working from home

Research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in late 2016 showed that almost one-third of the Australian workforce regularly worked from home. These statistics include structured agreements where employers sanction working from home and unstructured ad hoc situations where employees take work home to catch up.

Considering the pace of digital evolution, the emergence of the “virtual office” and the re-evaluation of employers to attract and keep high-calibre staff, working from home policies and formal agreements have become more prevalent. But what about unstructured situations?

Are your employees regularly taking work home? Do you even know if they are?

In general, there should be no need for staff to take work home to catch up regularly. If that is occurring on an ongoing basis in your organisation, it’s an indication that something is amiss. If it’s only one or two individuals, it could be an indication that expectations do not align with the individual’s capability, it may also be as a result of new workplace distractions. How regularly do you carry out performance appraisals to establish the competency of your workforce?

Overloaded and under resourced workplaces can often be another reason why employees work after hours. People who are overstretched will eventually struggle and may suffer both physically or psychologically under increasing workplace demands. Neither of those scenarios is desirable as it negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of staff and will inevitably have an impact on productivity and work quality. Ultimately increased strain on employees will result in greater dissatisfaction and a higher turnover of your most capable staff. Regular individual performance reviews and team analysis can quickly identify under resourced areas, before the problem escalates and reaches an undesirable tipping point.

Under-resourced workplaces are often the result of intentional or unintentional cost reduction measures. Sometimes team members are expected to cover the workload of a vacant position until it’s filled. Or stand in for a staff member while they’re on extended leave. These temporary arrangements can easily become permanent as management view it as an ideal cost reduction solution; a short-term fix with long term ramifications.

Employers can benefit from allowing employees to work from home

Considering the growing global skills shortage and the ongoing ‘war for talent’, revising policies to allow staff to work from home can be a ‘deal-breaker’ when it comes to retaining or attracting top talent.

Jobs that can be carried out from home can be performed under structured agreements. Employers mitigate the associated risks by establishing performance and deadline clauses in an employee’s contract. Employees must ensure that they are readily available during agreed business hours. Some individuals are better at self-management, while others struggle, so commencing all agreements with a trial period is prudent. When an employee works from home, organisations must still ensure that the individual’s nominated workspace is adequate, this must include an assessment of the workspace to ensure it complies with Occupational Health and Safety requirements, including the type of chair and desk that will be used. The workspace assessment should also include additional factors such as access to an acceptable and reliable internet service and the ability to make phone calls in a quiet area free from distractions and background noise.

Working from home and flexible hours are a win-win

Both employers and employees can benefit from relinquishing rigid working hours and focusing on performance and output rather than the specific number of hours worked.

Employers benefit from reduced overheads, higher productivity and increased buy-in from staff. If a job affords an employee a better quality of life, it will increase the retainability and performance of the staff member.

Employees benefit from saving on transport costs, fewer hours wasted commuting and an improved work-life balance. Working from home may also mean an increased focus on work, where office distractions are omitted, leading to improved productivity and job satisfaction.

Do you need help adapting to changing trends?

Flexible working hours and working from home is such a new development that many companies have no idea how to restructure their policies to accommodate this change.

iHR Australia has been closely monitoring this growing trend and firmly believes that virtual offices or telecommuting is the way of the future. Our Advisory Services team offers assistance to employers who want to establish new employee agreements and update their HR policies.

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