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Development in communication and technology has made mobile working easier than ever, and the number of home-based workers in the UK is on the increase.
There are some real perks of working from home; it can cut out that long commute, give you more time to spend with the family and help improve work-life balance. However, home-based working does come with its own set of challenges.
One of the main reasons people choose to work from home is to improve their work-life balance, but research by AXA Business Insurance* revealed that work can start to bleed into personal time. Over half of home-workers surveyed found that making sure that they had a clear divide between home and work was a real hurdle that they had to overcome.
You may be working from home as a small business and have employees working remotely. Finding the right space to work in the home is important to a productive business. Whilst AXA’s research revealed that a third of those surveyed had a dedicated office, others may use bedrooms, reception rooms or even the garden shed.
Home-based workers may also feel unsupported, unappreciated and unengaged. Remoteness can make employees feel threatened, like everyone else is getting on and getting noticed. It can also become more difficult for employers to identify problems and pick up on health and wellbeing issues when they don’t see their employees everyday. They may be well connected with mobile phones and email, but this virtual communication cannot always substitute the regular face to face interaction.
Visit your employees and make sure that they have a good working space, with a desk and chair set up to ensure they’re sitting comfortably and their posture is right. You should also ensure they have the easy access to resources such as technology, IT support and HR.
To help identify wellbeing issues and offer the appropriate support to home-workers, there must be sufficient lines of communication in place. Make sure that you book in those face-to-face meetings that virtual meetings can’t always replace. Identify good work that they are doing and highlight it to others; recognition is a positive motivation. For employees that can feel isolated and miss the social interaction, you could also set up an instant messaging service which would support real-time communication with others in the business.
You must get the balance of communication right; enough that employees feel connected but not so much that they feel watched. Remember though, some people need more communication than others, so get the balance right for each person.
Working at home comes with its own stresses, so offer employees training on how to handle these. This could include online training on issues such as how to balance work and family when your work is your home.
Give your home-based workers easy access to support by setting up an EAP. It can be trickier to identify issues and know when to step in with support when your employees work remotely, but an effectively run EAP can help you with this and provide ways of enabling these employees to deal more effectively with the pressures in their lives.
*AXA Business Insurance ‘The Home Business Insight Report’, March 2014 - based on research among nearly 800 home-based businesses.
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