Working from home support – 3 essentials to ask from your employer
Updated: Feb 5
It can be hard approaching employers to talk about our needs, especially if there are costs involved. But here is why you can't afford not to.
When you started working from home, did you feel supported by your employer?
Did you both carry out an assessment beforehand and discuss any new expectations?
Or did it go something like, 'let's just get the ball rolling and we'll discuss how it's working later?'
If the latter is more your scenario, you are not alone. Shortly after lockdown in the UK in April, Utility Bidder surveyed 1,000 people.
“Employers do have a responsibility to look after their employees whether working in the office or at home” ACAS
They found that 45% of respondents did not feel supported in general by their employers.
The workplace advisor ACAS says: "Employers do have a responsibility to look after their employees whether working in the office or at home".
But they also say: "Employers and employees should be practical, flexible and sensitive to each other's situation when working from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic."
Note, that it says employees too. And this is true whether we are in a global pandemic or not. Employees have as much responsibility as their employer to speak up for their own needs.
We can't expect our bosses to pre-empt every likely scenario, and if they did, they would probably get it wrong.
We need to actively ask for help, not only when we are struggling but often simply when we can see a more effective way of doing things.
By speaking up we stand to benefit not only ourselves, but the rest of the team too.
Here are three essentials to ask from your employer for effective working from home support:
1. Ask for help to create a productive work space
Get a desk! This is your number one priority. If you are finding yourself making do hunched on the sofa or the bed, you need to stop right away. Working at a desk, in a dedicated work space that you create, is a powerful driver for productivity. Employers need focused and engaged workers so they need to help you achieve this.
Some of us live in very small spaces already. So to try and create a separate office is a challenge. But you can work with your boss to find a creative solution. NEXT DESK's complete home office solution is a great place to start.
No employer wants their staff drifting around the house with a lap top. This leads to too many distractions, decreased motivation and productivity.
Has your employer got your back?
Even after a thorough discussion with your boss, there may be issues that neither of you foresee. Therefore a workplace assessment is a good idea. CIPD have a free assessment and it is a great starting place to get into the details.
What are your needs? How can things change? This is not just limited to making purchases on your behalf, but could be changes to working hours, methods of communication, team restructuring etc.
Working from home to support you physically
To keep unexpected aches and pains at bay, a DSE (Display Screen Equipment) check is a good idea. Suddenly changing to different working surfaces at home, at different heights and angles will be a shock for your body.
The Health and Safety Executive website has a free assessment template to download with great advice. Plus this helpful video below:
There may be issues with your health that persist despite working through the guidelines. This is when your employer will have to call in a professional DSE assessor, such as Backworld. A thorough assessment of your home working set up will take away all the guess work. They give you personal solutions that are guaranteed to keep you healthy and pain free.
Don't forget to schedule in regular catch-ups with your employer to discuss your home working arrangements. Your health and well-being is a priority. ND
2. Ask for help to create boundaries
In home working conversations, boundaries are mentioned again and again. This is because they are essential. And if not respected, can have a negative effect on your mental health.
Creating your dedicated work space is the first step. But your work hours and routine in the office are unlikely to work as well at home. So a conversation with your employer about how you can meet your objectives with some flexibility is very important.
The employee engagement platform 'Achievers' writes:
“Once you start to blur the lines of working areas that’s when you run the risk of putting work life balance in jeopardy.”
Once you and your employer agree on a flexible working arrangement you are both happy with, you can then inform your household of your boundaries.
A Eurofound report found that blurring the boundaries and placing work in a non work environment was leading to higher employee stress and burn out. It also found that workers at home typically work more hours than their office counterparts.
Scheduling time with your employer to discuss what times you will be unavailable for calls or emails, will stop those extra hours creeping in.
Make sure to put any new arrangements in writing so that everyone is clear on their responsibilities. Assess how you can make sure that you are both held accountable.
The goal is to relieve you of any feelings of guilt. You should be able to walk away from your work at the end of the day and enjoy your home like always.
Your mental boundaries are in place, but you also need to fiercely protect your physical work space.
Your home working station must be yours alone, and this includes all the equipment contained within it.
Easy in theory, but hard in practice. Especially with children. They always need your printer paper for colouring, or your flat mate just needs to borrow your charger for a second. But your working space needs to put you into the office 'zone'. We all know how annoying it is to be in the flow of great work, only to find that someone has moved that thing you need. Distractions, and then frustrations build up quickly.
A few selfish rules to live by:
Do not share your working space with anyone else in your house
No one has permission to move or borrow anything from your space
Never share device chargers!
Do not let your space become a dumping ground for other people's stuff
Tell your household your working schedule and inform them you are unavailable for anything during those hours.
Good luck with that if you have children, but we can at least try!
3. Working from home financial support
Employers have an obligation to make sure you are well equipped to do your job at home, but how much they invest financially is up to them. If you are incurring any costs always let your employer know.
The government website GOV.UK provides a list of non-taxable costs for employers providing home working equipment:
Mobile Phones and SIM card, one per employee.
Broadband - providing the employee does not currently have their own connection.
Laptops, tablets, computers and office supplies – providing employees use them only for business.
Reimbursing employee’s expenses for office equipment they have bought – employees must check with employers beforehand. There must be no personal use.
Additional expenses such as heating, electricity or broadband
The common thread here:
All equipment must be for business purposes only, and it must be deemed essential for you to be able to do your job.
Setting up home working is an added expense for an employer during a pandemic. But some companies may take into consideration the significant reduction in their overheads and be willing to pass the savings on.
Transfer of ownership
When discussing working from home purchases with your employer, make sure you are clear on who ultimately owns anything you buy. Find out too who the tax burden falls on.
If ownership remains with your employer you may have to give items back when you leave employment.
If you are expecting your employer to reimburse the costs of any purchases, always check with them first before buying anything too expensive!
Plus always provide receipts.
Claim the minimum allowance you are entitled to:
Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert explains that employers can also reimburse their employees up to £6 a week (non-taxable) and is for additional expenses they incur when working from home.
If you want to make purchases yourself and claim against tax, make sure that your purchases are on the government approved list first.
For employees to deduct tax it is more complex. The rules are very exacting and you have to be able to prove that any costs are totally unavoidable and that purchases were made in order for you to be able to do your job.
In the words of the government, ‘it must be necessarily incurred’.
Talking about your needs leads to creative solutions
For a company to thrive they need to encourage open and honest engagement from their employees. If you are feeling unsupported by your employer take a moment to think if you have actually opened up to them and explained explicitly that you are struggling.
A problem for one is usually a problem for many, and if there is a solution you can provide that will have a big impact on performance and growth you shouldn't keep that to yourself.
A proactive employee always looks good and it could help your prospects in the future!
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