How to tell your employees they can’t work from home

Updated Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Working from home is more popular than ever in the UK, but it’s not for everyone and massive companies such as Yahoo and HP have taken the decision to reduce or even cut out flexible working completely.

The trouble is, employees have come to expect flexible working, which means it can be a cause of conflict if a request is turned down, particularly in light of the change to UK legislation introduced in 2015.

So how exactly do you tell your employees they can’t work from home?

Work out what you want

The first thing to do is to work out what you want your work from home policy to be and why.

Even if you’re a fan of telecommuting,  there may still be plenty of good reasons for wanting people to work from the office most of the time, such as the work you do is collaborative and it’s hard to schedule meetings when people are frequently out – though using a conference call facility can be a good way to get over this hurdle.

Other reasons could be that things often come up that can’t be handled remotely, or having people in the office allows you to better give feedback and input on people’s work.

Whatever the reasons, you need to work out what place a work from home policy has in your plans.

Manage expectations

Once you’ve worked out what you want the work from home policy to be, the next thing you need to do is manage the expectations of employees.

If your business has a pretty relaxed policy on working from home and you don’t agree with it or it’s not compatible with your area of the business or even your own management style, it could be time to try and get the policy amended or re-worded at least.

And before you even do that it’s worth getting your team together to let them know your expectations and how working from home may not be a suitable way for you to all hit your targets – if they don’t know of your expectations there is no way they can meet them, which is unfair on everyone.

Make the working from home policy more flexible

It could be that you want to reign in the work from home policy to make it the same for everyone across the board – but it may actually be more beneficial to make it even more flexible and tailor it to the individual needs of the business, the employees and their roles.

For instance, it’s perfectly reasonable to want people in the office while they’re new, even if it’ll be fine for them to work from home more once they’ve been there longer – formal training aside, it’s important new employees to be in and around the office to learn the business culture and how things work.

As a manager, it’s also easier to get a feel for what makes employees tick and offer feedback on performance.

Set down the rules

If you’ve noticed other office workers have been commenting how much time your team spends away from the office, don’t just dismiss this as jealous co-workers or trouble makers – doing something that is out of sync with the rest of the company could raise eyebrows and cause problems.

And while you may be willing to take the hit defending your work-from-home policy, work out whether it’s really worth it or if you could do things differently to keep everyone happy.

The key is to explicitly set the rules and make sure everyone is clear about them.

If the company policy states: “Flexible or remote working is acceptable with your line  manager’s approval”, employees will assume flexible working is the norm, and will probably ignore the cultural clues.

New starters, meanwhile, will also expect it to be the norm and if they’re not offered any type of remote working, they may think they’re being discriminated against if they’re not offered this ‘perk’ – though whether working from home is actually a ‘perk’ is also up for debate. Check out – Working from home – is it for you?

The bottom line is if you want people to do something different, you have to up front and tell them both what needs doing differently and the reasons why.

Iif you do implement any remote or flexible working, you need to make sure it’s the best for you, our employees and the rest of the business.

And remember, UK employement law means all requests for flexible working, from any employee, has to be consideration, so bear this in mind.

Any thoughts on working from home? Let us know…

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