Working from Home: The Benefits & Downfalls

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Health Assured team

16 December 2022

Since the global pandemic, many UK companies have started to use flexible working. It became an exciting opportunity for companies to better support their employees work-life balance.

But homeworking jobs involve more than just dividing your work week. If you ignore the laws, you could end up losing staff. Not to mention paying compensation and facing business losses.

In this guide, we'll look at what working from home is, why it's beneficial and how to manage employees working outside the office.

What is working from home?

Working from home (WFH) is when an employee does their job outside of the usual office or workplace. This working method includes flexible, hybrid, and remote working.

The rules for a remote job will depend on your own company. For example, a manager allows her team to work from home twice a week. She decides to use video-calls and virtual technology to communicate with remote workers.

Every team should be paid at the same rate, whether they work from home or the office. Help them stick to a regular schedule and take rest breaks. Remember, employees may be working outside the office', but their rights are the same.

A home work station

What are the benefits of working from home jobs?

With flexible working, there's advantages for the employer and their staff. Some of the most common benefits of working remotely include:

Better work-life balance

The biggest benefit from home jobs is a better work-life balance.

Flexible hours help staff focus more on their family, spare time, and home-life. A clear schedule helps to set boundaries and grow skills beyond one's normal work ability.

Higher productivity

Companies often achieve a higher level of productivity when their staff work from home. This is because employees are less tired or distracted during their working hours. They’re more rested and aren’t tired from morning commutes.

This became more obvious during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reduced staff turnover

Employees are less likely to leave if they’re offered work from home jobs.

Your business has better control over absenteeism and turnover. Flexible hours are a great benefit that may lead to less staff wanting to leave.

Saving infrastructure costs

Flexible working offers a great opportunity to save on infrastructure costs. For example, on heating, electricity, and rent bills.

You can cut down on buying business materials, like bathroom and office supplies. When employees work from home, these extra costs help your finances in the long run.

A worker working from home whilst caring for his family.

What are the downfalls of working from home jobs?

Despite the advantages, remote home working can cause problems for businesses. Some of the most common downfalls of working from home include:

Isolation and loneliness

Remote staff often find it hard to stay connected with other people.

When employee working conditions dramatically change it can lead to anxiety, disengagement, and poor emotional wellbeing.

Mental health illnesses

It's common for remote staff to suffer from stress, burnout, and depression. That's because employees often blur the lines between work and home life.

Remote staff may feel a need to outperform or work harder so they're seen. All this leads to missing breaks, working overtime, and staying 'on-call'. Together, it can lead to poor mental health issues.

Work practicality

Home working isn't suitable for all types of jobs. You might need some employees to work on-site.

Certain jobs need in-person interaction or availability for their customers. Other businesses might not allow flexible working because of financial issues. For example, they can’t afford to provide staff with the equipment they need.

Whatever you decide, you cannot pay anyone less to work at home. And you must choose fairly when deciding which employees can work from home. If you don’t, it can lead to employees feeling unvalued and dissatisfied.

Cybersecurity risks

Remote working comes with a higher level of cybersecurity risks. That’s because not everyone has effective internet security software.

Employees shouldn’t use their personal computer when they work from home. To protect your security, their devices should have updated antivirus software and internet firewalls.

Overall, this can be a challenging task for employees who work remotely. As without the right cyber security training they could be open to cyber attacks.

a padlock next to a laptop symbolising cyber security

What are UK laws on working from home?

In the UK, the laws on flexible working apply when an employee makes a request to work from home.

When they do, they still count as part of your workforce. Employers must provide legal rights to:

  • Job benefits.
  • Data protection and GDPR.
  • Conduct and behaviour.
  • Employers’ liability insurance.
  • Pay and tax.

Employees who work from home class as lone or vulnerable workers. That's because they work for long hours with little human interaction. Every manager must protect their staff's health and welfare - regardless of where they're working.

Remember, contract rights and job requirements still stand even with remote workers. working from home. For example, claiming UK tax relief or providing paid holidays.

Do you have to accept working from home requests?

Under the UK law, you don’t have to accept a request to work from home. But employees are legally allowed to make these requests.

They need at least 26 weeks of continuous service. This goes for both part-time and full-time employees.

Remember, employees can request working from home even if your business doesn’t offer it. If you do offer it, add these rules to your employment contracts, handbooks, and policies.

A laptop, coffee, and cake on a bed.

How to manage employees working from home

As a company, employers must protect their staff wherever they're working. This includes safeguarding their physical, mental, and social welfare.

By doing so, you'll be able to fully support them as if they were working in the office.

Here are ways to manage employees working from home:

Create a working from home policy

The first step employers should take is to create a 'working from home' policy. The policy should outline your efforts towards protecting staff working from home. It also covers:

  • Who is eligible (i.e., full-time and part-time employees).
  • How to stick to a regular work schedule.
  • Which job rights still apply (like paying the same rate).
  • How to adhere to workplace rules, like conduct and performance.

Offer ergonomic materials

It's important for remote workers to work comfortably at home. You can sustain this by offering employees with ergonomic materials. For example:

  • Desk support: Make sure they understand the importance of desk support. It doesn’t matter if employees use an office desk or their kitchen table they need to have the right tools.
  • Laptop rests: If they use a laptop, talk to them how to use them safely. Despite their name, employees should avoid putting laptops directly on their laps. That’s because laptops overheat after use, which can lead to burns.
  • Display screen equipment (DSE): Most remote jobs heavily rely on technology and digital devices. DSE can help you reduce medical risks, like eye strains and neck ache.
  • Environmental factors: You can’t control what rooms employees work in at home. But make sure these rooms have good lighting, heating, and ventilation in place.

Follow health and safety laws

It doesn't matter where they're working, you must follow health and safety laws.

Employers can do this by following their 'work from home' risk assessments and procedures. These guidelines can include:

  • How to assign evacuation and exit-points.
  • How to keep workstations hazard or risk-free.
  • How to outline fire prevention procedures.
  • How to follow cybersecurity and software rules.

Support employee wellbeing

It's important for staff to support their personal wellbeing. There are many ways to deal with this when they work from home. For example:

  • Work in a clean and quiet space.
  • Maintain their regular work schedules, hours, and breaks.
  • Ensure their work area is free from distractions (like pets, children, or TVs).
  • Connect with wellbeing services (like EAPs or financial advice).

Get guidance on working from home with Health Assured

All employees must work in safe conditions, regardless of where they're located. Home working is an exciting opportunity; it increases staff morale, engagement, and loyalty.

If you neglect legal requirements, you could face compensation penalties and reputational damage.

Health Assured can help you manage employees working from home. Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAPs) are run by clinical experts who offer staff access to 24-7 counselling support.

Connect with one of our wellbeing experts for more advice. Call us today on 0844 891 0352.

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