Are your employees ready for working at home?
Home working guarantees your business continuity in difficult circumstances. But is your business prepared for this? In this article, we are going to present you all the pros and cons of home working in a nutshell, and provide you with practical tips for organising this properly.
Working from home: business continuity even in difficult circumstances
‘Remote working’ is a way of working that is gaining increasing traction. Your employees do not have to be physically present in their usual workplace in your business premises in order to perform their daily tasks. Thanks to digital tools, and, in particular, the growing integration with the cloud, documents are available anytime and anywhere. And there is a wide range of tools available for working via the cloud. Take, for example, Microsoft 365 (Office 365), with which you can just log in to your own account and immediately have your entire working environment at your disposal.
You can even use your entire office in the cloud, via the online desktop. All you need is a computer and your login details, and you can get to work straight away – even from home.
It goes without saying that the work your employee carries out has to lend itself to remote working, but where it does, home working is an ideal solution in exceptional circumstances, like a rail strike, sudden snowfall, or quarantine measures such as with the coronavirus. But also when a child is ill… There are all kinds of situations when your employee is not able to do his job as he/she usually does. But home working allows him/her to keep working and ensure the continuity of your business.
Pros and cons of home working
Outside of these occasional instances, you can also introduce home working as a regular way of working in your company. Many employers are scared to face up to this – what scares them in particular is losing control over performance. For that reason, it is useful to make a handy list of the advantages and disadvantages of home working.
The advantages are quite impressive:
- No travel = no traffic jam! A quarter of all kilometres travelled are for commuting to and from work. If policy remains unchanged, in 2030 it will take a good 25 minutes longer than now to cover a distance of 50 km in the rush hour. When they work from home, your employees lose far less time and no longer arrive at work in a bad mood because of traffic jams.
- Cost saving: you need less office space and do not need a canteen either. Plus, you can save on the employer’s contribution to transport. An experiment in the Netherlands showed that having an employee work from home can save a business 1,600 euros per year.
- Productivity: 86% of office workers who work from home say they work just as many or more hours than in the office and only a small minority do less at home.
- More effective: the majority can work better at home than in the office because they are less distracted by their colleagues.
- Less sickness absence: 62% of those who have health problems (a cold, a minor injury, etc.) are less likely to report sick and will carry on working at home. There, the employee is at ease, does not have to worry about infecting anyone else and can quietly go and lie down if necessary.
- Motivation: flexworkers can organise their own daily timetable, making it easier for them to combine their work and private life. Their concentration is increased and they get more work satisfaction.
However, there are some disadvantages as well, both for you as an employer and for your employee:
- It is difficult to separate work from private life: it is very tempting to quickly fit in private matters during work time. There can often be distractions as well – the washing machine running, for example, or children demanding attention.
- It is more difficult to arrange meetings: it is always slightly more complicated and chaotic to organise meetings on important matters via teleconferences, phone or Skype.
- Not everyone is suited to flexworking: some people are too easily distracted and lack self-discipline. The setting (home) and the tools (their own computer) produce an atmosphere that is too relaxed, and the social networks are too great a temptation!
- Loneliness: because there is less social contact between your employees, they start to feel lonely and less involved in the business. It becomes more difficult for you to evaluate their work accurately – you may therefore lose valuable elements and employees who deserve a promotion may miss out.
Allowing your employees to work from home: it is cost-effective and promotes productivity and efficiency. Your employee is satisfied and your business continuity is assured.
Working from home: here is how employers should go about it
Nowadays, many big companies have working from home written into their conditions of employment as standard, via a collective bargaining agreement or incorporated in the working regulations. If this is not yet the case for your company, then since 2017 in Belgium it has been very easy to introduce occasional home working, under the following conditions:
- In situations of force majeure (a rail strike, quarantine, sudden snowfall or other weather conditions) or personal circumstances (a sick child, etc.).
- The work is not carried out in the employer’s company premises but at the employee’s home or at a location of his choosing
- The job role or activity must allow it
- The employee must request it himself. If you, as an employer, refuse home working, you must specify a reason in writing
- You have to draw up a joint agreement covering the availability of the employee, the use of equipment, and any arrangement for expenses (payment of Internet subscription, electricity, printer accessories, etc.)
When home working is incorporated in your working regulations, the following points must be clearly stated:
- Which roles or activities are covered
- What the procedure is for requesting home working
- How the employee is to be contactable, the use of equipment, and any arrangement for expenses.
Your administrative office can assist you in complying with these obligations.
Since 2017 in Belgium, you can introduce occasional home working very flexibly in the event of force majeure. Combell can provide you with the tools for this.
Tips for your home workers
In the same way as you have to make sure that your employees can perform their tasks in the right conditions in your business premises, you also have to assist home workers as regards this. Here are some tips you can pass on to them:
- Preferably, arrange a fixed workplace where you can leave your work things and documents – a room you can lock is best.
- Work out a schedule for yourself. It is best to get up at the same time as you would for an ordinary working day, and shower and get dressed. Build in breaks for a cup of coffee or a piece of fruit. And take a proper lunch break, away from your computer.
- Switch off disturbing sounds and messages from your smart phone – do not let yourself be tempted by the siren call of social networks!
- Stand up straight to stretch your legs at regular intervals. If necessary, set an alarm in your fitness tracker or smartwatch to remind you about this.
- If you do not have a separate office, then use a table and chair for working at. Spending all day on your sofa (or lying in bed!) will not be appreciated by your back!
- Put on headphones with some relaxing music. This reduces background noise, increases concentration and makes you more at ease.
- Look after peace and quiet for your head but do not forget the workplace: clear up any mess – a tidy workplace helps you stay focused.
Think about safety as well when working at home!
Insist that your employee takes the necessary precautions to stay safe.
- If possible, do not use your own laptop but one from work. It might be nicer to use your own laptop, but the one from work will undoubtedly have the necessary security products installed for safe working. Do not forget to take the adapter home with you.
- Make sure that your computer or any device you use for handling company data is secured with a password. Preferably, at least 6 characters long. Use a password manager to create long passwords.
- Encrypt your hard drive, as well as the data contained in e-mails.
- As far as possible, use 2FA (Two-factor authentication) for any service that offers it.
- Work with a secure browser, preferably Firefox or Safari. And for extra security, it is best to delete any extensions you installed, as they may be vulnerable.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to create a secure tunnel between your computer and the company network. Ideally, choose a paid-for VPN because free services often track your traffic.
- If you have to recharge your tablet or smart phone in a public place, via USB, do not accept just any cable. Use only recharging cables, not data cables!
- Never leave a device behind in your car.
- Activate the “find my device” security procedure
- Do not use other people’s USB drives, or ones you received as a present.
With the right organisation and preparation, your employees can work from home very well if their tasks allow this. And in exceptional circumstances such as bad weather, quarantines, strikes, etc., this solution ensures your business continuity. Thanks to Combell’s cloud solutions your employees always have their online office at hand: they can access their documents, check their e-mail, manage their agendas, set up conference calls, etc. wherever they are!
Do you need help to quickly set up your online office? Our experts are available to assist you – do not hesitate to contact them!