In April 2020, nearly half of all people in employment did some work at home, with 86%of them doing so as a direct result of COVID-19. Since Christmas 2020, and as a result of the most recent lockdown, fewer people than ever are travelling into the office, with remote working now at its most widespread since the spring, according to official figures.
Attitudes to flexible working are being tested by these new working models, with some finding that it’s a perfect solution, and others finding that productivity is being impacted and work stresses are increasing.
Having been so embedded in the Kent business community for so long, we have a breadth of contacts in different specialisms, and have reached out to them for their thoughts on how employers can, and need to adapt, for WFH.
Everyone had a lot to say on the matter so this is part 2 -you can read part 1 here.
Valuing employees pays dividends
Danny Shaw – HR Dept
Resilient businesses need engaged employees to bring them out the other side. Enforcing hardship will only result in disloyal staff,leaving you vulnerable to losing valued staff or having a workforce that isn’t willing to dig deep to drive the business forward at the time you need it to.
1. How you behave now will be an indicator for future recruits
We’ve seen companies being short-sighted in their planning,intentionally or just through panic, for example denying furlough to employees who are struggling to manage the demands of their job and homeschooling. Whilst it’s hoped that schools will reopen shortly, that level of inflexibility will undoubtedly leave employees rethinking their ongoing commitment to their employer.
2. Remote working is not a good enough an excuse for things being up in the air
Whilst it might not be a preferred way to work, for many companies it is a reality right now, and potentially again in the not too distant future. There is too much at stake, with mental health as well as company success, not to adapt working practices.
3. Despite the pandemic, employers are still accountable. This crisis does not negate their responsibility
If you are thinking of a future balance of office and working from home then consideration needs to be given to how practical that will be for employees – space, poor home lives, social aspect, kids at home….All these can be reasons why people wanted to go to work in the first place.
Warding off IT issues
Simon Luck – Host My Office
You’ve got an office, with an expensive server, lots of empty desk and everyone working some or all of the time from home. You probably aren’t alone in reconsidering the future of that office.
1. Change can bring about improvements in service as well as to cashflow
One thing to start with is how your IT infrastructure could evolve to better support a remote workforce. And at the same time improve your data security and back-ups, move costs from CapEx to OpEx and reduce the need for highly spec’d laptops.
2. Consistency of use from work desktop to home devices reduce errors
With as little as an iPad, employees can easily be granted appropriate access to cloud-based company files through a desktop which, once downloaded to the device, looks the same irrespective of where or how you are accessing it. You can be working on a desktop computer in the office, go home,open up the same document on your home device and pick up exactly where you left off.
3. Being a remote desktop, the data itself isn’t stored on any home devices
So, if you have an employee who’s sharing a device with another family member, the company files are kept safe and secure behind a login. And that also means that data is safe from any viruses inadvertently downloaded.
In addition to improving efficiency, maintaining data security and providing consistency for employees, other benefits include monitoring any unusual activity. Something that could come in very handy should an exiting employee want to copy over any files without your permission.
Benefits in kind
Steve Sargent – WPA Health Insurance
Somewhat unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of interest in private medical insurance this year.
1. Even in challenging times, fast access to treatment is achievable
With over 190,000 people waiting over a year for treatment,businesses are looking for ways to put into place processes that keep their teams supported, mentally and physically healthy, and committed to the company.
2. Private medical insurance can demonstrate commitment to a lasting working relationship
Valuable members of staff can be rewarded with a benefit that gives them and their family peace of mind and security at such a critical time, strengthening the relationship and helping to ward off any tempting offers to move jobs.
3. Cover for not only physical needs, but also mental health
One element that has been of particular relevance recently has been talking therapies, and in particular, employee assistance programmes. This has provided 24/7 telephone counselling to the employee but also to all those under their roof, delivering specialist support for needs including bereavement, debt or mental exhaustion.
Investing in health not only goes some way to reduce sick days, but private medical insurance also enables employees to access treatment to fit around their schedules, minimising the days lost for appointments and delays.
Maintaining health and safety responsibilities
Fintan O’Toole – The Health & Safety Dept
At the beginning of the pandemic, employers responded admirably. They did what they needed to do for the sake of the country and, in many cases, radically changed how they operated.
1. Employees also underwent major changes,not all positive
For some, these were acceptable, for some even beneficial.For others, it was a nightmare. Without sufficient resources in terms of space,light, warmth, bandwith (literal and emotional), they were struggling to fulfil their obligations on every level.
2. Responsible employers acknowledge their role in keeping employees safe and supported
As we start to navigate a more permanent, or longer short-term, solution, employers are having to factor in that their duty of care to WFH employees remains as it was when they were housed in offices. Not to the level of PAT testing individuals’ microwaves, but certainly in terms of their mental and physical health.
3. There is so much information available, if you haven’t found it, you aren’t looking
A quick search for ‘NHS working from home advice’ brings up seven tips that can form the basis for supporting employees from home, and this can give a framework that ensures your workforce can be confident they’re doing what is expected of them.
Ultimately, a satisfied, well-contented workforce is going o be more beneficial to your organisation than the alternative so some investment in their ongoing well being might be a good trade-off which prevents them from looking around to see where a better fit in this changing landscape might be.
This is part 2 - you can read part 1 here.