IN THE UK there are 1.7 million employees working from home according to research from TUC. This is an increase of over 27% in the last decade and another 4 million stated that they would like to work from home if they were given the chance to.
Since your home becomes your office it then becomes argued that your employer should be paying (or at least partially paying) for things like broadband, heating and electricity.
This argument came to a head earlier this year when The Care Quality Commission found itself tangled in a dispute about paying for their at-home workers broadband. Currently, two-thirds of the agency staff work from home and it was announced that the company-paid broadband would be withdrawn at the end of March 2020, with the organisation offering a one-off “goodwill payment” of £230.
The rationale for this decision was that many households now install their own broadband so them paying for it has become redundant in an age where the technology is so common.
Previously a separate line was required, however in 2018, 92% of the colleagues already had personal broadband line. With many providers already offering unlimited broadband, there is no additional cost to the employees.
This was greatly disputed by the unions. They argued that CQC stopping providing broadband for home workers had caused great concern amongst the staff.
Despite these disputes, there are very few rules about what organisations should and shouldn’t pay for, for their employees who work from home.
Work Wise UK stated that the are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what employers should pay for and that the decision should come down to the individual organisation and agreement they have with the employee.
After all, someone who works from home full time is going to have very different needs to someone who is only out of the office once a week or even once a month. This can often come down to the size of the organisations if you employ five people rather than 500, the dynamics are very different.
Even if a company has previously encouraged working from home, some companies still actively prefer employees to come into the office.
In 2009, 40% of IBM employees in 173 countries were working remotely, which shaved $2bn off the cost of providing its own offices. This was the case until 2017 when IBM told thousands of US workers they would have to return to the workplace or risk losing their jobs. This was to improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work in their offices.
However, this requirement is still open to interpretation. Some companies will send out an assessor to examine the employees working conditions if they are working from home full time. This led to an occasion where a Swiss multinational paid to install an external fire escape on an employees home because they were working in an attic room that had been renovated into an office.
This is an extreme example as most companies will only make employees answer a questionnaire to confirm that they have the basic requirements for seating and desk space.
Recruitment site Glassdoor listed flight booking service, Skyscanner as the top employer for flexible working. Some other employers that actively encourage working from home include BT and Vodafone.
Roughly 1 in 10 BT workers are currently working remotely. Many employees receive a payment to create a suitable working space that includes an ergonomic chair, desk and laptop and, unsurprisingly, BT broadband.
Vodafone actively encourages remote working and employees who have been approved for flexible working are given a mobile device, laptop and accessories and a £250 one-off payment to help them create their workspace.
In 2018 2,000 people who work from home were polled and asked about the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. Around 54 per cent said they felt happier working from home than they did working in a traditional workplace and two-thirds found it less stressful overall.
Some of the advantages of working from home can include lower childcare and travel costs, the employee is in charge of their own workspace and a wider pool of applicants can be considered for jobs e.g. someone with disabilities wouldn’t have to struggle with the morning commute.
However, there can be some disadvantages to working from home. The primary problem is the amount of distractions there can be in the home between chores, daytime television, children or online shopping it can be easy for home employees to get distracted.
It can be difficult to monitor the employee’s performance or progress; the employee is less involved with the team which could make it harder to problem solve without others to ask for help. There is also likely to be an increased telecommunications cost.
One of the greatest arguments is there can be a lack of separation between work and personal life which can make it hard for employees to switch off after the workday is over, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety levels.
The biggest grey area is employees who aren’t working from home full time. Many companies can encourage flexible working, but this can sometimes just be giving the person a laptop, without making any further assessments. It is the role of the employer to assure that the employee is looked after, regardless of where the work is being completed.