Before the pandemic, it was unusual for employees to work from home. When Covid arrived, the government’s advice was to work from home if possible. Many workers who had never previously worked from home set up offices in their kitchens, dining rooms, and bedrooms.
But as restrictions eased, it became possible to return to the workplace. Several high-profile figures have recommended it, holding up the office worker as more effective than their home-based counterparts. Yet the evidence does not bear this out, and for those continuing to work from home, it is vital to remove the stigma.
There is often a perception that homeworkers are less productive than their office-based counterparts, but evidence suggests that the opposite may be true. Many workers report distractions in the workplace that can render them less efficient. The commute can leave employees tired before starting work in the morning, while the homeworker can start work in their home office fresh from a good night’s sleep.
Employees with caring responsibilities, such as parents, may need to miss work if their children are unwell. But working at home, particularly if it is time flexible, can allow workers to continue working around these responsibilities.
Homeworkers do not need to live near their workplace, allowing employers a far larger pool in which to recruit the most skilled and productive new employees.
Even tricky performance issues can still be addressed when employees work from home. Employers can still monitor their staff’s performance and conduct workplace testing for drug and alcohol abuse should standards slip, and substance use is suspected to be a reason why. Workers can be sent a testing kit to provide their sample while someone else watches on a video conferencing app.
Infections can spread rapidly in the workplace, resulting in staff absenteeism or a less productive workforce. Most employees want to avoid relying on sick pay, so they may come to work even if they do not feel 100%, perhaps spreading the disease to others until a whole office may be less productive. Having the option of homeworking allows employees to work through an illness without infecting their colleagues.
Covid has not gone away, and those with mild symptoms may well be able to work. Working from home allows them to keep working without risking a major office outbreak. A testing routine will enable employers to identify Covid cases quickly.
The best way to remove the stigma from homeworkers is to demonstrate that you value them as highly as their office counterparts. Modern technology makes it easy to keep in touch, allowing them to participate in meetings and can even be used for team-building events. Ensuring they are included in decisions and social events, whether remotely or in person, can further demonstrate that you regard them as part of the team. It is also essential that homeworking employees know how to get advice and support if they need it, as working from home should not mean they are on their own with any problems.
As homeworking remains popular, those businesses that are positive about their homeworkers will boost their reputations, attracting a higher calibre of applicants for positions, further enhancing the company’s productivity.