By: Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR
Homeworking is not a new concept; businesses have been exposed to the pros and cons of working from home for a long time. Over the last year, those businesses who had not embraced it until the start of the pandemic were suddenly thrown in at the deep end. Not only was homeworking thrust upon them, but it also had to be implemented very quickly. New IT processes and protocols have now been devised and opened up employers’ eyes to that fact that, given a little effort, it can really work.
Benefits of working from home
The benefits of working from home have been well documented; employees have a greater work/life balance so are likely to be happier in their jobs. This in turn increases retention rates and reduces the need for businesses to recruit. Employers have fewer overheads when employees are working from home and there is more opportunity for flexible hours. This helps meet customer’s needs better and means that companies may even be able to branch out further geographically than previously possible.
Another benefit of working for home for employers is that the potential talent pool becomes endless for those looking to expand or recruit new employees, as there are no commuting restrictions standing in the way of someone getting into the office every day.
How has technology helped?
Just a few years ago it would not have been possible to work from home to the extent that we have seen over the last year. While the technology was certainly there, employers were often reluctant to embrace remote working due to a perceived lack of productivity and/or difficulty keeping track of employees who are working from home.
It’s fair to say that there were technical issues at the start of the pandemic, with people getting used to unfamiliar methods of communication. For many – employees and employers alike – video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Teams were totally foreign concepts but they have proven vital when it comes to conducting meetings and keeping in touch with remote team members. Some say we may never go back to the days of sitting round a table in a stuffy boardroom.
Not only has technology transformed communications, it has also made things a lot easier from an HR perspective when it comes to managing employees working from home.
At BrightHR we developed a staff management app called Blip, which lets staff clock in and out of work using just their mobiles. This helps employers to see who is working, who is off and who’s on a break at any time, which is vital when it comes to managing working hours remotely. Staff can simply scan a QR code or use the smart geolocation feature which is perfect for keeping track of employees working from different locations.
It’s a requirement for employers to keep official records under the Working Time Regulations and this is where the apps really come into their own. Employers can provide evidence of staff hours, breaks and overtime, ensuring that they are fully compliant with the law.
All of this information is logged in the cloud, making it easy for employers to export the work history for an individual or team and save it as a spreadsheet for their records at any time, so they don’t need to try and record everyone’s hours manually or keep on top of timesheets.
Maintaining a good work/life balance whilst working from home
Not only do apps like Blip help employers with time and record keeping, they can also be a great way to ensure that employees are able to maintain a good work/life balance and are not spending too much time working. While developments in technology are great for helping us stay connected, they also mean that we’re more ‘switched on’ with work than ever before. It has now become the norm for employees to pick up emails, answer phone calls, and even take conference calls outside of their working hours. Whilst their commitment can be applauded, having an ‘always on’ workforce may not be the best for companies or employees.
When an employee is working in the office, it’s easy to separate work and home life, but when your dining room table becomes your office the lines can get a bit blurred. When people are constantly checking emails or answering calls outside of work hours, they’re more likely to feel tired, run-down and stressed out. Over time, that stress could turn into burnout, which is much more serious.
Having an app that allows employees to log in and out remotely means you can identify if someone is putting in a lot more hours than required and allow you to help them manage their workload to ensure they maintain a good work/life balance.
Building team culture
Team culture can be more difficult to maintain if there is no direct communication available to remote employees. New starters have to work extra hard to feel part of an already established team and a concerted effort needs to be made to make up for the lack of ‘accidental learning’ that you get from overhearing colleagues going about their tasks. Using video calls rather than the telephone should become the norm; ‘face to face’ remote chats might help build better relationships than telephone calls. Quick conversation apps can be used too, which are often faster and more responsive than email.
Managers need to build in remote communication methods as part of their daily working life. This can be supported by the opportunity for managers to exchange experiences on this and tap into what works and doesn’t work for their team.