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NUFFIELD HEALTH WHITE PAPER the effects of remote working

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An insightful report providing information on remote working, specific issues affecting productivity, stress and wellbeing. Offers a rich mix of data and recommendations based on feedback and surveys

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NUFFIELD HEALTH WHITE PAPER the effects of remote working

  1. 1. Advantages and challenges for employees and employers. The effects of remote working on stress, wellbeing and productivity
  2. 2. Nuffield Health: Dr Ben Kelly Head of Clinical Research Outcomes Manchester University: Professor Sir Cary Cooper Manchester Metropolitan University: Professor Marc Jones Dr Elizabeth Braithwaite Sophia Fedorowicz Professor Susan Powell Professor Andy McCann Public Policy Projects: Ben Howlett Managing Director, Public Policy Project Chris Mockler Policy Consultant, Public Policy Projects Christie Oliver Policy Manager, Public Policy Projects Authors 2
  3. 3. Table of contents Introduction 4 Executive summary and recommendations 5 Flexible working and numbers – the broad picture 8 Remote working by employees – a crucial part of flexible working 9 Future developments in remote working 11 The main advantages of remote working for employers 13 Challenges and potential disadvantages of remote working for employees 14 The mental wellbeing of remotely working employees 17 What can be done to support those employees working remotely? 22 Productivity and remote working 32 The self-employed 36 Summary of recommendations 38 3
  4. 4. Introduction Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest healthcare charity. For the last 60 years, Nuffield Health’s experts have been working together to make the nation fitter, healthier, happier and stronger, all for the public benefit. As an organisation with no shareholders, Nuffield Health invests all its income back into its vision to build a healthier nation. This is achieved through outstanding day-to-day services in its family of 31 award-winning hospitals, 112 fitness and wellbeing clubs, healthcare clinics, and over 160 workplace wellbeing services, and through its flagship programmes to support communities by widening access and addressing unmet health needs. Remote working has become increasingly important due to rapid technological change, with the last two decades seeing the introduction of hugely improved internet access as well as smart phones, tablets and social media. Driven by the escalating cost of commercial property and overheads as well as the need for closer work-life integration of the rapidly expanding workforce in recent years, remote working plays a growing role in corporate life and is an increasing factor in the health and wellbeing of the UK population. A further boost was given by the Government in June 2014 when it introduced the right to request flexible working, replacing the more onerous earlier statutory procedure. This meant that employees with 26 weeks’ qualifying service could make a formal request for flexible working and employers had to reply in a reasonable manner. This right applies to part-time working, shift working, job shares and remote working. The then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) estimated that it would lead to 60,000 plus new working arrangements a year through existing employees switching to flexible working. [House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, 2016] The Taylor Review commented that: “As part of the statutory evaluation of the Right to Request Flexible Working in 2019, Government should consider how further to promote genuine flexibility in the workplace. For example, it should consider whether temporary changes to contracts might be allowed, to accommodate flexibility needed for a particular caring requirement.” [Good Work, The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, July 2017] Visit: www.nuffieldhealth.com/corporate-wellbeing 4
  5. 5. Executive summary and recommendations An overview Flexible working has become an important aspect of the modern UK economy, with over half of employees taking up a flexible working arrangement. Part-time working is the most popular, used by a quarter of employees. Remote working forms a key part of flexible working and usually involves working from the home (or in the same grounds or building) or using the home as a base, the latter category accounting for 66% of home working. The proportion of employees who work mainly or regularly from home is in the minority, being between 7% (1.9 million) in 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and around 20% in other surveys such as that by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. The difference is probably the result of dissimilar definitions of what constitutes regular home working. Even using the lower estimate, remote working has increased by almost 28% over the ten years to 2018, faster than the increase in employment. This is expected to continue, given the flexible nature of the labour market, the revolution in modern technology (which will go much further in the future) and government support, such as the Right to Request Flexible Working. Older and experienced employees account for 77% of those working from home, and senior staff make greater proportional use of this facility compared with non-managerial staff. 1. Benefits to employees Employees benefit in terms of being better able to manage their personal lives, having greater autonomy in their work and cutting their commuting costs and time. Of those working from home, 68% expressed themselves as satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, although it should be noted that this is no different from other employees, 67% of whom expressed similar levels of satisfaction. [ACAS, Home is where the work is: A new study of homeworking in ACAS – and beyond, 2013] 2. What employers need to do Employers must communicate to employees that remote working is being rolled out to the benefit of both sides. The company benefits from reduced overheads, from being more attractive to new talented staff and in retaining their loyalty, so reducing employee turnover. Employers have a duty of care and that includes mental health. The Health and Safety Executive suggested that work-related stress, depression and anxiety have become an ‘epidemic’ affecting 595,000 people over the average year. 3. Stress at work vs isolation at home The RAND Corporation 2018 found that in Britain, young employees are particularly at risk, with 12.5% of those in the 21–25 age category indicating that they suffer from depression. This figure rises to 17.2% for the 18–20 age category. Of course, stress at work is common whether employees work in the office or at home, but the situation for remote workers is that 5
  6. 6. other factors come into play. It is a different psychological situation. Home working, as Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health has stated, can negatively impact resilience, the process of negotiating, managing and adapting to significant sources of stress or trauma. Remote workers can experience isolation, lack of personal contacts with colleagues and an inability to switch off in their personal time. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ syndrome can be a very real one. However, with considerable management, along with time and effort, these problems can be met. This means recognising that arranging remote working is not an easy option. 4. Identifying the right staff The right staff must be identified. It is a vital first step to ensure that suitable people, with work responsibilities suitable for remote working, are selected. The ‘one size fits all’ concept is totally wrong. ACAS has proposed that remote workers ideally need to be: Happy to spend long periods on their own. Previous experience of successfully working from home can be a helpful factor. Self-disciplined and self-motivated. A resilient personality who does not let setbacks get them down. Confident in working without supervision. Able to separate work from home life. It is interesting, as explained in this White Paper, that the great majority of these remote workers are over the age of 40. As they are older and more experienced, they are more likely to fit into the ACAS standards. 5. Relationships with co-workers and managers Studies have suggested that spending more than 2.5 days a week working away from the office has been associated with deterioration in the quality of co-worker relationships, with job satisfaction decreasing and plateauing after 15 hours. Employers should consider whether working half the week remotely and half in the office, the precise details of which days and half-days to be a matter for individual decisions, may provide a good balance for flexibility and for remaining connected to the physical workplace. For remote working to stand any chance of success there should be a healthy relationship of trust and confidence between homeworker and manager. If the remote worker is trusted, this removes much of the stress from their lives, so people can undertake family responsibilities or activities, knowing that it is not a problem if they have carried out their work earlier or will work in the evening. A good relationship will also leave room for reasonable mistakes to be made and learnt from, without jeopardising the whole remote working arrangement. When trust is strong, this can in turn inspire high levels of commitment and hence become associated with more supportive attitudes and behaviour with positive benefits. 6. An appropriate environment Equally important are the home environment and the necessary equipment. Remote workers need a safe, reasonable space and the right equipment, including the obvious telecommunications, a shredder, a lockable cabinet for confidential documents and any specialist equipment. These measures can help minimise mental or physical health difficulties arising from remote working (the two often overlap) but it is sensible to assume that they will not be eliminated. 6
  7. 7. 7. Mental health Many managers are uncomfortable with mental health problems, as they feel out of their depth and do not know how to help, so they sometimes find it easier to let matters slide. To address this, larger firms could provide managers with training on how to identify and respond to mental health issues, developing skills helpful in dealing with issues relevant to all employees, whether in the office or working remotely. More generally, the Farmer/Stevenson Review of mental health and employers recommended that all employers, regardless of workplace type, industry or size, should adopt the proposed mental health core standards, most of which can be implemented at little or no cost. [Thriving at Work, 2017] 8. Productivity Whether employees are more productive as a result of remote working is unclear. Although most remote workers claim that they have become more productive, it is extremely difficult to measure productivity outside of manufacturing and half of organisations do not even try. Companies tend to look at time spent at work, usually through timesheets and profits, neither of which are a measure of productivity. It has been suggested that wider measures should be used to create a more complete picture and to look beyond conventional measurement techniques for productivity. The case for this may be a strong one, but it would require in-depth research and analysis to substantiate it. 9. Self-employed The number of self-employed people, full-time and part-time, has risen dramatically since 1998, from 3.3 million to 4.9 million and now accounts for 15% of the UK working population. Self-employed people have been a long-standing feature of some labour markets, and firms have always used them. Over a quarter (26.3%) of UK organisations rely on freelancers to complete core business tasks and even more (44.9%) frequently use independent workers for short-term assignments. Companies are inclined to ignore the health needs of the self-employed who work for them, on the grounds that they are not employees and the company is not responsible for them. On the face of it, this may not seem unreasonable, but responsible managers will take a different view towards those involved, particularly in core business tasks, and have some concern for their welfare. For the government, this grey area is a matter of concern. 10. Disabilities Thanks to the shift towards flexible and remote working, individuals living with varying degrees of disability are now able to maintain some of their independence, earning an income while working from the comfort of home. The International Labour Organisation has called for non-discrimination of people with disabilities to be integrated in Corporate Social Responsibility strategies of all enterprises, including multinationals. Society has a moral obligation to consider their need to work and earn an income where possible, and remote working for disabled people is seen by them themselves as a game-changer. 7
  8. 8. Flexible working and numbers – the broad picture Flexible working has been defined by the UK Government with respect to the following areas: Part-time work. Working at home. Job sharing – with two people doing one job and splitting the hours. Compressed hours – working full-time hours but over fewer days. Flexitime – the employee chooses when to start and end work (within agreed limits) but works certain ‘core hours’. Annualised hours – the employee must work a certain number of hours over the year but has some flexibility about when to work. Staggered hours – the employee has different start, finish and break-times from other workers. The proportion of employees taking up a flexible working arrangement was estimated at 56% in Britain by the Government’s Fourth Work-Life Balance Employee Survey of July 2012, with the most important element being part-time work. Yet despite the great emphasis put on employees doing part-time work as part of flexible working, the ONS has shown that although the number of both full-time and part-time employees has greatly increased over the last 20 years, there has been no proportionate change: Full-time employees Part-time employees Full-time September / October 1998 17.4m 5.8m 75% 2018 20.6m 7m 75% Such stability led the Taylor Review to conclude: “This tells us that the UK’s light touch approach to labour market regulation leading to increased insecurity may be overstated.” However, for the purpose of this White Paper, remote working is a term covering a wide variety of agreements. For employees, it is normally an office-related role, where: Some employees work almost entirely at home, apart from carrying out regular or occasional duties/meetings at the office or with customers. Some employees split their time between mainly working at home a few days a week, with the rest of the time spent in the office or with clients. 8
  9. 9. Remote working by employees – a crucial part of flexible working Of course, remote working can and does occur across the board, thanks to modern technology. It is quite common for full-time employees, wholly office-based, to use their laptops or other equipment to work at home in the evenings, on the train and even during leave. Employees working mainly from home are defined by the ONS as those working from the home itself or in the same grounds or building or in different places (e.g. in libraries, cafés or in other places) but using the home as a base. Two-thirds of such employees fall into the category of using the home as a base, meaning that the definition of home working can be much more varied than might have been expected. Statistics In its Labour Force Survey for September- November 2016, the ONS found that 1.9 million employees worked mainly from home, equivalent to 7.1% of all employees. The number of employees working at home has been increasing rapidly. A TUC analysis in May 2019 found an increase of almost 28% in the number of employees working regularly from home over the ten years to 2018. Although the biggest growth was in women employees, the clear majority of regular remote working employees are still men (62%) rather than women at 38%. 9
  10. 10. Given that the smallest proportion were those aged 16–19 (accounting for only 23% of the total), the concept that home working is predominantly for the young is obviously flawed. Older and experienced employees are those who use it most. However, there are some substantial differences in the estimated number of home workers between the ONS and other sources, probably as a result of differing definitions of home working. Key studies The Work Life Balance Employee Survey in 2011 found that 68% of employees said that home working was not available. A survey by the Work Foundation found that 7 in 10 employees were not given the opportunity to work remotely (Productivity, Technology and Working Anywhere, January 2018). This implies that about 30% of employees had home working as an option. A 2019 study by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that just over 20% of non-management employees were offered, and accepted, a proposal to work at or from home, with about 5% rejecting the proposal. (Megatrends, Flexible Working, January 2019.) The proportionate figure for home working accepted by senior staff was much higher. This ties in reasonably closely with Felstead and Henseke’s (2017) review of the 2015 Labour Force Survey (UK) which suggested that working away from the traditional office, at least one day a week, had increased from 13.3% in 1997 to 17.1% in 2014. In reality, the figure may be slightly higher. Some managers might agree flexible arrangements with valued employees on a personal and informal basis, to avoid HR bureaucracy getting involved with a flexible working agreement. In 2014, organisations making up 39% of employment agreed that – “Changes to working arrangements are agreed informally with the line manager.” [Megatrends, Flexible Working, January 2019] Whichever definition is preferred, even on the most generous interpretation, only a minority of employees (perhaps 20%) are working regularly from home and many of these for only one or a few days a week. The reality in the immediate future is that, for most employees, working is and will be in the office. Age There are also interesting age differences. An earlier TUC analysis found that the number of employees who work regularly from home in 2015 was as follows: Age 16–19 29,000 Age 20–29 156,000 Age 30–39 160,000 Age 40–49 454,000 Age 50–59 415,000 Age 60+ 195,000 10
  11. 11. Future developments in remote working The TUC survey confirms that remote working by employees has increased noticeably by 28% over 10 years and all the indications are that it will continue to do so. There are several reasons for this: Modern technology The use of computers, especially laptops, tablets, smart phones, Skype and social media has been transformative. It is almost impossible to imagine business today without this network. These technological advances have underpinned the development of remote working in recent years. Just as 30 years ago few would have predicted where we are today, so in future decades people will look at our equipment in much the same way as we now regard the typewriter. The development and spread of the digital economy and artificial intelligence shows no signs of abating in what has been dubbed a new industrial revolution. This means that the structure of the labour force will be subject to further enormous changes, and these changes can be expected to further facilitate the scope for remote working. Cultural change Flexible working patterns are becoming more important to employees, as quoted in the Nuffield Health summer session on remote working. Alongside this flexibility are social responsibilities towards the workforce which have a long pedigree with the best employers. This is extending to other employers as the nature of society changes, with much greater emphasis today on supporting the health and wellbeing of employees, the accommodation of parental responsibilities and employment contracts that are more varied. Mental health has become increasingly recognised as a major challenge for employers, not only where remote working is involved. Government policy Since 2014, when the Right to Request Flexible Working was introduced, the number of employees who can make a request has doubled, to over 20 million. The Government estimated that this would lead to a further 80,000 requests a year – leading to 60,000 + new working arrangements a year through existing employees switching to flexible working. The Flexible Working regulations are to be reviewed by the Government in 2019, so further changes might be made. It is evident that remote working is growing and is likely to accelerate. Employers and interested employees will have to pay even more attention to the merits and disadvantages of remote working in planning the future. 11
  12. 12. “10–15 years ago at interviews people asked about salary and the company car, now the number one question I get asked is about the company’s approach to flexible working.” [Dawn Moore, Director of Human Resources at Morgan Sindall] 12
  13. 13. The main advantages of remote working for employers Reduced overheads Reductions can be made in office space, thereby better controlling overheads such as business rates, rents, utility costs and the expense of providing parking spots. Better technology Technology advances enable remote working to be more successful and the business to benefit accordingly. Staff retention When remote working is satisfying to both parties, organisational loyalty and staff retention are likely to be higher. Talent pool Being able to recruit from a larger pool of talent including those for whom remote working is important. Work/life balance The ability to better juggle their work and personal lives, assuming flexibility in the hours they work. Happy at work 68% of those working from home expressed themselves as satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, although it should be noted that this is little different from other employees. [CIPD, Megatrends, Flexible Working, January 2018] Charalampous et al. in 2018 found that remote working was associated with higher workplace wellbeing. Autonomy Greater autonomy in the work being done, assuming management consent. This supports job satisfaction and reduces emotional strain, as pointed out by Sardeshmukh et al. in 2012. Reduced travel A reduction in commuting costs and time spent travelling – which can be considerable. A TUC survey in 2015 showed a 72% increase in the number of people spending more than two hours travelling to work each day over the decade to 2014. It also showed a 131% increase in the number of women commuting for more than three hours a day. The commuting benefits have become even more important in London and other major cities as the effect of rising house prices and rents are forcing more people who want to retain their salaries to find homes further out. [HR Magazine, December 2015] Family Improved family contact, most noticeably for women with children. Half of female employees with children worked at home some of the time, a higher proportion than for men with children or for either gender without children. [CIPD Flexible Working, January 2019] Focus The ability to concentrate without being disturbed by others. 13
  14. 14. Challenges and potential disadvantages of remote working for employees Identifying the right staff The right staff must be identified, for which purpose ACAS has provided guidance for employers (see below). It is a vital first step to ensure only suitable people are offered the choice of regular remote working. Any “one size fits all” concept will be ineffective. Assessing the working environment The working home or other environment must be assessed to make sure that it would be suitable. For example, a bedsit or a small house with a family and little privacy would be a disadvantage. Administration and implementation There are administrative and implementation costs which the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology put at £39.8m a year, covering the administration costs of processing requests, workplace changes required to be able to implement a request and one-off implementation costs. [Flexible Working and Facilitating Working Away from the Office, 2016] Managerial costs The extra cost on managerial time is also a major factor; it is difficult to judge and may be very expensive. The question is whether these costs can be offset by the £55.8m annual benefits estimated by the Committee from savings in staff turnover costs, productivity benefits and reduced absenteeism as well as savings from the removal of the former, more onerous, statutory procedure for dealing with flexible working requests. Support Managers must properly support and handle the remote worker so that targets are met and quality, both personal and organisational, is maintained. However, micromanagement should be avoided, as reasonable autonomy is one of the main attractions of remote working for employees and correlates with improved workplace wellbeing. There should be regular face-to-face meetings, normally in the office, for managers and remote workers to discuss the work being done as well as any personal concerns or difficulties that may have arisen. Managers also need to foster social and professional interaction, providing a sense of belonging to a bigger group. Problems that may arise from isolation, stress and mental ill-health need to be understood and advice and help provided. Feeling cut off Isolation – some people can manage to work perfectly well alone and can focus on the work, whilst others can suffer from isolation and, unless steps are taken, may become depressed and less productive. Lack of daily personal social contact with colleagues can be a serious issue, lessening the exchange of ideas and the opportunity to hear different viewpoints. Many people have a strong affinity with where they work because it is human nature to belong to groups. Working in an office guides identity, purpose and behaviour. 14
  15. 15. Potential resentment Some office-based employees might resent those who work from home, believing they have an easier life, and therefore may not be as helpful to them as they could be. Tietze and Nadin found that employees working from home mentioned how their office-based colleagues resented communicating with them, and their supervisors trusted them less as they could not see them in the main office. [Tietze and Nadin, 2011] Promotion prospects Career marginalisation has long been recognised as a problem for employees doing remote work as “visibility and office information networks are key influences on career prospects”. [Haddon and Lewis, 1994] According to ACAS, research has indicated that working from home may reduce promotion prospects, and that the more time an employee works from home the greater this “professional isolation” effect can be. The research found that indications of “professional isolation” for staff who work from home can include being: – Less likely to look for promotion if this could mean spending more time at the organisation’s main base. – “Out of sight” and “out of mind” when managers are allocating key assignments and recommending candidates for promotion. – Committed and loyal but doubted by managers. – Less likely to be mentored because opportunities can be fewer. – Less aware than office colleagues of what is happening in the rest of the organisation. Remote workers are also less likely to look for promotion if this could mean spending more time in the company office. [ACAS, Homeworking – A Guide for Employers and Employees, May 2014] Stress Stress can arise from a combination of excessive hours, isolation, poor management and personal difficulties. This in turn can lead to mental health problems. This issue is a hugely important area and is discussed at length in the following sections. 15
  16. 16. As the Work Foundation has pointed out: “Technology clearly can dramatically change the roles people undertake, work processes and workflows, as well as recognising how best to deploy working spaces but if not carefully planned and considered this undervalues and undermines the benefits of face-to-face ‘human’ interaction in particular and working relationships between staff – often expressed as the ‘water-cooler culture’”. [Productivity, Technology and Working Anywhere, January 2018] 16
  17. 17. The mental wellbeing of remotely working employees Background Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive in 2018 suggest that work-related stress, depression and anxiety had become an ‘epidemic’ affecting 595,000 people over the average year, showing that mental health at work has never been a more important topic. The young employed are particularly at risk from mental health issues, with 12.5% of those in the 21–25 age category indicating that they suffer from depression. This figure rises to 17.2% for the 18–20 age category. [RAND Corporation, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, 2018] The same study also found that in a 2017 survey half the respondents in the 26–40 age category had at least some financial concerns, making them much more likely to be obese, suffer from depression or have work-related stress. The Stevenson/Farmer Review for the Prime Minister in 2017 stated that: There is a large annual cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion (with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work) with additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover. The cost of poor mental health to the government is between £24 billion and £27 billion. This includes costs in providing benefits, falls in tax revenue and costs to the NHS. The cost of poor mental health to the economy, from lost output, is more than both of those together, and is calculated at between £74 billion and £99 billion per year. 17
  18. 18. “At a time when there is a national focus on productivity, the inescapable conclusion is that it is massively in the interest of both employers and Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health. The UK can ill-afford the productivity cost of this poor mental health.” [Thriving at Work: The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers, October 2017] The HR Review, a leading UK resource for HR news and analysis, has pointed out that in relation to work-related stress, depression and anxiety “there is a risk that these issues could develop more frequently amongst staff who are tasked with working remotely, as these individuals may typically find themselves separated from the same communication channels and support mechanisms”. [July 2018] Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, has argued that employers need to have a fundamental rethink of wellbeing policies if such figures are to improve. [CIPD Festival of Work, 12 April 2019] All employers have a common law duty of care to their employees. In addition, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, every employer has a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees is protected. They must also conduct a risk assessment to identify certain measures necessary to comply with the Act and other regulations. The matters to which this duty extends include provision of information, instruction, training and supervision necessary for the health and safety of employees, as well as mental health (including workplace stress). Failure of a company to adhere to such regulations could exacerbate an employee’s symptoms and the company could breach its duty of care towards its employee. 18
  19. 19. Stress and other factors Stress at work is common whether employees work in the office or at home. Indeed, 24% in both categories state that they feel under excessive pressure always or often. [Megatrends, Flexible Working, CIPD January 2019] However, for remote workers other factors come into play. One of their main challenges is the ability to draw a line between work and the rest of their lives. Failure to do so can result in unhealthy habits of working longer hours, checking and responding to emails at night and weekends. Some remote workers can start to believe that remote working is a privilege, leading them to engage in work overload and to experience reduced job satisfaction and even burnout. This can have knock-on effects for the physical and mental health of the employee, and potentially over time, the wider family unit. As stated above, the young are particularly at risk from mental health issues and a report from Japan found a relationship between young people and those in low level jobs which had adverse physical consequences. The analysis below reinforces the case for remote workers to be taken generally, but not exclusively, from employees of an older age and in higher positions: “The results of the Coronary Artery Risk Disease in Young Adults study were compatible with our study, showing inverse associations with risk factors for high job demands, low control, and job strain in young adults. In our study, subjects in the low-job-strain group tended to have higher diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, serum levels of total cholesterol, blood sugar level, and ethanol consumption compared with the high-job-strain group.” [Work-related stress and psychosomatic medicine, Mutsuhiro Nakao, December 2010] 19
  20. 20. An obvious disadvantage of working from home is that the computer or laptop is there before you go sleep and when you wake up, so the pressure to work is high unless such a remote worker can organise a proper home timetable and adhere to it. Technology in these circumstances is both an asset and a danger. Furthermore, there is no easy way for the employer to know what is happening. It is not surprising that an April 2018 study by CIPD found that 32% of staff felt that working remotely meant they could not switch off in their personal time. It has been suggested that: Neither of these proposals seems attractive. It is impossible to know when someone is taking a break or doing work away from the computer – such as reading papers or thinking about how to approach actual or potential clients. Secondly, it would seem too much like big brother monitoring your work, rather than providing the flexibility and autonomy needed for remote working. As for cutting off an employee from a server at given times, one of the main purposes behind remote working is to give employees the right to choose their own hours of work, not to put them into a time-limited straitjacket. These would be more likely to discourage remote working. “Using electronic devices or systems to record the number of breaks a remote employee takes over the course of the day is one solution. However, it might be easier and more cost-effective to simply restrict the access of individuals working remotely to the work server at key times during the day, to enforce downtime.” [Personnel Today, June 2016] 20
  21. 21. Psychological concerns Brendan Street has also emphasised that home working can negatively impact resilience, the process of negotiating, managing and adapting to significant sources of stress or trauma. Clearly, personality traits play an important role in what kind of emotions individuals can experience (e.g. Anderson et al., 2015), suggesting that not all individuals would benefit to the same degree from working remotely. Also, individuals’ home situations were found to influence feelings of emotional exhaustion, as those who extensively e-worked remotely and experienced high work-family conflict were the most emotionally exhausted. [Golden, 2012] This finding is of high importance to individuals who experience a negative blurring of home and work boundaries [Golden, 2012] as they are likely to have less detachment from work and increased negative emotions and fatigue. [Sonnentag, Binnewies and Mojza, 2008] The overlap between stress and psychological concerns is exemplified by psychosomatic illness – which originates from emotional stress or damaging thought patterns but has physical symptoms that are real and can harm people as much as symptoms that originate from other means. Physical symptoms can include aches, pains, fatigue, nausea, muscle spasms, headaches, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. 21
  22. 22. What can be done to support employees working remotely? With considerable management, time and effort these problems can be addressed. This does mean recognising that arranging remote working should not be perceived as an easy option. There is much that can be achieved, and it is often a matter of common sense. Initial communication It is crucial for employers at a senior level to communicate to employees that remote working is being rolled out to the benefit of employees as well as for the company; that it is not being introduced simply to reduce costs, but to give employees more flexibility and personal control. Such a communication will need to explain what kind of work is involved, who can apply and how the company would assist them. Many of the questions that will then arise are covered in the sections below. 22
  23. 23. Suitability This is arguably the most important step of all. Of course, the Right to Request Flexible Working, which was introduced in 2014, means that all employees with 26 weeks’ qualifying service can make a formal request for flexible working and employers must reply in a reasonable manner. But it must be a sensible option for both employer and employee and should involve what is essentially an individualised approach. In the first instance, the job must be suitable for homeworking. A key requirement is that the role should be performed just as well away from the business base by someone working on their own. Many roles might be, but not all are. Some businesses or their divisions, particularly if they are creative, are so structured that they cannot cope with people not being there. Furthermore, new or young staff may be unsuitable if they need close senior guidance, to be part of a team in the office to learn their jobs and to enjoy social interaction with their colleagues. A guide from ACAS In it’s Homeworkers – a guide for employers and employees, published in May 2019, ACAS has suggested that the employer should consider the following factors for assessing whether the role can be done just as well away from the business base by someone working on their own. The employer should set out who will be eligible. For example: Those requesting it as a reasonable adjustment. Those making a flexible working request. Those who have completed a certain length of service or satisfactorily completed their training and achieved acceptable results in their last annual performance review. Remote workers ideally need to be: Happy to spend long periods on their own. Previous experience of successfully working from home can be a helpful factor. Self-disciplined and self-motivated. A resilient personality who does not let setbacks get him/her down. Confident in working without supervision. Able to separate work from home life. If either the employee or supervisor is not confident, it may be better to keep the employee working at the organisation’s premises or agree to a trial of some homeworking first. 23
  24. 24. Support Having agreed some choice over hours worked or removing a commute may help – but whether homeworking reduces stress can depend very much on individual circumstances, such as working from home when the employee has responsibilities caring for a child or elderly relative, or a busy household. Individuals should be judged as such. Physical and mental health must also be major considerations, the two often overlapping. As set out above, as mental health problems are most prevalent among the young and with those doing comparatively low-level jobs (categories that will often overlap) there is a strong case for ensuring that most employees who do remote work are disproportionately (but not exclusively) from older and more senior staff. In practice, this seems to be what is happening. As pointed out in the TUC analysis, 77% of regular employee home-workers are over 40, having a degree of maturity and experience that stands them in good stead. Interestingly, remote working is proportionately most used by senior/middle management. Working from or at home Board level Senior manager Middle manager Junior manager / Supervisor Non-managerial employee 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 I have used this arrangement Available to me but I could not use Availability and use of flexible working arrangements by managerial status, 2018 (%) [UK, % of employees with job tenure over 12 months] 24
  25. 25. This is not to say that mental health problems cannot apply to those over 40 or senior managers. Although such problems are likely to be less frequent, a good company policy would be to ensure that all are included in its approach to good mental health among its employees. Additionally, demographics were found to link to relationships, as remote workers who were older and had more tenure with their organisation claimed to have the best- established work relationships. [Gajendran and Harrison 2007] Therefore, an employer should ensure that homeworkers and office-based staff contacts are encouraged. For example, staff who work largely from home should also work in the office to ensure they are “visible” and in reasonably regular communication with colleagues. Agreement on key issues The employer should set out the types of homeworking that the policy will cover and whether home or the employer’s business premises will be the main place of work. For example, the types might include: Home as the main place of work. Flexible homeworking with time split between home and the office. Mobile working with a base at home to travel to the employer’s different premises and customers. The office as the main place of work with working from home occasionally. 25
  26. 26. Days of remote working The employer should work collaboratively with the employee to decide how frequently, for how long, where and for what reasons the employee should work remotely and when attendance at the office will be required. Spending more than 2.5 days per week working away from the office was associated with deterioration in the quality of co-worker relationships. [Akkirman Harris 2005] Golden and Veiga (2005) found that, whilst job satisfaction was greater with an increase in remote working, at about 15 hours it plateaued and decreased. This suggested that remote working is most beneficial when it takes place as a part-time flexible arrangement, with some time spent in the office where there can be face-to-face interactions. [Caillier, 2012] Indeed, businesses with “smarter working” practices like employees to come into the office one to three days a week, so that there is plenty of contact and interaction. Things to consider Employees working remotely for most of the time are less likely than those working only in the office to have face-to-face contacts to enable more personal interchange as, all too often when working remotely, interactions with colleagues and managers centre simply on process and objectives. An employer should provide an appropriate number of “hot desks” or a similar arrangement at its premises for homeworkers to work in the office. Depending on the size of the business and number of homeworkers, the sharing of these desks may need administering to ensure homeworkers have space to work when they do come in, and this could be an extra responsibility and cost. An option could be software to facilitate employees booking a desk before coming into the office. 26
  27. 27. Trust and communication Supervising homeworkers can be more difficult than overseeing staff in the office. Managers and homeworkers are likely to have to work harder to build mutual trust and it can take more effort for managers and their colleagues to communicate with homeworkers. A lack of trust has been found to be the greatest barrier to achieving successful homeworking. This can be a challenge for managers who prefer to have employees in sight and supervise face-to-face so they can actually see if employees are having difficulties, working too much or not enough. Some managers may question whether staff who cannot be seen are committed and productive and at present this is very much a subjective approach. A Work Foundation survey found that over a fifth of managers still believed those working away from the office were less productive. [Productivity, Technology and Working Anywhere, Jan 2018] Concerns of this nature can be legitimate and may need investigating, but managers with an entrenched scepticism of this kind can be a challenge to constructive business change. Professor Cary Cooper argues that the reason most employers are not in favour of employees’ working from home is because they do not trust the workforce: “They will never say that, but that is what it is about. Managers want people in the office because they want to see their little empires there in front of them. It’s totally about trust and the incompetence of managers who don’t know how to manage people remotely.” [Wellbeing News, May 2014] A matter of trust For remote working to stand any chance of success, there should be a healthy relationship of trust and confidence between homeworker and manager. If the remote worker is trusted, this takes much stress out of their lives – so people can carry out family responsibilities or activities, knowing that it is not a problem if they have done their work earlier or will work in the evening. A good relationship will also leave room for reasonable mistakes to be made and learnt from, without jeopardising the whole remote working arrangement. When trust is strong, this can in turn inspire high levels of commitment and hence become associated with more supportive attitudes and behaviour with positive benefits. For trust to be built on both sides, there must be a clear understanding with the line manager over when the employee will work and be contactable. The homeworkers will need to communicate clearly, letting their line managers, colleagues and clients know when they will be available and when they will not. Communication This can be another challenging area, as research has found that office-based managers tend to communicate more frequently with office-based staff than home-based staff. Office-based managers can normally talk face-to-face to staff in the office, but only on the phone to those based at home and in a very busy work environment this can often mean the latter being pushed down the priority list for communications that need to be made verbally. 27
  28. 28. Home environment Remote workers need a safe and reasonable space, security and privacy in which to work, and for office-type tasks an internet connection able to support work systems. The employer should say how frequently and in what circumstances it would require access to the home. For example: Initial set-up. Maintenance of equipment. Health and safety assessment. The employer should set out how staff working from home should store and transmit documents and information. Responsibilities Usually, it is the responsibility of the employee to check if they will have to pay business rates for working at home. However, in organisations where staff working from home is a fundamental part of the business model, it would be advisable for the employer to help steer employees through this process. Although current European Union (EU) legislation on general data protection does not apply to businesses in relation to its home workers, it is possible that the EU will extend its reach into this area and countries within the EU or trading with it could be required to adhere to any new rules. Indicators include: If an employee is using a study at home as an office for work, but the room is still used as a study the rest of the time, it is unlikely they will have to pay business rates. It would be the same if the dining room doubled as an office. However, if the employee sets aside a room for work and does not also use it as living space or has adapted or structurally altered part of the home for work, they could be liable. The extent of use of the room or rooms, how often they are used, and whether the space is used by other staff or the public can also be factors. The employee should check that there isn’t anything preventing them from working at home, for example in their mortgage agreement, lease or insurance. Training Training is vital for employees as a means of improving their abilities and communication skills, to help group cohesion and to strengthen company loyalty. The communication and group cohesion elements are particularly important for remote workers. Equipment If technology is needed, it can be just as easy and cost-effective for the employer to install it at the employee’s home, meaning homeworking may be an option. If it turns out to be more expensive, and/or would mean the duplication of equipment already at the organisation’s premises, the employer could assess whether homeworking is beneficial overall. [ACAS, Homeworking – A Guide for Employers and Employees, 2014] 28
  29. 29. The employer’s support system should include how staff working from home can: Reach their manager if they need to in an emergency. Get support from colleagues who cannot see that they need help. Considerations will include: Staff working from home in office- related roles are likely to need a desk, chair, computer, broadband, phone and storage for any materials. Depending on their role and how frequently they work from home, they may also need a printer, a shredder for confidential documents, a lockable cabinet for confidential documents and other specialist equipment. The employer and employee might agree that the employer should supply these. Or the employee might already have all, or some, of them which are suitable for business use, and they may come to an agreement. Other set-up costs could include the health and safety risk assessment of the place of work in the home, any planning permission to work from home and any reasonable adjustments for disabled staff working from home. The employer should set out: What the company will provide (see non-exhaustive list elsewhere on this page). What the employee is expected to provide. For example, heating and lighting. Who will pay for any installation and other necessary costs and, if required and agreed, how costs can be claimed back. Who the equipment belongs to, who is responsible for maintaining/moving it and how this will be done, and whether it can, be used for personal matters by the homeworker or their family. Whether it is advisable for an employer to give a homeworker adequate facilities so they can follow the same rules for storing and transmitting information at home as they would in the office. Homeworkers also need to be aware of security data confidentiality requirements. Many employers will have policies about information management and data protection which should be considered in developing remote working policies. 29
  30. 30. Review Staff who work from home need to be clear on how they will be managed and how their appraisal process will be conducted. It is best to agree in advance when and where manager and homeworker will meet to review performance, which should include health and stress assessments. It would normally be sensible to carry out a review of the employee’s remote working arrangements after an agreed period, likely to be three or six months from the initial rollout. This would be an opportunity to assess if the arrangement is working for both parties and whether additional support is needed. It may help if staff who work from home keep a record of the time they spend working and on what, similar to what many office workers do in filling out their time sheets, so that they can review progress on work when they meet up face-to-face with their line manager. It is also advisable for a line manager to monitor homeworkers to make sure they do not over-work. Some staff who work from home can feel the need to work too hard as justification for working from home. A manager who recognises that a homeworker is over-working should have an informal conversation as a first step towards reminding the employee of the need to take breaks and not work excessive hours. Reviews should be organised at set dates. This could be three to six months’ time. Mental health provisions Physical and mental health can often overlap, but mental health can be more difficult for a manager to assess, especially if the employees spend most of the time working remotely. However, several steps can be taken. First, it is important to recognise that many managers are uncomfortable in dealing with mental health problems, as they feel out of their depth and do not know what to do, so it can be easier to ignore problems. Larger firms should provide managers with training sessions on how to identify and respond to mental health issues. This would have the further advantage of being helpful in dealing with all employees, whether in the office or working remotely. Smaller employers, contacts and combating isolation This begs the question about the role of smaller companies, which cannot afford such training and will need to rely on closer personal knowledge and understanding of their staff. Second, as set out earlier, employers should make a point of having agreed times of contacts with remote workers along with regular meetings. Third, measures can also be adopted to reduce feelings of isolation by making concerted efforts to include remote workers in group emails, involving them (remotely or in person) in team meetings and inviting them to social events and parties, to boost morale and foster a sense of camaraderie. 30
  31. 31. The Farmer/Stevenson Review The Farmer/Stevenson Review 2017 recommended that all employers, regardless of workplace type, industry or size adopt the mental health core standards, most of which can be implemented at little or no cost. This will ensure ‘breadth’ of change across the UK workforce and lay the foundations for going further and can be delivered proportionately depending on the size and type of business. The mental health core standards should provide a framework for workplace mental health and have been designed in a way that they can be tailored to suit a variety of workplaces and be implemented by even the smallest employers. They state that all employers can and should: Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan. Develop mental health awareness among employees. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling. Provide employees with good working conditions. Promote effective people management. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing. The report also outlined a series of more ambitious ‘enhanced’ standards for employers who can and should do more to lead the way, building on the mental health core standards: Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting. Demonstrate accountability. Improve the disclosure process. Ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help. Other recommendations The review also recommended that the Health and Safety Executive revise its guidance to raise employer awareness of their duty to assess and manage work-related mental ill-health. As part of this approach, the employer should advise on access to counselling services and support groups. Those organisations with a good track record of wellbeing provision go out of their way to offer their remote workers additional support services such as occupational health or rehabilitation. Cognitive behavioural therapy can be very helpful. It focuses on the examination of the thoughts and beliefs that impact upon the individual’s mental health. It helps to overcome those feelings that lead to a negative alteration in behaviour and enables the individual to overcome problems like depression, anger, phobias and chronic pain. 31
  32. 32. Productivity and remote working The issue of whether remote working increases productivity or not is the subject of debate and conjecture, because there is no clear evidence either way. Measuring productivity among home workers is extraordinarily difficult. The Work Foundation found that assessing the impact of technology on performance was problematic because many organisations did not appear to measure productivity. In the survey of managers conducted for this research just under half (49%) said their company did so. This is in part because productivity measures are not seen as relevant to businesses or indeed easy to measure. [Productivity, Technology and Working Anywhere, January 2018] The definition of productivity Productivity is defined as the value of goods and services businesses supply (i.e. outputs) relative to the amount of time and/or resources used to produce them (i.e. inputs). Traditionally this is something that would be easier to measure in the manufacturing sector, which is more likely to produce physical outputs and products through the production process. Measuring productivity in professional and business services and creative industries – a growing proportion of the UK economy – is much more difficult. What motivates most businesses, in contrast to productivity, is creating a large and sustainable operating surplus or more specifically generating profit. That is the revenue from output minus the input costs involved in producing that output (e.g. staff salaries and capital costs) Productivity and profitability are not the same thing and an additional assessment of productivity provides more of a general guide to business’ levels of operating efficiency. The research into productivity to date has come up with conflicting results. A direct link In the Work Foundation paper above, over two thirds of respondents saw a direct link between their productivity and the technology available to them, but this seems to have been of little benefit, as a similar proportion said that their productivity had not increased in the last three years. 32
  33. 33. A YouGov survey of British businesses and employees found that 81% considered flexible working to be a key motivator in their productivity. 81% of remote workers said that: “Remote working would encourage them to increase their productivity levels” [Emma De Vita, Financial Times, June 2018] 33
  34. 34. A study of homeworking among ACAS staff concluded that performance was slightly higher for partial homeworkers and mobile workers. [Beauregard et al. 2013] However, the CIPD has warned in its Megatrends Flexible Working paper that there are at least three problems in trying to assess this kind of evidence: Most importantly, workers do not pick jobs (or job arrangements or job locations) at random. They tend to choose arrangements that suit them and those are often the ones that make them more productive. Second, studies look at the impact on performance of current duties. It is much harder to test rigorously for the productivity impact on employee creativity or innovation. Third, how these workers are managed is very important: a study of firms in four countries – France, Germany, USA and UK – found no association between various work-life balance practices and productivity once management quality was taken into account. [Bloom et al 2011] Increased productivity? The fact that those doing remote working claim that it increases their productivity invites the response “They would, wouldn’t they?” as it is in their own interests to make this claim. Productivity has been largely flat in the UK over the last ten years and the argument that home working productivity is somehow different looks very tenuous. 34
  35. 35. As the CIPD concluded: “The issue is likely to continue being the subject of debate and conjecture, but it is unlikely that the UK’s productivity woes can be laid at the door of too much – or too little – flexible working.” Given this complexity, some suggest that wider measures, other than productivity, should be used to create a more complete picture and look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques. This case may be a strong one but is beyond the remit of this White Paper and would require in-depth research and analysis to substantiate it. 3535
  36. 36. The self-employed The number of self-employed workers now accounts for around 15% of the working population in the UK. The ONS has calculated that the actual number of self-employed, full-time and part-time, has risen dramatically since 1998, from 3.3 million to 4.9 million as shown in the table below: [July 2019] This increase in all types of self-employment stands at 44%, more than double the increase in employee numbers during the period overall. Clearly this is a major change in the labour market, and it shows no sign of levelling out. Indeed, employers are making increased use of the self-employed, as there are fewer financial costs (particularly in terms of employer national insurance and pension contributions). Men or women? Although the self-employed are disproportionately male and aged over 45, an increasing proportion are women. The number of females in part-time self-employment increased from 439,000 to 812,000 in the fifteen years to 2016 and the number of females in full-time employment increased from 433,000 to 732,000 over the same period. 65+ An ageing population has also played an increasing role since older people are more likely to attempt self-employment. This is confirmed by the figures. The increase in self-employment among those aged 65+ was from 159,000 to 469,000 between 2001 and 2016, although it should be noted that this group is still less than 10% of the total self-employed. Encouraging new businesses Regulation in the UK aims to encourage the setting up of new businesses. There are probably more opportunities for self-employment than a decade ago, to a large extent thanks to the new technology which allows remote working. According to the ONS two-thirds of the self-employed now work from home. All the evidence suggests there is a very large pool of people in the UK favourably inclined towards self-employment which is growing and will continue to grow. All this has some important implications for employers. This is because of the large number of the self-employed working for businesses. There are sensible reasons for this – the self-employed are flexible, easy to use or stop using, require no employer national insurance or pension contributions and receive no holiday pay. New technology is making it easier to create more space for using sole traders and micro-businesses. Own-account traders and freelancers have been long-standing features of some labour markets, and firms have always used them. Over a quarter (26.3%) of UK organisations rely on freelancers to complete core business tasks and even more (44.9%) frequently use independent workers for short-term assignments. [SD Worx, June 2018] Full-time self-employed Part-time self-employed September/October 1998 2.6m 0.7m 2018 3.4m 1.5m 36
  37. 37. Government concern There has been increasing concern within the government about the grey area between being an employee and being self-employed when the work arrangements are similar. An increasing number of self-employed workers have been circumventing this problem by incorporating as companies, instead of practising as sole traders. The significant distinction is that revenue, costs and profits of the company are taxed differently from the earnings as individuals. This also means that the pressures are similar, too. About 60% of the self-employed believe they have to work extra time to get things done, and about half believe that they work very hard and are under a great deal of tension. [More Selfies, A Picture of Self-Employment in the UK, CIPD, January 2018] Health needs Companies are inclined to ignore the health needs of the self-employed who work for them on the grounds that they are not employees and they are not responsible for them. On the face of it, this may not seem unreasonable, but responsible managers will take a different view towards those involved, particularly in core business tasks, and have some concern for their welfare, ensuring regular contacts and meetings. The increasing number of self-employed makes this a matter of growing significance over time and some self-employed face similar difficulties to remote workers over stress and mental health. If companies do not behave with some sense of responsibility, there may be public and government pressure to do so. People with disabilities Several of the self-employed consist of those with physical disabilities. Working at home is an obvious and popular choice for many people with a disability. Thanks to the shift towards flexible and remote working, individuals living with varying degrees of disability are now able to maintain their independence, earning an income while working from the comfort of home. It can be much simpler to work at home than to deal with whatever limitations that disability may cause in the office and travelling to and from home. For many disabled individuals it can be tormenting to try to meet the requirements of a traditional, office-bound job. Scope UK and the International Labour Organisation According to disability charity Scope UK, there are 13 million disabled people in the UK. As might be expected, the economic inactivity rate of those with disabilities was 43.8% whilst the corresponding rate for those without disabilities was 15.6%. [House of Commons Research Briefing, May 2019] The International Labour Organisation has called for non-discrimination of people with disabilities to be integrated in Corporate Social Responsibility strategies of all enterprises, including multinationals. Society has a moral obligation to consider their need to work and earn an income where possible, and remote working is seen by disabled people as a game-changer. 37
  38. 38. Summary of recommendations Remote working is likely to continue to increase. As such it is likely to change the workplace dynamic. Remote working can provide the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands. Therefore, it may be a key to attracting and retaining talent. Where people are engaged in remote working and had the appropriate technology to do their work at home it did reduce turnover intentions. Overall remote working was linked to positive wellbeing. Remote working overall did not impact levels of stress nor productivity. But there were individual differences that could be considered. For example, if you have high rumination then remote working may be bad for your wellbeing, whereas people high on openness may adapt well (increased positive affect) to remote working. Where remote working is a standard part of a working week it is important to ensure that employees have the technology and opportunity to do their work as if they were in the office. For example, if it not possible to access some information remotely then it could hinder an employee’s ability to do their job. Where remote working is a standard part of a working week it is important for employers to offer training on how to manage the unique demands of remote working, while getting the benefits. For example, if remote working is done at home, to ensure separation of work and home life – so that home is not seen as a place of demand and less of restoration. Overall, remote working is positive on wellbeing. Where we do see negative effects these are largely the result of factors that can be addressed organisationally (e.g., ensuring appropriate technology to enable seamless access to work material). Recommendations for Employers 1 | Remote working should not be seen as an easy option. Whatever the advantages and disadvantages, it requires considerable management, time and effort to make it work successfully. 2 | Mental health wellbeing needs to be seen by employers as a vital part of their responsibilities. Employers need to consider the impact working remotely can have on an employee’s mental health. 3 | A “one size fits all” approach should never be taken when it comes to remote working. Employers need to identify those who would work well remotely and never pressurise employees to go down the remote working route. Considerations should include, those who enjoy working independently, self- disciplined and self-motivated, resilient and able to separate work from home life. 4 | There must be agreement on key issues such as: The work to be done and whether it is suitable for remote working Agreed working hours (limiting stress and maintaining a work/life balance) The number of days doing remote working and being in the office. No obvious perfect ratio of remote working/ non-remote working. There is some evidence that 2–2.5 days remote working a week provides a good balance for staff to work flexibly while also remaining connected to the physical workplace. Approximately 2.5 days away from the office may be advisable, particularly in the beginning The availability of desks, equipment and relevant team members in the office when the remote worker is present. 38
  39. 39. Contact Nuffield Health www.nuffieldhealth.com/corporate-wellbeing corporate@nuffieldhealth.com 5 | Trust between the manager and the employee is vital for remote working. This can be a challenge for managers, who may prefer to see their employees in plain sight, and has been found to be a great barrier to achieving successful homeworking. Trust also implies a degree of autonomy for the home worker, which is one of the main attractions of Remote Working and its absence can undermine the whole arrangement. For remote working to succeed for both sides, there must be regular communication with the manager and wider team, with agreement as to when the employee can be contactable, face-to-face office meetings and arrangements for the manager or employee to call each other in an emergency. 6 | Assuming the remote worker is based mainly at home, or using it as a base, it must be established whether the employee has suitable space. Considerations around security and privacy of the work need to be made. Staff working at home are likely to need a desk, chair, computer, broadband, phone and storage for any sensitive materials. The manager, or relevant team, should agree in what circumstances to visit the home for the initial set-up, to check the equipment and do a health and safety assessment, and to return again if this were to be judged necessary. 7 | As managers in medium or large-sized companies may find it difficult to assess employees’ health and wellbeing when the latter are working remotely, a number of steps should be taken: Agreeing role and responsibility Onboarding Ongoing regular communication Agreed office attendance Trust Appraisals. Feelings of isolation can be reduced by making concerted efforts to include remote workers in group events. More generally, the Farmer/Stevenson review of mental health and employers (Thriving at Work, October 2017) has set out mental health core standards to be adopted and delivered proportionally depending on the size and type of business. 8 | There are huge difficulties in assessing the productivity of remote workers and no firm or satisfactory methods or conclusions can be drawn from the evidence available. National productivity growth is low and half of all employers do not even bother to assess it. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has rightly identified the main problems of relating home working to productivity. Looking beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques may be the right way forward. 39
  40. 40. Nuffield Health Registered Office: Epsom Gateway, Ashley Avenue, Epsom, Surrey, KT18 5AL. A registered Charity No 205533 (England and Wales), a Charity Registered No SCO41793 and a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England Company No 00576970. All our hospitals in England, and those clinics delivering regulated activities, are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Our hospital in Glasgow is registered with Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) and our hospital and clinic in Cardiff are registered with Healthcare Inspectorate Wales.

An insightful report providing information on remote working, specific issues affecting productivity, stress and wellbeing. Offers a rich mix of data and recommendations based on feedback and surveys

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