advo hr’s Jess Hall gives her thoughts on how to support your new home workers, helping them stay productive and engaged. Using her HR expertise she looks at the legal view and employer responsibilities while taking a closer look at some of the things advo is doing to keep staff connected.
Jess Hall, advo hr
With many employees now working from home, we thought it would be helpful to revisit homeworking to provide helpful advice on what can be done to support employees during Covid-19 and keep moral high while outlining an employer’s legal responsibilities.
At the time of writing, we have already been through several weeks of home working, with advo no different from the countess organisations around the world. Many home workers are also trying to balance home-schooling and work, and others on the opposite end of the spectrum who may live alone and therefore are feeling isolated. Now more than ever there is a need to ensure that employees are keeping in touch with colleagues and that, where possible, they keep up their motivation.
Here at advo, all employees are working from home. We were more fortunate than most in that we had recently gone through disaster action plans as part of our ISO security accreditation before the lockdown and so had our plans already mapped out. All staff work from a central system and so once linked it was business as usual. We were very quickly able to switch to homeworking without any noticeable loss in service to clients, but that is only the hardware solution. managing our people in the longer-term is expected to be more challenging.
We realise that connectivity is key. We firstly changed our approach from hours based to tasked based working to allow greater flexibility to those with added home responsibilities. Then set about ensuring individual teams and the group as a whole retained connectivity. We use technology as much as possible to keep in touch with video conferencing. Often team chats and updates will have a theme to make it more interesting. For example, a recent account manager team meeting had a Casino theme with dressing up and clever backdrops. We also have a weekly newspaper called ADVOGOODNEWS News where we report on all the gossip and news within the group with pictures and achievements and successes, both work and non-work reported, basically anything else that will bring a smile. Additional contact such as weekly quizzes also helps. I understand plans are afoot to replace this month’s team building event to bring online.
ADVOGOODNEWS news, the weekly advo staff newspaper.
Keeping staff connected is key.
Others things that could be introduced include: sharing recipe ideas, cook along segments for lunches or workout classes if you have someone who wants to share their passion for fitness with those who want to engage. It is important however not to force anyone into taking part but to encourage participation.
Often there is little time for training or development activities with the fast pace of work and life. If work has been reduced this may be the time to ask employees to think about their personal development and training needs and for employers to arrange for training where possible to fill the gaps in between work.
Employers may wish to consider a review of their existing employee benefit packages during this time, as the needs and demands of their staff change, such as making sure you have a robust EAP in place for additional support. Online support/resources or benefits within your packages are a good way to help engage staff remotely, now is the time to exploit these additional benefits.
So where do we stand legally?
Health and Safety
Employers have a legal responsibility for their employees, even when they are working from home. Given the current situation it is likely that the usual risk assessments on those working from home will not be able to be carried out. In this instance employers should ensure that they have spoken to each employee to check for the following:
- They feel the work they’re being asked to do at home can be done safely
- That employees have the right equipment to work safely
- That managers keep in regular contact with their employees, including making sure they do not feel isolated
- Reasonable adjustments are made for an employee who has a disability
If any issues or changes are highlighted, employers are responsible for making sure they happen.
Whilst employers have a legal obligation, employees also have to take care of their own health and safety by keeping in contact with their manager regularly, highlighting any risks they have found or arrangements that need to be changed. Employees also need to ensure they are taking regular breaks and to take time to be both physically and mentally active outside of their working day such as utilising the one period of exercise per day. As already highlighted keeping in touch with colleagues is also vital to help minimise the feeling of isolation.
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure employees have the right equipment and technology to enable them to work from home. Therefore, the employer should:
- discuss equipment and technology with the employee
- agree what’s needed
- support the employee to set up any new equipment or technology
Employers should also regularly assess how their systems and temporary arrangements are working and make any improvements.
For more information, a really good source would be ACAS, who have recently addressed working from homing during this time: https://www.acas.org.uk/working-from-home
It would be great if you could share some of the initiatives you have introduced and what is it working for you. Please send your morale boosting activities to us at email@example.com.
Alternatively, now could be a good time to look again at your staff benefits to see if they remain apt. Often there are many additional benefits included such as help-lines, video GPs or health and fitness support. If you want to get the most from your benefits then advo can help. Drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.