As we begin 2021, it is clear that businesses have had no choice but to make significant changes to mitigate the disruption that the global Coronavirus pandemic has caused. One major change that looks likely to remain long-term is the rise of working from home and this will become a key differentiator for many organisations who are now able to attract the best pool of talent from across the country. But companies now have a certain level of responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their employees who are now essentially ‘lone workers,’ by putting systems in place to support this new working model.
The shift to home working
The first lockdown saw people uprooted from their offices and expected to work from home. No one realised quite how successful this would be and the ease in which it was adopted. In fact it has been so successful that 9 in 10 workers who worked from home in the first lockdown said they would like to continue in some form. With more companies, including Amazon, asking staff to work from home well into 2021, organisations need to invest in supporting long-term home working solutions and adjust their policies and budgets accordingly to ensure staff are receiving the support they need.
Indeed, with the potential for a decrease in office space as more employees call for a hybrid work model in the future, employers have the scope to reassess budgets. A survey found that 74% of 1000 firms plan on maintaining an increase in home working, with more than half planning to reduce long-term use of workplaces. With the move away from offices, companies will have to invest in the right tools and solutions to make a hybrid working model both viable and productive in both the immediate and long-term, enabling easy transitions between the office and home.
The benefits of working from home
Offering this hybrid model will make most organisations more attractive to both current and potential employees. Nearly a third of people said they would quit their job if remote working was not supported. Technology is fundamental to the shift and the extent to which digital communication is integrated into the workplace increases the likelihood of working from home. And there are numerous benefits to be achieved; productivity increases, a happier and more satisfied workforce, even contributing to a company’s corporate green initiatives.
Not only does working from home offer a healthier work-life balance, with greater autonomy over working hours and the reduction in commuting times, it also allows companies the potential to recruit further away. Companies will have an increasing likelihood of finding the right match as they are no longer limited geographically, and remote workers may not require office space in expensive cities giving them the freedom to live anywhere.
Communication is key
Bearing this in mind, organisations need to ensure that the right communication tools for working from home are in place. Having effective communication systems is therefore fundamental to ensuring that both contact with home workers is maintained during the working day and easing the transition between an office or workplace and home working.
A modern telephony solution that enables this is key. For example, having the same contact number working from home or in the office and automatically routing incoming calls to a mobile device would make moving between the office and home more coherent and efficient, having the security that you have everything you need to do ‘business as usual’ at home.
Furthermore, using these communication channels is key to safeguarding employees at home, especially with increasing concern about both mental and physical well-being of employees. The HSE’s guidance for safeguarding home workers is that companies should endeavour to ‘keep in touch’ with their employees and ‘ensure regular contact’. A solution that enables this is essential to having a safe working from home model.
Technology that will alert if an employee doesn’t log out at the end of the day would provide a level of safety and reassurance to staff members working from home. A solution that also provides additional opportunities for regular check-ins and allows users to quickly trigger an alarm or raise the alarm automatically should an incident occur can provide a trusted and comprehensive safety solution. The alarm will be able to effectively deliver the alert to a designated response team, (that could incorporate neighbours, family as well as colleagues) who can then check-in on the employee and move further with any actions if needed.
The organisation can keep a record of the alerts that have been actioned upon and subsequently resolved, which allows businesses to review them and see where they could improve in the future. They will also be able to store these records and can demonstrate to the HSE where they are safeguarding their employees, supporting the entire business.
Developing a working hybrid model will involve finding balance after an unprecedented year of change. To successfully implement this, businesses must be inventive, adaptable and open to all possibilities and technologies to enable and improve the flexible movement between the office and home.
There are clearly many benefits of working from home for both companies and employees, but in order to use home working as a differentiator, companies must embrace the opportunity to completely safeguard their staff and integrate solutions to support.
By having the right communication tools to allow office to home continuity and having the technology to ensure employees are safe, it will benefit any businesses who decide to take on a hybrid-model. An automated solution is by far the most effective way of achieving this.