Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic

Managing working from home

To keep working from home as healthy and productive as possible, it's important to have trust and confidence between employers and employees.

Working from home and caring responsibilities

During this time, many employees will be under a lot of stress juggling caring responsibilities with work. Employers should be sensitive and flexible towards individual situations. 

It’s important for employers and employees to be proactive in having regular conversations and getting support in place where necessary. 

In some circumstances, it might be helpful to agree to a temporary working arrangement that’s more flexible around the employee’s caring responsibilities. Ways to do this might include:

  • working different hours or patterns
  • reducing work targets for an agreed period of time
  • flexible deadlines, where possible
  • time off for caring responsibilities, for example attending appointments

Managers and employees should agree together:

  • whether to make any changes
  • how long any changes will last
  • when the changes will be reviewed

The agreement should be put in writing.

If an employee wants a permanent change, they might be able to make a formal flexible working request.

Managing performance

Employees can be just as productive, or even more so, working from home.

Others might find it hard to:

  • motivate and organise themselves
  • separate their work and home lives
  • manage their time

It’s important to establish a level of trust and for everyone to be clear on what is expected. This can help improve performance and reduce stress and anxiety.

Managers who have previously assessed performance by what they see their staff doing in person will need to change how they manage employees working from home.

Employers and managers should talk with employees to agree on:

  • how to manage and measure performance
  • clear objectives 
  • learning and development that can be done remotely

Employers should be flexible and sensitive to individual circumstances.

Monitoring at work

Employers might find it more difficult to manage employees while they are working from home. For example, they might have concerns around performance if they cannot see the employee working in person.
 
Employers might monitor employees’ activities at work in various ways, but it's also important to trust employees to do their job.
 
If monitoring is too much or does not respect the employee's privacy, it can damage employees’ trust in the employer, cause stress and reduce productivity.
 
Employers should also remember that employees are entitled to some privacy at work, including when they are working from home.

Ways of monitoring might include:

  • looking at use of email
  • checking website visits
  • recording or listening to phone calls

Any monitoring arrangements must follow data protection law.

Employers should carry out an ‘impact assessment’ to decide if and how to carry out monitoring. This involves:

  • clearly setting out the reasons for monitoring and the likely benefits
  • identifying any negative effects the monitoring might have on employees
  • looking at other options to monitoring or different ways to carry it out
  • understanding the law around monitoring, for example, how information will be collected and used
  • considering all of the above, deciding whether there is a valid reason for carrying out monitoring

Employers should consult with employees and any representatives before introducing any form of monitoring. There should also be a clear written policy and procedure in place.
 
Employers must tell employees about any monitoring arrangements and the reason for it, except in extremely limited circumstances, for example, because they suspect criminal activity.
 
Find out more about monitoring at work from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Remote bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment can still happen when employees are working from home. For example, on social media, in emails, phone calls or online chat tools.

Examples of bullying and harassment that can happen remotely include:

  • putting someone down in meetings
  • spreading false rumours
  • revealing sensitive personal information
  • inappropriately stopping someone from coming to meetings or activities
  • putting humiliating, offensive or threatening comments or photos on social media

Employers should include guidance on use of different communication methods, including social media, in bullying or disciplinary policies. This should clearly set out what behaviour is unacceptable.

Find out more about bullying and harassment.

Resolving problems while working at home

If there’s a problem at work, it's usually better to try and resolve it informally first.

If this is not possible, formal discipline and grievance procedures still apply while people are working from home because of coronavirus.

The circumstances of those involved in a disciplinary or grievance procedure may be affected by the pandemic so employers need to consider how to proceed in a fair and reasonable way. They should do this by talking with those involved in the procedure.

Find out more about disciplinary and grievance procedures during coronavirus.

Training for managers

Acas provides training on managing people working from home. Our courses are currently held on video meetings.

Book training on how to manage homeworkers.