The number of employees working from home in office-type jobs, or roles involving travel where home is used as a base, is steadily increasing. Acas has produced a guide to help both employers and employees deal with the implications of working from home.
View or download the Acas guide:
- There are different degrees of homeworking or tele-commuting - some people work almost entirely at home while others work from home only occasionally
- Employers must consider if the job and job holder are suitable for homeworking
- Many homeworkers say they have a better work-life balance
- Homeworking or tele-working may be considered as a reasonable adjustment to allow a disabled worker to carry on with their role
Homeworking can present challenges to both employers and employees. For employers, this can include managing staff who work on their own and away from the main business base. For employees, it can include overcoming feelings of isolation and managing the boundaries between home and work life.
What is homeworking?
Homeworking or tele-commuting can cover a variety of arrangements:
- Working entirely at home apart from attending regular or occasional meeting at the office or with customers
- Time split between office and home or with customers - for example, two days in the office and three days at home or with customers
- Some staff may prefer to work in the office and work from home only occasionally
Homeworking is a type of flexible working which, depending on the agreement between employer and employee, can be also used in conjunction with other arrangements such as flexible hours, working part-time, term-time working or the employer's core hours.
However, homeworking and other forms of flexible working do not have to be used together. For example, an employer could stipulate that a homeworker works the same working pattern as office-based staff.
Acas research found a mix of working from the office and home gives the best results in job satisfaction, work performance and reducing stress.
Things for employers to consider
One of the first steps for an employer is considering whether the job is suitable for homeworking or tele-working. Many roles may be, but others may not.
Employers may find that cost saving or a need for a wider geographical spread of staff mean they might consider homeworking. Some other factors to consider include whether the role needs:
- Team working
- Face-to-face supervision
- Equipment (and will it be cost-effective to install in the home?)
- Equipment which can only be in the organisation's central base
While homeworking can be seen as an attractive option, it will not suit everyone. A homeworker needs to be able to cope with working on their own with little supervision. Homeworkers ideally need to be:
- Able to spend long periods on their own and be confident working without supervision
- Self-disciplined and self-motivated
- Able to separate work from home life
Helpful homeworking tools
The Acas guide includes two useful checklists, which are also available for download here in Microsoft Word format:
- Sample homeworking policy [190kb] - the main features of a policy for staff working from home
- Checklist for setting up homeworking [193kb] - a checklist for both employer and employee in setting up homeworking
Managers may find managing homeworkers more difficult than managing office-based staff. Some key areas for managers to be aware of are:
- Building trust between manager and homeworker
- Agreeing how work performance will be supervised and measured
- Communicating effectively
- Training so both staff who work from home and their managers can do their roles effectively
A lack of trust can be the biggest barrier to achieving successful homeworking. It can be challenging for managers who prefer face-to-face supervision. Managers should make sure the employee knows what is expected of them within their role and how they are expected to work in sharing information and ideas with both managers and colleagues. Having systems or policies in place will help the organisation run effectively.
Performance management for homeworkers should be consistent with that of office-based staff, and regular face-to-face reviews will help assess progress or raise any concerns.
Office-based managers tend to communicate more frequently face-to-face with office-based staff. However, it is important to maintain communication with homeworkers. This can be through email, telephone or video conferencing, and regular face-to-face meetings. It is good practice for homeworkers to attend regular meetings in the office, as this can help with keeping in touch with the rest of the business.
Health and safety for homeworkers
Employers have a duty of care for all their employees, and the requirements of the health and safety legislation apply to homeworkers. The employer is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment to check whether the proposed home workplace's ventilation, temperature, lighting, space, chair, desk and computer, or any kind of workstation, and floor are suitable for the tasks the homeworker will be carrying out.
The employer is responsible for the equipment it supplies, but it is the employee's responsibility to rectify any flaws in the home highlighted by the assessment. Once the home workplace has passed the assessment, it is the employee who is responsible for keeping it that way.
About our homeworking guidance
This guidance focuses on regular homeworking that has been officially agreed between employee and employer, not incidental homeworking, such as leaving the office on time to do extra hours at home, or one-off situations. It is aimed primarily at homeworking in office-related roles or arrangements where home is used as a base for travel.
Note: Our homeworking guidance does not cover 'traditional homeworking' - people working at home on tasks such as knitting, making up garments or filling envelopes - also also known as 'out workers' or 'piece workers'. For information on piece work, see Piece work.