Coronavirus & Working From Home – Employers & Employees FAQs
We’re currently living through an unprecedented time with the coronavirus pandemic leaving many businesses and their employees finding ways for work to get done, while taking the government’s advice of social distancing. For some businesses, this will unfortunately not be possible but for many others, working from home is proving a viable solution.
In this post, we aim to answer the most pressing questions for both employers and employees around the coronavirus and working from home.
What is the UK Policy For Working From Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
So far, there isn’t a strict, one-size-fits-all policy for working from home during this crisis in the UK but, as of March 23rd, Boris Johnson has provided some guidelines.
In his address, he mentioned that all non-essential services and business should either be closed or staff working from home. Closure of business was applied to most where gatherings are likely and social distancing is difficult. These are places such as pubs, gyms, restaurants, leisure centres, cinemas, theatres, clubs and cafes.
This does leave many office-based and remote jobs which can potentially be carried out from home.
As an employer, how can I help facilitate my employees working from home?
Where work can be done from home, the government has recommend that it is. To help facilitate your staff to do this, as an employer you could:
- provide staff with laptops or mobile phones to take home and continue working
- create a cloud environment, if you haven’t already, where all staff can access the work they need from anywhere online
- speak to each member of staff regarding their health and safety of working from home. Do they have a safe desk set up? Do they have a safe home environment to work in? i.e. could their health/posture/mental health be compromised?
- for staff who do not work on computers or laptops, arrange for paperwork tasks to be done at home in advance
If both the employee and employer agree to working from home, you as the employer should:
- ensure contact is regularly kept (Slack is a common tool used to keep workplaces in contact)
- continue to check on the staff members physical and mental health and wellbeing
- continue to pay the employee normally
For more tips for employers and how to handle working through the coronavirus pandemic, read our post here
What if I need to close my business and working from home isn’t suitable?
Unfortunately, businesses that fall under the following categories have been instructed to close by the government until further notice (for at least 3 weeks from March 23rd 2020):
- leisure centres
Other office-based places of work that are likely deemed non-essential jobs are also advised to be closed with employees working from home where possible. This is because an office environment full of employees makes social distancing difficult.
If it’s not possible for employees to complete their work from home, this could become a troubling time for both employees and you as the employer.
A good idea during this difficult time is to keep staff regularly updated and ensure there is a way to communicate with yourself (or upper management) and their colleagues.
Where at all possible though, the government are recommending your employees work from home. Are you absolutely certain that at least some work cannot be be done remotely?
In a workplace that hasn’t traditionally used remote working, you may surprise yourself at just how much of your business could be run remotely.
Can Staff Be Asked to Use Holiday Entitlement If We Don’t Have Any Work Available From Home?
While this decision might not go down well, as an employer, you have the right to tell employees when to use up their holiday entitlement if it’s needed.
As an example, if your business needs to shut for 7 days, you can ask your employees to use their holiday during this period.
If you decide to take this route, the law states you should give your employees at least twice as much notice as the number of holiday days you require them to take.
Example: you need to close for 7 days, then you should notify staff at least 14 days before.
Staff may have some concerns at this being implemented or worry about plans that they’ve already booked. As the employer, you should do as much of the following to help your staff understand your decision:
- explain clearly why your business needs to close and the longer-term benefit for your staff
- do your best to be flexible where possible in these unprecedented times – either now or when your business reopens
- Try to resolve any concerns over pre-booked holidays or plans
Should I work From Home Due to Coronavirus?
Where possible, yes. This is what the government has recommended during the coronavirus crisis but it’s still not compulsory for your employer to let you do this.
If you’re in an industry where it is possible for you to work from home and your employer has yet to allow this, it would be best to approach your employer with a view to squashing any concerns they may have.
Their concerns may include:
If you can show that you’ve thought of these potential issues and provide solutions in advance, your employer is likely to be much more receptive to your request.
However, since the prime ministers speech on the 23rd of March 2020 essentially locking down all but essential businesses, it would be quite surprising that an employer doesn’t at least consider this safer option.
Do you have any working from home tips for employees?
- Communicate often – one of the issues of working from home is isolation from people. If you communicate with your colleagues or team throughout the day, you can feel that camaraderie you often feel in an office
- Create a welcoming work space – having a space you enjoy working in is important. A minimalist, tidy space with lots of natural sunlight will keep you motivated, focused and upbeat about your work
- Remember to clock off – surprisingly, this is a very real issue. We often forget to stop working beyond our contracted hours when at home and allow our work to creep. Set a reminder for when it’s time to finish
- Physical and mental health – don’t neglect your posture, the need for taking regular breaks including your lunch hour and talking to people just because you’re at home