How to ensure performance does not slip when employees work from home

19 Sep 21 by Charlotte Ashton
Performance management

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant many employers have had to get used to home working where it might not have previously been an option. And, as April 2021 research by the CIPD states, 33% of employers agree homeworking boosts productivity – compared to 28% in June 2020.

Despite this way of working increasing – and more organisations launching hybrid working policies – there are still employers concerned about whether allowing staff to continue to operate in this way will result in productivity issues.

Charlotte Ashton, ESP Law’s senior solicitor, explores some of the ways businesses can ensure they maintain performance standards regardless of where colleagues are based...

1. Use of technology

Technology advances have facilitated many roles being carried out away from the office. Employers can harness digital solutions to ensure they maintain effective lines of communication with remote workers and can review productivity levels regularly. Noticing any issue early is key to resolving matters quickly and painlessly.

There are many apps and programmes aimed at project management, collaborative working, and efficiency which can help get the best from teams no matter where they are located. Video calls and online messaging can also be useful for managers to keep in touch with staff and care should be taken so that employees do not feel isolated when out of the office.

2. Clear contractual terms and policies

Employers who are considering implementing a hybrid working policy should include information about employees returning to the office if their performance is subject to any informal or formal performance management process. This sets out clear expectations for both parties – at the start of the arrangement – and can prevent disagreements.

Organisations should also be aware of any contractual issues of changing someone's place of work where they are contractually entitled to work from home. Careful drafting around any home working clauses should help avoid the argument that, by bringing someone back into the office, it is a breach of contract.

Employers should ensure that any application of the hybrid working policy, or requirement to return to the office full time, does not raise discrimination issues. Advice before insisting on a change to place of work will be necessary.

3. Clear job descriptions and performance objectives

Whether someone is in the office, working from home or in another remote setting, one of the key factors to maintaining performance standard is to ensure they understand their duties. A clear job description and performance objectives will ensure the employee knows what is expected of them.

Managers should ensure they spend time with all colleagues, not just those in the office, to regularly review how they are carrying out their role. If there are concerns about an individual’s performance this can be raised with the employee, and discussions can take place around how to improve.

4. Upskilling managers

All managers should be aware of how to carry out a performance management process and be confident in their ability to deal with employees regardless of location. It is a common issue that employers let performance issues build up until it reaches a point where they can no longer ignore it, and usually this is too late to effectively deal with a colleague – resulting in a very frustrating situation for all parties.

Companies may want to consider ensuring that managers have relevant training on how to tackle performance and manage their staff, to make sure problems are nipped in the bud. Many leaders may be used to being in a room of people – and have sight of how someone carries out their role – and so it may simply require a slight adjustment to working remotely. Training could therefore specifically include how to overcome any challenges that remote working poses.

Home and hybrid working is here to stay and can result in cost savings for employers, as long as they are able to adapt and not build up performance management problems. Keen to revisit your organisation’s policies or create bespoke letters to clearly explain your business’s remote working guidelines? Our Online HR Resources portal can help.


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Post by Charlotte Ashton

Senior Solicitor – Head of Immigration, ESP Law Ltd

Charlotte has over 10 years’ experience in all aspects of employment law, having qualified as a solicitor in 2009. She trained in-house with a large UK company, covering 45,000 employees, and moved to private practice on qualification. Charlotte enjoys helping growing companies understand their legal obligations and has given training and presentations to start up entrepreneurs, and business students, at a local University. Charlotte also specialises in business immigration law for the UK and has helped employers obtain sponsor licences in order to recruit from outside the UK.