A Swinburne University survey conducted in May this year shows that three out of four managers believe their staff will do more remote work after the pandemic than before it.1 A hybrid model of office and remote work will mean that you’ll need to have in place an effective ‘working from home’ strategy and the associated policies and procedures.
The survey, by Swinburne University researchers John Hopkins and Anne Bardoel, found nearly four in 10 respondents had never worked from home before the COVID crisis. However, 90% said they believed they will continue to do some work from home in the future.
At the same time, the survey found that 62% of managers believed their teams would work “more" from home after COVID-19 while 14% said staff would do “significantly more" work from home.
Done well, working from home can increase productivity, reduce operating costs and improve work life balance. If the transition of office based to the hybrid model is not managed correctly, workers can lose contact, motivation and the level of communication required to support meaningful and productive work.
So, if the stigma of working from home has been removed and the practice is here to stay, there are several things that you will need to address:
In a way, you need to consider home workers like lone workers and be aware that isolation and lack of contact with others can influence their mental health. It’s important to regularly check that your employees are ok so that you can detect if they are stressed or feeling down.
Encourage employees to:
Social interaction is an important aspect of working and you need to ensure that this continues when people are working from home. Keep the lines of communication open between team members by encouraging team chats/group emails and make time for casual conversations and ‘water cooler’ chat.
Regular and clear communication between managers and their staff is also critical. When people were in the office full time, they spent most of that time in close proximity to their boss. This meant that communication was easy and quick. Working from home makes that communication more difficult and can lead to a communication breakdown. Having a regular 10-minute call to kick off the day and/or wrap up the day can help to keep lines of communication open.
Managing people who are working remotely is quite different and requires new skills. You need to train your managers how to manage ‘at a distance’. They will need to learn how to:
As COVID hit Australia and we went into lockdown, people had to transition to working from home very quickly. This means that some home workplaces are not as safe as they need to be to meet OHS/WHS regulations and this needs to be addressed if working from home is the new norm.
To comply with OHS/WHS regulations, you need to consider:
A risk assessment should be conducted for each ‘workplace’. The risk assessment should:
If the risk assessment identifies any significant risks, steps must be taken to eliminate or, where this is not possible, reduce the risks as far as reasonable practicable. Where there are no significant risks, no action needs be taken.
Moving to a hybrid working from home and office model also means that you need to review your
policies and procedures to reflect this new model. There’s a lot to think about in terms of things such as disciplinary procedures, grievances, sickness, holiday, data protection, IT and security to name a few.
Employees and employers can both benefit from the transition to a hybrid model of working. From the employer’s point of view, finances can improve as overheads like office space and other facilities are offset as employees provide their own workspace for part of the working week. At the same time, working from home and the flexibility it provides can increase employee’s motivation resulting in increased productivity and staff retention.
To make working from home a success, these are some things to think about:
Our recent lockdown has highlighted the value of workplace flexibility and will undoubtedly lead to a hybrid working model in the long term. It therefore makes sense to invest some time to make this new way of working productive and compliant.