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How To Introduce A Working From Home Policy At Your Business

working from home policy

Flexible working is more common now than ever before, largely due to the introduction of so many work from home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst a difficult time for all businesses, many business owners started to notice that their remote workers were reporting a better work life balance whilst also noticing improved productivity for the business. But be warned. Remote work arrangements only works for businesses that have clear guidelines on working remotely – and this is best done in the form of a strong working from home policy in the employment contract/employee handbook.

There are a range of benefits to remote working, and we’ll explore those, alongside how to create a strong work from home policy below. We’ll start, however, by discussing the UK government’s new Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 legislation, which came into effect on 6th April 2024 and applies to all UK businesses.

If you want to put together the perfect home working policy for your business, then read on below.

UK Government Flexible Working Legislation Update

Before the legislation was introduced on the 6th April 2024, rules around flexible working from home were a lot more favourable towards the employer, rather than the employee. With the new legislation, things tip more in the employee’s favour.

The following are the key changes in the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 legislation to ensure all employees request flexible working in the same way from business to business:

Before 06 April 2024After 06 April 2024
Consultation:Previously employers had no obligation to discuss the request for flexible working with the employee.Following the changes employers MUST consult with the employee before rejecting the request.
Response Time:Employers used to have 3 months to respond to flexible working requests.Now employers must respond within 2 months.
Requests:Previously an employee could only request flexible working once in a 12 month period – if rejected, they would have to wait a year.Now employees can request a change in their working pattern twice in a 12 month period.
Explanation:The employee previously had to explain the impact their working from home would have on the employer and how that might be mitigated.Now the employee has no obligation to the employer to provide such explanations.

Essentially the act was introduced to ensure all employees have a standardised rejection/approval process in place. Employees working on-site can all request flexible working if they feel their presence in the workplace is not essential for business operations. Employers then have to review that request and must try to make working remotely a viable option if it can be done.

Of course, in some industries this simply isn’t possible, but if the employee works in an office space with little customer facing tasks, for example, then there’s no reason why a flexible working request couldn’t be considered and implemented.

Whilst the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 legislation has made requesting flexible working easier for employees, and it does go some way to standardising the process of request, it doesn’t offer complete guidance to employers on how to implement a strong working from home policy at their business.

That’s where we come in.

What Is A Work From Home Policy?

The Flexible Working legislation discussed above relates to an employer’s obligations and an employee’s rights to requesting flexible working in the UK. But a prepared employer might want to consider implementing a work from home policy so that employees never have to make a request. That way, you can ensure work life balance for all employees, not just a select few who request flexible working.

So, what exactly is a work from home policy?

Essentially it’s an agreement between employee and employer that defines exactly how and under what circumstances an employee is allowed to undertake remote work – rather than coming to the workplace. A good work from home policy will detail exactly who can work from home, when, and any other responsibilities or expectations of the employee whilst they work remotely.

Where Should A Working From Home Policy Be Found?

A work from home policy should be easily accessible for all employees that it applies to. Usually a work from home policy will be included in the employment contract or company handbook for ease of access.

What Should Be Included In A Work From Home Policy?

Below we’ll cover exactly what ought to be included in a good work from home policy to ensure all relevant details are included if you or your HR department are thinking of introducing a company work from home policy at your business.

Eligibility Criteria

The key here is setting realistic expectations for employees. Only some roles will be able to work remotely, and a strong policy will set out which roles can work from home and under what circumstances.

Expected Working Hours/Days

Remote work doesn’t need to be offered everyday – but it can be, of course. Your policy should set out what days remote workers can work from home and the times they’re expected to be on the clock.

Core hours are usually listed in work from home policies that detail times at which ALL employees are expected to be online working remotely to ensure collaboration with colleagues and better communication.

Equipment Needed

Employees will need certain equipment to work effectively from home. You should state exactly what they will need and ensure they can request anything they’re missing from the business with ease.

If you allow employees to take work laptops home, for example, you might also consider including their responsibilities towards its care and explain what costs they may incur if they damage or lose company equipment.

Availability Expectations

Listing core hours is one thing, but you should also offer clear guidelines on how available they should be for communication during those hours.

Communication Channels

To support the above point, you should also list communication channels the employee will be expected to be active on whilst working remotely to stay in regular contact. Things like Microsoft Teams, Skype, or WhatsApp should be listed as key communication channels they will need to use whilst at home to ensure effective communication with colleagues.

work from home communication channels

Security Requirements

Data security and data protection become even more important when an employee works from home. Ensuring appropriate antivirus software is installed and all employees have relevant training in keeping their devices and home wi-fi safe and secure is pivotal here.

Health And Safety Considerations

A risk assessment must be carried out for working from home employees, too. Make sure your policy explains how an employee can comfortably and safely set up their home working space to ensure their safety at home. Things like guidance on ergonomic furniture, safe electrical practices, and mental health awareness call all be included here.

IT Support

Things can go wrong when working from home. Make clear to employees what they can do to access IT support quickly from home. This will ensure productivity maintains consistently high levels even when IT problems emerge.

Performance Monitoring

Clear rules should be set out here to set expectations for productivity. It should be made clear how performance will be monitored and the consequences of consistently falling short of these expected levels.

Why Should I Implement A Working From Home Policy At My Business?

Knowing what a work from home policy is and what a strong one includes is one thing, but being certain about why you’re introducing it in the first place is perhaps even more important.

There are plenty of benefits to extending an employees working from home options for both you and them, so let’s explore some of them below:

Employee Satisfaction

The first and most obvious benefit is the satisfaction it brings most employees, such as:

  • stronger work life balance
  • reduced stress
  • enhanced productivity
  • improved wellbeing

 

Employees who work from home, at least some of the time, feel much better in themselves and often outperform those who complete all of their work in the workplace.

Set Expectations

A strong working from home policy is better for businesses. All employees have the right to request flexible working under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023, but employers who already have a work from home policy in place will be able to set expectations for ALL employees, not just those who request flexible working.

By letting employees know what is expected of them as they work from home, you’ll be in control of ensuring remote work is a benefit to your business, not a hindrance.

Preparedness

The COVID-19 pandemic taught all business owners the value of being prepared. Many businesses scrambled during this time to ensure employees working remotely had what they needed to complete their work to the same standard as before.

But those businesses who already had a strong work from home policy in place found the transition much easier. Of course, we all hope never to face a health pandemic like the one we’ve all been through again, but it never hurts to be prepared in business.

Compliance

The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 brought in on 6th April 2024 does NOT make it a legal requirement for all businesses to have a work from home policy in place. It does, however, insist that all employers have to consider flexible working requests from employees and to implement this where possible.

By having a work from home policy in place, however, you’ll be going above and beyond government guidance and ensure your business if fully compliant with the guidelines.

Attractive To Candidates

When it comes time to recruit more talent for your business, you’ll find that most employees today expect some sort of working from home policy to be in place. Hybrid work is an attractive prospect for many employees, so you’ll find job advertisements with work from home options listed as a benefit will often get far more interest from candidates.

hybrid work benefit

Reduced Overheads

The bills associated with running a company’s premises can be astronomical. Hiring an office space is expensive and then you have electricity bills etc to consider on top of that.

When a business introduces more regular work from home opportunities to their team, they often find their outgoings are reduced significantly, meaning more profits for the business long term.

Better For The Environment

With more and more business owners becoming interested in how their operations impact the environment, you might be happy to hear that remote work is much more carbon friendly. By staying home and completing their work tasks, employees don’t have to drive to work or commute on trains or buses, reducing their carbon footprint and therefore reducing your business carbon footprint, too.

Tips For Implementing A New Working From Home Policy

Now that we’ve explored what to include and the benefits of a work from home policy for both employee and employer, let’s look at some practical steps you ought to take as a business owner if you’re implementing a work from home policy for the first time:

  • Consider Business Operations: A work from home policy is a nice policy to have, but it isn’t essential and it should only ever be implemented if it works for your business. Think about the day to day running of your business. What roles amongst your employees could realistically work remotely and how often is practical?
  • Consult On Your Policy: Ensuring all departments, stakeholders, employees, and managers are involved in the development of the policy is key. It’s likely different departments will have different ideas about what will and won’t work for them, and this ought to be considered and your policy updated accordingly.
  • Research: Businesses have been moving to more regular remote work arrangements for a good while now. Consult others in your industry to see how they carry out remote work and see which policies are and aren’t working.
  • Draft First: By showing employees a draft work from home policy you can get relevant feedback and change accordingly. Communicating with your employees is the key to successful implementation.
  • Implement And Review: Monitor the success of your new policy and if it isn’t working, revoke or change it. Proper monitoring is important to ensure your policy works for you, your employees, and your business.

 

Final Thoughts

A strong working from home policy can increase productivity, employee satisfaction and wellbeing, whilst reducing employee stress, business carbon footprint, and overheads. There are plenty of reasons to implement a work from home policy, but in order to do so successfully, you must ensure the policy is clear and works for your business.

Collaboration is key when developing your work from home policy and consistent monitoring of its success and usefulness following its implementation is the key to keeping it a success.

You should carefully consider how a work from home policy might work for your business and only implement it if it’s a benefit to you and your employees.

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