suitable for the task and is set up correctly
- The desk is suitable for the user’s requirements
- Light and heat are suitable
Workers need to be provided with guidelines and advised on how to set up their workstation. They will need suitable equipment and not just work on a dining room chair with a laptop. For further information on suitable workstation set up, please contact us for a free guide or enquire about our Workstation Assessment consultancy services.