Hybrid and flexible working arrangements are here to stay, with many organisations allowing flexibility of how (and where) employees work. After the restrictions and lockdowns of the COVID 19 pandemic, some people couldn’t wait to get back into the routine of going into the office each day. Others however, prefer to spend part or all of their week working from home.
In Australia, an employer has a legal duty of care for the health and safety of their employees. That duty of care extends to anywhere work is performed. While usually what employees do in their own space is their own business, while they’re clocked in on your payroll, there’s a few considerations and obligations you need to be aware of as their employer.
A Safe Workspace
Home based employees are still your employees and you have a duty of care and legislative responsibility for their safety and wellbeing while they’re working from home. Employers should ensure their employees are working in a safe environment. At a minimum you should provide your work from home employees with a health and safety checklist covering off items such as ventilation, light, cords, trip hazards, ergonomic set up and more!
Some businesses require staff to use supplied ergonomic workstation setups, others let their team use their own home office equipment. Whichever way you go, make sure you have properly briefed your staff on how to set up desks and chairs for safe working and monitor this. Speak to your own workplace health and safety experts for more information about what is required for your industry and organisation.
Working From Home Has Benefits
There are many perks to working from home. It provides work-life balance, particularly for those with a lengthy or inconvenient commute to the office. Losing the commute time allows you to fit in other activities such as spending time with family or exercise. Throughout the day, it’s easy to pop a load of washing on while you work, you never miss a delivery and some people just prefer being in their own space, working their way. Office environments aren’t for everyone.
From the employer’s perspective, offering flexibility is a benefit you can offer to your employees. Many businesses with home-based staff have found it makes no difference to how productive people are and that some people work better from home.
Separation Between Work and Homelife
For some people working from home, it can be a challenge to create a firm line between work and homelife.
Some employees have concerns that those working from home may “slack off”. Many others found the opposite to be true. Working from home can actually encourage or enable many people to work more than they normally would and in fact some employees find it hard to switch off from work.
For employees it may be more difficult to “switch off” if your workstation is in your living room or a communal area. Employers should promote a culture where that separation exists. Some good ways for employees to “finish” work without the actual act of leaving the office and commuting home include things like planning something for after work like a gym class, walk or other activity; working in a different room of the house where possible and actually turning laptops and computers off so that notifications aren’t heard and there’s not the temptation to “just check your emails”.
Communication and Connectivity Is Key
Having employees work from home can bring challenges on the communication training and culture front. Employers need to ensure that their team members remain connected, motivated and productive. There are some quick and easy thing you can put in place to combat these challenges.
Firstly, ensure you have senior manager support for what you are putting in place for your own team – it can be challenging to work effectively if all parties aren’t in agreement as far as arrangements and requirements go.
Communicate regularly. Managers should have daily checks in with their team members. Also communicate across the company and ensure there is transparency around employees whereabouts and ensure everyone in the organisation know the best way to contact the right person.
Regular meetings and communication are very important for home-based employees and where possible these should be actual conversations with cameras on. Either video calls or telephone calls where you’re able to speak and connect.
With the right approach, working from home for all or part of the work week is beneficial for both employers and employees. If you need help navigating flexible work arrangements in your business, speak to your in-house HR team, industry body or an Accru representative for guidance.