December 3, 2013
Meeting the management challenges of caring for home workers
Flexible working is on the rise. However, as reported today, while employers are happy to equip workers with the facilities required to work away from the office, there is a worrying level of unwillingness amongst many bosses in checking the safety and comfort of home workers. Employers have a duty of care to their home workers under health and safety legislation and the Working Time Regulations 1998. This means that care should be taken by employers to ensure that home workers operate in a safe and appropriate environment. This duty of care goes beyond supplying an ergonomic workstation. Managing home workers requires a varied set of management skills and best practice processes.
When setting up a home worker, care should be taken to ensure the employee operates in a safe and appropriate environment. An assessment of the working space should be undertaken and consideration should be given to supplying furniture, such as an office chair or desk to ensure the working environment is safe.
You should also ensure that employees use their holiday entitlement, that they are not working excessively long hours, and that they are taking the requisite breaks. Hours and break times should be clearly defined and reinforced regularly during one to one meetings or other reviews.
From a performance management perspective the essential starting point is to ensure that your home workers are left in no doubt as to the parameters of their employment, the processes that are to be followed, and how they are expected to perform their role. Clarify objectives and set clear timescales.
Home workers need to be provided with more specific, and often more regimented guidelines compared to their office based counterparts. In effect they need a more bespoke form of management.
It is often a good strategy to require new starters to spend a defined initial period of time working in the office environment to provide them with a good grounding in the aims, and ethos of the business together with obtaining knowledge of the practises and processes used in the workplace.
Extra care should be taken to check the understanding of instructions with home workers. Phone calls and emails are the obvious methods of effective communication but employers should consider utilising video conferencing facilities such as Skype to improve communication with workers.
It is important to introduce key performance indicators so you can objectively and consistently assess how each employee is performing. This will also allow you to compare home with other workers and evaluate the effectiveness of each method of working.
Finally, regular reviews are vitally important to provide home workers with feedback, constructive criticism and to define boundaries. Home workers should be made aware at an early stage if they are not meeting the expectations set with appropriate support, training and monitoring put in place.
Founder of Loch Associates, Pam Loch is a dual qualified lawyer acting for employers and employees and advising on all aspects of employment law. She is Managing Partner of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers and Managing Director of HR Advise Me Limited.