Working patterns in the UK have changed significantly over the past decade. Advances in technology have had a dramatic effect on how and where employees can work, with home working now common among the workforce. Thirty-one per cent of employees now work from home at least one day a week* .
Working from home brings many great benefits, such as: Increased productivity – remote workers regard themselves as more productive than their in-office counterparts*; Employee flexibility – gives them the freedom to work around other commitments; Increased employee engagement and job satisfaction – 69 per cent of home workers feel satisfied with their job*; Avoids a stressful and hectic commute to the office; Limits interruptions and distractions from colleagues
In order to achieve these great benefits and keep home workers engaged, employers must first ensure that their working practices extend to home workers. Home workers also require a different approach to sickness absence management. For instance, it’s now common for employees to ‘work from home’ when they’re feeling a bit under the weather, rather than take a sick day to recover properly.
It’s National Sickie Day on Monday 4 February – statistically the day in the calendar when the highest number of employees will ring in sick. The most common reason given is a cold or flu, but a survey from ITV found that 46 per cent reported ‘feeling tired’* .
Sickness absence should extend to employees working from home, in the same way that it does for in-house employees. Healthy employees are productive, and with presenteeism a key issue in many organisations, employers should be encouraging all workers to look after their wellbeing, and take a proper rest when needed. Continuing to work while ill means that employees can take longer to recover, completing work takes much longer, and the quality of work often declines.
Of course, each business wants to reduce the amount of time lost due to sickness absence, but in a world where employees are spending more time out of the office and are less visible, it can be hard for employers to manage. By creating wellbeing packages that go beyond the boundaries of the office walls, employers can ensure that all staff feel included and connected to the business.
Our recent research also revealed that home workers struggle to switch off, with 82 per cent checking their emails outside of working hours on a weekly basis. In order to help home workers separate their home and work lives, employers could consider introducing written guidelines on communicating outside of work hours. This can help to achieve a healthy work-life balance among these employees, and manage their mental wellbeing.
It’s not just the mental health of home workers that employers need to be concerned with. When employees are working from home, employers are often unaware of their working conditions. Our survey found that many employees aren’t working from a dedicated desk, with a significant number working from a table, the sofa or even their bed. Fifty-eight per cent of home workers said that they had received no guidance from their employer on how to set up a workstation that supports healthy posture.
This is already causing issues for many employees, with 37 per cent experiencing new back pain since working from home. By ensuring that home workers are provided with the correct equipment and shown how to set up their workstation correctly, employers could prevent musculoskeletal conditions among their workforce.
Remote working is the future. By providing the correct guidance and tools, employers can ensure that their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing is being looked after, and make sure that both parties are getting the most out of this arrangement.
*Study with 2,006 employees commissioned by Virgin Media, 2017
*Research from Canada Life, 2014
*Acas report, 2013
*ITV study, 2014