The increase in UK companies implementing work from home policies to try to stop the spread of coronavirus could lead to a revolution in the way that we see remote working.
It is believed that approximately 1,722,000 people regularly work from home in the UK. But many organisations, both large and small, have recently been encouraging employees to work from home, in response to coronavirus.
We’ve conducted research that found many people are working from home for the first time. Many businesses are also wondering how to navigate remote working to ensure that it works for employees and for the business.
The current situation could act as a catalyst towards higher sustained levels of homeworking in the UK. Working from home has previously been found to improve productivity and worker health. The outbreak may prompt many businesses to make better use of remote working in the future, as they discover the benefits of it.
Businesses should be proactive, strategic, and supportive in their approaches towards remote working. It’s important to take the health of remote workers as seriously as you’d take the health of workers that you see in-person. Think strategically and develop good policies and procedures. Cover remote workers in your stress risk assessments, use employee surveys, and provide them with support.
There are a number of small things that businesses can do to ensure that remote working runs smoothly. Firstly, good communication is vital. There are multiple ways of communicating when working from home – like instant messaging, video calls, as well as emails and phone calls. Using the right kind of communication, and communicating often, is key. Talk about things other than work, too, to build relationships.
It’s important to be clear and trusting with staff. Use online task scheduling software to set goals and deadlines, and to explain tasks clearly. Tell employees to contact line managers if they don’t understand a task, and ensure employees feel comfortable doing this. But also remember to trust your team, and don’t be automatically suspicious about what they’re doing when they’re working from home.
By Mel Joseph, founder and managing director of workplace stress and mental health organisation, Mente