Homeworking pitfalls must be addressed by bosses, says law firm

Homeworking

New research from Worcestershire-headquartered law firm Harrison Clark Rickerbys suggests homeworking may be bad for our health and flexible working policies inadequate.

The proportion of people who said that they felt homeworking had a negative effect on their wellbeing increased significantly from just three per cent pre-Covid, to almost one in five during the first lockdown.

One of the benefits of homeworking has been the absence of daily commuting, with nearly a fifth saying that it’s what they liked most about working from home during the first lockdown.

However, almost a third of people surveyed said they worked longer hours from home than they did pre-Covid. At the same time, the percentage of people who felt they were less effective working from home than in the office doubled, to almost one in five.

Based on the research they conducted lawyers at Harrison Clark Rickerbys, which has offices in Worcester, Cheltenham, Hereford, Ross on Wye and Reading, suggest these insights give employers cause to review and refresh their remote working policies.

HCR Charlotte Thornton-Smith 1[2]“Our working landscape has changed forever,” said Charlotte Thornton-Smith, partner and head of HCR’s Worcester office. “We conducted this research in order to understand what the future looks like for ourselves as an employer and for our clients, before and after Covid-19. The insights have been fascinating.”

Clare Day, a partner at Harrison Clark Rickerbys who has been closely involved in the research, added: “The rapid roll out of homeworking in response to Covid-19 has had many positive impacts, but it is not without risk.

“We found that there had been tensions around remote working that existed pre-Covid, which may have a bearing. The research revealed a perception gap between employers and employees when it came to homeworking. Before it became a lockdown necessity, almost a third of workers said their bosses didn’t allow homeworking, while in the same survey it was a tiny proportion, just five per cent, of employers who said they didn’t endorse homeworking.

“This suggests there may be some cultural barriers to homeworking in many businesses, as well as some practical policy issues. Now, as we face lockdown again, we would urge employers to take steps to improve their support for homeworkers.”

HCR proposes three actions from employers:

  • Review and refresh remote working policies to ensure they are explicit and take account of Covid-related changes in work patterns
  • Provide help for managers to support workers remotely, including effective communication and assessing worker wellbeing
  • Find new ways of measuring productivity, defining clear goals for employees whether working from the office or home.