Homeworking trends post Covid-19 and the need for effective performance management.
This article revisits the trends and issues of homeworking and hybrid working 6 months on from my colleague’s article “Hybrid working and home working – The post COVID effects” which was published late November 2021.
What is the difference between homeworking and hybrid working?
Homeworking: Employees either work fully from home or are able to work from home sporadically on an ad hoc basis.
Hybrid working: Is a form of flexible working in which employees split their time between attending the workplace and working remotely, usually from home.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has recently published a report providing an update on flexible and hybrid working practices in the UK. The report found that:
- Homeworking has gone from 1 in 20 workers pre-pandemic, to 1 in 5.
- More than half of employees currently have flexible working arrangements in their current role and this number is continuing to grow.
- In the last several months, 37% of organisations have seen an increase in requests for flexible working (an article concentrating solely on flexible working requests will be published shortly).
- More than 2 million employees in professional, scientific, IT and technical roles alone are homeworkers.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) also provided data on the correlation between homeworking and changes to public spending. The data shows that whilst 86% of homeworkers’ spending on utilities have increased, 50% reported spending less on fuel and parking for commuting, 40% reported spending less on public transport and 5% reported spending less on childcare.
Another interesting report published by ONS regarding the homeworking trends shows that online job vacancy adverts which include the terms related to “homeworking” have increased threefold.
Across the above mentioned reports published by CIPD and ONS there is a general consensus of what employees and employers consider the pros and cons of homeworking and hybrid working.
- Decrease in commuting costs
- Significant decrease in sickness absence
- Decrease in workplace overheads
- Increased life/work balance
- Increase in job satisfaction
- Increased employee wellbeing
- Increase in inclusion and diversity
- Ability to recruit from a wider talent pool as it is not restricted by geography
- Increase in employee retention
- Increase productivity and quality
- Increase in technological competency
- Resilience to external disruptions such as transport problems and adverse weather conditions
- Increase in reported employee loneliness
- Small increase in absence related to mental health
- Employers feeling like they are ‘losing control’ of their workforce
- Lack of employee interaction and team building
- Concern over employee performance and monitoring
- Inability for employees to switch off
Some employers appear potentially reluctant to encourage homeworking/hybrid working with some announcing that employees either must return for a set amount of time or if not employees can remain working from home exclusively but their pay may be reduced. Whilst some employers are actively encouraging homeworking and hybrid working as a way to retain and recruit staff. When discussing the future of homeworking, Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky stated that “you can’t fight the future, we can’t try to hold on to 2019 any more than 1950. We have to move forward.” and advised that “If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage. The best people live everywhere, not concentrated in one area.”
Hybrid and homeworking policies
It is important that employers have the necessary policies in place so that employees who are homeworkers or hybrid workers know exactly what is expected of them and that employers have a clear process should an employee’s hybrid working arrangement become untenable for a variety of reasons including reduction in productivity, having inadequate and irregular contact with the employee and a business restructure to name a few.
Employers should not let issues linger and should respond to any issues that arises quickly or else the employee could claim that their normal place of work is their home address through custom and practice. Having a hybrid/homeworking policy in place can provide clear guidance on how to address any issues that may arise and the procedure for doing so.
As a minimum hybrid and/or homeworking policies and procedures should include the following:
- Details of who is eligible for hybrid working.
- Details on how to request hybrid working.
- The responsibilities and expectations of hybrid workers and managers.
- Details of how and why the working arrangement can be withdrawn.
- Reference to other related policies where necessary such as flexible working, IT and data protection.
Having the relevant hybrid/homeworking policy in place can help employers feel like they are still in control of their workforce. It is very important to outline that, if remote working is impacting on the business, the working arrangement can be withdrawn.
It is advisable for employers to review their current performance and capability policies ensuring that they are fit for purpose.
Remember that the primary purpose of the capability and performance policy should be to encourage improvement rather than to punish an employee as stated in the ACAS Guide to Discipline and Grievances at Work.
A good performance management policy will help clarify the required standards, identify areas of concern, establish the likely causes of poor performance, identify any training needs and set objectives and targets for improvement. In the event that performance does not improve the policy should provide clear details of the process and stages of the capability procedure.
Tips to help tackle other disadvantages of homeworking
Employers should try to remember to focus on outcomes of an employee’s work rather than the need for an employee to be ‘present’ in the office, which is increasingly becoming an outdated concept.
Employers should also:
- Maintain a strong focus on employee health and wellbeing.
- Implement plans to avoid overworking and burnout.
- Support employees experiencing poor mental health, addressing any specific concerns.
- Encourage employee collaboration with social events.
- Monopolise video conference technology such Teams and Zoom not just for meetings but for team virtual meetings such as tea breaks, lunches, quizzes and “get togethers”.
- Ensure employees and managers have the relevant training on promoting wellbeing and recognising loneliness and mental health concerns; and
- Direct employees to further support available such as EAP, Mind and NHS.uk
GA Solicitors can help employers draft the relevant homeworking, hybrid working and capability policies and procedures as either standalone policies or as a part of staff handbook.