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Managing Remote Workers Effectively – Guest Blog

In the “SME Telework – More for Less” series we looked at the benefits of remote workers. This guest blog gives top tips on managing remote workers effectively.

Our guest blog is from Siobhan Goodchild, an experienced HR consultant. She has gained experience through a wide range of industries and is an Associate Member of the CIPD.  Siobhan owns face2faceHR Camberley and provides practical and affordable HR Advice to small businesses.  She believes that every business, no matter how small, should have access to tailored advice enabling them to get the best out of their employees and grow their business.

In the three-part series, we looked at the benefits of using remote workers for your business. The “How can Telework free up cash for growth?” explored how remote working can free up cash otherwise spent on costly office space. We also looked at how retaining staff can reduce recruitment costs. The blog on “Can Mobile Working be a powerful force for growth?” looked at better productivity. In “Remote Workers: A powerful force for change?” we examined how employers can access the skills they need, as well as benefit from more flexible working arrangements. Flexible working has other benefits that can help with staff engagement and improve output.

The benefits sound great, so what’s involved in managing remote workers effectively? Here are our top tips to make it work in your business:

Recognise that It doesn’t work for everyone

Whilst some people are more productive working from home or a local cafe, others find motivation very difficult out of the office or may feel isolated. Similarly, some roles just aren’t suited for remote working. On the face of it, working on tasks remotely may seem possible. However, if it is the type of role where interaction and bouncing ideas off colleagues is crucial, then prolonged homeworking may have an impact on quality.  It might sound obvious but if you are going to use mobile working you need to ensure your roles are suitable for it.  Then, you need to ensure that you have recruited the right type of employee to be able to make it work.  

What should I include in a mobile worker’s contract?

You need to make sure that your contract of employment provides clarity on the employee’s place of work. This would cover items such as hours and absence arrangements.  You might also consider a separate agreement for working at home. This type of agreement outlines roles and responsibilities of all those involved; guidance on effective working from home; and whether other locations are acceptable.  

For example, mobile working does not mean you need to allow your employee to be looking after their children during working hours. In many cases, it’s not effective to juggle childcare at the same time. Specify that childcare must be in place during working hours if it’s likely to impact performance. Having said that, allowing ad hoc occasional homeworking for those with caring responsibilities in the event that childcare breaks down, or there is illness, can work if they choose to do this.

Ensure you are meeting your Health & Safety responsibilities

You must remember that you are responsible for health and safety. It is exactly the same, regardless of whether the employee is in an office or in their home. They need risk assessments on their working arrangements. You must also maintain equipment safely. In practice, employees can carry out risk assessments by themselves. Don’t overlook your responsibilities in this area just because the employee is out of sight.

Employees should have a good workspace, especially if it is a regular or lasting arrangement. This includes an appropriate height desk or table; a suitable chair and adequate lighting. Another thing to consider before your employee works remotely is equipment and costs. For example, who will bear any extra costs that may arise, such as phone and broadband bills, additional heating and electricity and so on. Your employee should check whether their house insurance covers them working from home, and if not, you will need to agree who will cover any additional insurance costs involved.

What about security?

You may have a firm confidentiality clause in your employee’s contract. That’s fine in an office where paper files and computer systems are secure and under your control. That might not be the case in an employee’s home. Staff need to take care of confidential papers at home. You may need to help staff understand how to keep things safe. If they are using their own computer, you must satisfy yourself that the appropriate security measures, anti-virus protection and backing up arrangements are in place, and for this reason may want to consider supplying a computer even if they are prepared to use their own. 

Mobile workers still need managing

You still need to manage your mobile workers.  Managing remote workers effectively means being clear on any monitoring that you might use and ensure you have regular one to ones so that you can address issues quickly.   Ensure remote workers can work productively as a team.  A shared calendar gives the whole team visibility on whereabouts and availability.  Regular virtual team meetings can also be effective and build in time where you do all get together in person such as training events and social events. 

Siobhan Goodchild is owner of face2face HR Camberley, providing practical and affordable HR solutions for small business and charities. If you’d like to explore the ideas in this article further or need help and advice, please contact Siobhan Goodchild at – to arrange an informal chat.

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