Remote working – so many positives – just make sure that out of sight isn’t out of mind!

Jan 22, 2020 | Employing people, Employment Law, Flexible Workforce

Much has been written about the benefits of working remotely, both from the employee’s and employer’s perspective: see for example this article: 17 Stats About Remote Work in 2019.

As a remote worker myself I love the freedom of being in my own space and being better able to juggle work and family commitments.  With the focus of attention moving very firmly to protecting the environment, enabling more people to keep off the roads and work from home is bound to continue.  Here are a few tips on ensuring that remote working is a positive experience for all involved.

1) Clarity of remote working expectations

Ensure that both parties are clear on what the remote working actually looks like, i.e. is it just ad-hoc days, regular days, or all the time?  Are normal working hours expected or can the individual work the contracted hours over a period that suits them?  Should the individual be contactable at all times or is it OK if they break the day to go on the school run?  Are there any times when a remote worker should attend the office, i.e. for team meetings or training?  Setting out all these expectations upfront will most definitely help to avoid problems later on.

2) Performance expectations

Clarity of performance expectations can become even more important if an employee is working remotely.  Use of clear, ideally SMART, goals/objectives is always important, but at a distance, there is generally less ongoing feedback and monitoring of workload and work quality.  All the normal performance management tools of one-to-one meetings and performance appraisals should be placed in the diary, along with regular catch up calls to make sure that everything is on track.

3) Health and safety

An employee may be working in their own space, but employers remain responsible for their health and safety.  This can be more problematic remotely as the employer has less control over the working environment.  Ideally, a risk assessment of the employee’s home working environment should be undertaken to check for all the normal risks and to make sure that the work-station is safely set up.

4) Mental health

The focus on mental health is quite rightly very important in today’s workplaces.  This is another aspect that can be more difficult to monitor when an employee works remotely.  Feelings of loneliness and a lack of team spirit can impact negatively on some people, and it may be that remote working just isn’t appropriate for some.  Employers must be alert to any signs that this is the case and check in with employees to ensure that remote working is not causing detriment to their mental health.  Many employers now have trained Mental Health First Aiders who should also consider how they can be available for remote workers as well as office workers.

5) Information sharing

Finally, don’t forget to include remote workers in any information sharing, be this about major organisational changes or simple team updates.  Remote workers are bound to feel disengaged with the organisation if they are always the last to know.  Furthermore, ensure that remote workers are kept up-to-date about any opportunities, such as team changes or promotional opportunities as their career should not take a back seat due to working from home.

We can help with further guidance about remote working, including set up and risk assessment.  We can also help with full guidance on performance management, whether related to remote working or more widely within your organisation.