Is homeworking becoming the ‘new normal’ or are we gradually reverting to a more business-based pattern of work? In truth, the answer to that will most likely vary considerably over the next six months as local and national lockdowns play their part in our ability to attend our workplaces.
Rolling lockdowns aside, a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has revealed that 37% of employers believe that their people are looking towards full or partial homeworking following the Covid-19 pandemic, up from 18% at the beginning of this year. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that the ONS reported that in the week ending 13th September 20% of adults worked exclusively from home whilst a further 12% split their time between the office and homeworking. The main reasons for homeworking were given as responding to employer request, individuals who normally worked from home, and those who were following government advice to stay at home.
If this pattern continues, employers may need to revise and adapt their systems in order to optimise the ability of their people to work away from the office. It would also be advisable to take a fresh look at business continuity planning to ensure that it takes account of home working.
For example, business continuity plans which have been drawn up to take account of adverse weather or other conditions which prevent access to the office may well include telephony solutions such as flexible call answering via a virtual switchboard or moving people to an alternate site. On the face of it people working from home are already at an alternative site. But what happens when their own homes are affected? Do you move your people back into the office or do you look for alternate work sites near to their homes; perhaps allocating space in a business hub or making arrangements for them to work from a friend or neighbour’s home?
Either way, steps may need to be taken to improve telephone and computer security alongside access to company phone systems. One option here may be to consider the use of VoIP in conjunction with a mobile app but that may not work for every individual. That’s why it’s important to review options now before local lockdowns coincide with winter storms, potentially making it difficult for your people to carry on their work to the best of their ability.
When you are reviewing your business continuity plans, take time to include facilities such as call conferencing and telephone hunt groups. Call conferencing can help to ensure that your people can play a full part in decision-making as well as feeling that they are still part of the team. Telephone hunt groups will help to ensure that incoming calls are answered as swiftly as possible, helping clients, suppliers and others to remain in contact with the business.
Finally, take care to ensure that people are able to flexibly access business systems and telephony options. People working from home, particularly those with caring responsibilities, may need to undertake some work outside the core hours of the business. Businesses which have been used to switching off phones or other systems at night perhaps for security or other reasons will have to decide how to balance the needs of home-workers against overall security considerations and plan accordingly.