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The Fundamentals of a Successful ‘Working From Home’ Policy

Published July 24, 2020 (last updated February 24, 2021) -

‘Lockdowns’, ‘flattening the curve’, ‘second wave’ … terms that weren’t all that familiar in 2019 are now standard terminology – as is ‘work from home’. While some businesses may have previously offered the flexibility of the occasional work from home day, COVID-19 has forced many businesses to extend that flexibility to all staff – and for the foreseeable future. But working from home comes with its own challenges, especially for employers.  

Because when an employee works from home, their home is considered a workplace: and you, as the employer, have health and safety responsibilities with respect to this.

But how can you ensure every employee’s home is up to standard, and that you, your business and the employee are protected? By providing a thorough, clear and concise working from home policy

More Than a Simple Checklist

A good ‘Working from Home’ policy is more than a simple checklist detailing the vital components needed to do the job from home, such as a reliable internet connection and the required soft/hardware. Rather, it should cover as many factors as possible 

What might seem overly cautious now could end up saving you from a costly mistake in the future.

Vital Areas to Cover

A fundamentally good ‘Working from Home’ policy should outline all expectations of your employees, as they pertain to conducting your business from their residence. For instance, all employees should be made aware that when they work from home, they are still subject to the same working standards that normally apply to your business regarding confidentiality, leave notification, working hours, abuse of resources, harassmentetc 

Employees also need to be aware that drugs and alcohol are not to be consumed or abused during work hours: something that normally goes without saying in the workplace, but may need to be highlighted when their own fridge is within easy reach!  

Your policy should also remind employees that as their employer, you may conduct inspections as part of the ongoing management of hazards in the workplace. Because while previously you may not have cared that an employee spent his or her weekend slouched in a creaky old chair playing video games, you do now have to care that they spend their day in that same chair while working remotely for you. Of course, this inspection can be carried out by the employee at your request, simply by filling in a Working from Home Checklist and an Ergonomic/Workstation Checklist, and returning the completed checklists to you. 

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Using Company Equipment During Non-Work Hours

A good ‘Work from Home’ policy also needs to state what equipment you are willing to allow the employee to take home, and how you expect that equipment to be used. For instance, are you comfortable for an employee to use a company laptop in their own time in ways that wouldn’t normally be allowed during working hours, such as accessing Netflix or sports betting sites 

Or, if you need to terminate an employee while they are working from home, have you outlined exactly when and how all company equipment is to be returned, and in what condition? These are things you might think go without saying – but they should be covered in your ‘Working from Home’ policy.  

Open Lines of Communication

We also recommend outlining expectations around response times; whether a remote worker is expected to respond to enquiries immediately, and how best they should respond (via email, phone call, video chat, etc). Detailing this mean no one is left in the dark about productivity expectations. 

Download Our Free ‘Work From Home Employer Pack’ 

Putting together a successful ‘Work from Home’ Policy is vital to protect your business and your people, but it can also seem like an insurmountable task. That’s why we’ve together the free Employsure ‘Work From Home Employer Pack’ 

This essential pack contains an ergonomic checklist, ‘Working from Home’ agreement form, a ‘Working from Home’ checklist and the Employsure ‘Coronavirus Working from Home’ Policy. Download the pack here.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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