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If you’ve been following us on Twitter this month, you’ll see that we’ve been talking all things #homeoffices.

This week, I’m answering your HR FAQs about working from home.

Flexible working is fast becoming the norm, and it’s now something that few employers can ignore. Like all new arrangements, it brings its own questions – here are my answers to some of the most common:

 

-          As an employer, do I need a formal policy for flexible working?

Absolutely. The introduction of flexible working should be treated with the same formality as any new company policy – without this approach, confusion and inefficiency can easily creep in. A clear HR framework, transparently communicated to all parties, is essential from day one.

Let employees know what you expect from them. To do this, you’ll need to be clear on just what that is. Some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself include:

  • Will you track hours worked from home, and if so, how will you do this?
  • Will you implement flexible working on a request-based system, and how will it work?
  • Will managers be responsible for approving employee requests to work from home, or will that fall to HR?
  • What approval criteria will be applied to each request?

Once you have prepared a clear and comprehensive policy, the next step is to educate your staff.

Flexible working is partly about empowering employees, so it’s best to avoid lecturing staff on the new policy. Open Q&A sessions are an effective alternative, as they offer employees a forum for their concerns and questions to be addressed.

 

-          Should I implement a dress code for my remote workers?

If your flexible workers will be regularly collaborating over video, it’s worth setting clear expectations around standards of dress.

Video is a face-to-face medium, so those using it are sure to have thought about their appearance, even if they haven’t directly asked about it. Industries and roles differ, but don’t be afraid to offer guidelines on dress – employees appreciate knowing what’s expected of them.

If your company has a dress code within the office building, consider recommending the same code to those working from home – it keeps them part of the same team, and helps eradicate any misplaced sense of jealousy from those still in the office building.

If your teams are using video to collaborate with customers or clients from home, remind them that they are representing your company. Putting a dress code in place, even if it’s loose, will ensure they leave the right impression.

Of course, if you are going to implement a code, be sure to explain the rationale behind it so employees understand it’s for their own benefit.

 

-          Do I need to think about health and safety?

Yes, health and safety requirements do still apply to those working from home.

When first setting up from home, remote workers should carry out an initial risk assessment which includes looking for things like trailing extension cables. Also worth checking are lighting levels, desk and chair arrangements and the safety of electrical items.

As an employer, be sure to give clear and specific safety guidance, providing employees with a checklist to record what has been assessed.

 

-          How often do workers need to come into the office?

If you don’t hold regular team catch-ups – particularly over video – you may find a deterioration in teamwork and the quality of information shared between flexible workers and office-based employees.

This is entirely avoidable if communication is kept up. Indeed, if your flexible working policy is robust, you may not need to specify a certain number of days on which team members must be in the office. Facilitating group or one-one-one meetings over video is a great way of keeping communication channels open.

Of course, you may still wish to bring employees together for other reasons. Team building events, training sessions and seasonal parties are a great way to bring teams together, foster continued collaboration and reward employees for their hard work.   

 

Any questions you still need answered? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you, or tweet @PolycomEurope with the #homeoffices hashtag.

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