As the world prepares for even more strict measures of lockdown, we decided to provide guidance on how to handle remote working for your employees.
The below guide collects information from official sources, such as the UK Government's website, and is structured around a series of key questions to guide you in setting up remote working for your team.
Is homeworking reasonable for my team?
You should first of all question whether the option is reasonable for your business.
If it is impracticable for a job to be carried out at home (for instance, if appropriate machines/software are missing) and team members have been medically advised to self-isolate, they would have to be classed as off sick. You should assess this in accordance with the business’ needs and usual order of operations.
You should also consider whether it is workable for creative works to be practically carried out at home, or if deadlines can be observed. In these trying times, you will have to consider the option to postpone some works to a later date.
How do I limit the spread of Coronavirus in my workplace?
The government has provided leaflets, posters and pamphlets reminding everyone of the latest public health advice. We recommend spreading them around the office and reminding your team members to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal.
If a team member has developed symptoms of Coronavirus on site (continuous cough or high temperature), they should be advised to follow the government's stay-at-home guidance.
At the current state of things, it is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home, unless government policy changes. It is, however, recommended to set up homeworking as soon as it is reasonably possible.
What if one of the team needs some time off to take care of someone?
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them in an unexpected event or emergency, such as the Coronavirus outbreak. This applies in case they need to look after their children or other "dependants", in case they are sick or hospitalised.
According to the government, there is no statutory right to pay for this time off, but you can offer pay depending on contract or workplace policy.
Homeworking and Health & Safety – how does it work?
Employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of employees, whether at home or in the workplace.
Assessment of safe workstations is key to ensure that all Health & Safety regulations are observed. Creative services and agencies rely heavily on laptops, computers and mobile devices to carry out work (also known as DSE, device screen equipment), and it is possible to take a practical approach to this by asking team members to self-assess their workstation.
Furthermore, you need to consider the mental health of your team. The government has recommended to keep in touch with lone workers, and ensure they are healthy and safe by keeping regular contact.
If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. This can affect stress levels and mental health.
What if equipment I provided is stolen or damaged?
You should remind your team to take care of all the equipment provided. They could sign an agreement to confirm receipt of the equipment, enabling you to deduct money from their wages in case any damage occurs.
Do not rely solely on common sense for equipment to be handled correctly – leave your team members with instructions, for instance on how to transport delicate equipment, how to operate machines and more.
You should also consider whether your insurance will cover an employee taking this equipment home.
What obligations do I have with respect to paying employers while they're home?
The government has said that Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from day 1 instead of day 4 for those affected by coronavirus.
As an employer, it is your duty to ensure that this is communicated to your employees.
We all have a responsibility to make sure that we not only look after our employees, but also try and do our best to ensure that Covid-19 is not spread due to our policies.
Will employees be classed as "homeworking" during this time?
Homeworking due to Coronavirus will only be a temporary measure. The contractual place of work would still remain at its usual address, such as your head office.
Clarity of communications is key to ensure that both sides are aware of the temporary nature of homeworking. We advise that both you and your team members agree on how long this temporary measure is expected to last.
If homeworking is successful, you should bear in mind that this may set a precedent for flexible working in the future, for instance if a designer puts in a request for remote working for one day a week.
What to do if someone has limitations on working from home and would rather keep working as usual?
This is a tricky situation.
The current government guidance is that you should discuss your situation with your employee. They state that they would expect most employers and employees to reach a sensible compromise and come to a solution that best meets both parties’ needs, bearing in mind the latest public health advice.
Can my team work from home, then?
Based on what was written above, we have put together a checklist to help consider whether a business should move to temporary homeworking.
- Can your team perform the same duties from home?
- Can they do it in the same timescale?
- What support will you have to provide to remote workers?
- Will your team need additional special equipment/software? Are you able to provide it?
- How often will you contact your team and how?
- Have you planned a system to measure output and performance?
- Have you planned a system to help your team feel connected and keep their stress levels under control?
- What are your options for confidentiality and data protection regulations?
We hope that this guide will help you decide whether homeworking is a reasonable option for your team and business. Whatever your final decision, we do recommend to keep safety on top of your minds at all times.