The pandemic has forced us to evaluate the way in which we manage our staff. More and more companies are offering flexible working hours and the option of working from home. If your business does not currently offer these, you may come across a unique issue.
“I’m not feeling great, I’m just going to work from home today.”
Companies which don’t have a work-from-home policy in place, this issue may become more and more common: An employee calling up and requesting to work from home in lieu of taking a sick day. For the more relaxed employer, this may not seem like such a big issue. For others, it may seem like the start of a very slippery slope. We’re here to tell you that there are a number of things you should consider before you make up your mind.
Communicate With Your Employees
Everyone has heard the adage ‘Honesty is the Best Policy’, which is as overused as it is true. Like with most HR issues, communication is key. Many problems go unresolved because employees and employers lack the confidence to ask the necessary questions and give the necessary answers.
Many employees and employers are also unsure about which questions they may legally ask – This is why it is important to have legally compliant HR policies in place.
Communication doesn’t just make things clearer, it is extremely important in fostering a high-trust environment; An environment where the employee / employer relationship is built on openness and honesty. A high-trust environment improves efficiency and employee retention.
Maintaining a consistent and open communication style will reduce the likelihood of unwanted requests and unprofessional behaviour.
So What’s the Problem?
To some, the idea of working from home is extremely attractive. This could be because of their usual long commute times, lack of facilities at work, or even social and performance anxiety. Or, it could be to support their families as there are lots of parents without childcare. Whatever the reason, the pandemic has shined a light on an otherwise uncommon option.
The problem lies in the request itself: Is it something you have procedures in place for? Is it something you allow to all staff?
It is advised to have policy and procedure in place before you allow it, as allowing it may set a precedent for future abuse. Depending on your industry, managing remote teams can be a difficult task, so if one person wants to work from home, everyone might want to.
What if They’re Fit for Work?
Clearly there is a big difference between requesting a sick day and working from home. You may think that if they’re working from home, they are fit to work in-office; While this may be true generally, you may want to consider a few things.
Firstly, the pandemic has given us reason to consider the advice given by the government:
Everyone who can work from home must do so.
Is it completely necessary that an employee comes into the office? If you feel confident that their work cannot be achieved to the same level of standards at home you may request they come in or take sick leave.
What if they are not fit to come in?
If an employee says they are too unwell to come in but are not unwell enough to take sick leave – inquire. Communicate about their issues with coming in and it will give you a better picture.
It is likely that the employee will better understand their status than you. For example, an employee with chronic anxiety or depression may call in sick to avoid coming into the office – Whereas they would work perfectly well at home. It is wise to treat an employee’s mental wellbeing as if you were affecting their physical health, as it is shown to be the case.
Consider Your Employee’s Needs
To minimise risk and optimise efficiency, try to consider an employee’s individual needs. This can be done at any point of an employee’s career. For example, Wurkplace try to consider our future employee’s needs in the hiring process. This both influences the quality of staff we recruit, as well as the likelihood of retaining them once employed. It is our opinion that employers are losing out on excellent staff due to rigid concepts of work style and scheduling.
Consider the new mother returning from maternity leave: She has the choice between an inflexible in-office only position and a flexible job which allows her time at home. It’s an easy decision to make. Businesses may recruit staff at the top of their game if they consider family needs.
Consider the commuting lawyer: They have to travel long distances to work. During the pandemic, top law firms throughout the country have been using their offices only for necessary meeting places, this way they can employ the highest quality lawyers nationally.
It’s apparent that keeping an open mind about work styles can drastically affect the quality of staff you employ.
Put the Policy in Place
It is imperative that you put the correct policies and procedures in place. It’s also imperative that your employees are well aware of their rights and responsibilities. This minimises confusion and gives your employees a clear operating procedure.
If you need help embedding theses policies, or need solid corporate advice on existing practices, get in touch. You can contact Wurkplace at 0330 400 5490, or alternatively, by our quick contact form.
Digital marketer and content writer.