'Winter of discontent' warning over home working

Scottish employers face a “winter of discontent” from home workers unless they act to provide better support in areas such as mental health, a human resources expert has warned.

Jane Watson of Prism HR warns that employers risk poorer productivity by not paying attention to the needs of remote workers.
Jane Watson of Prism HR warns that employers risk poorer productivity by not paying attention to the needs of remote workers.

Firms risk poorer productivity and performance as well as losing talent if staff forced to work remotely are not adequately supported.

Jane Watson of Prism HR, a newly launched arm of Scottish law firm Lindsays, said companies may also need to step up their communication with staff as they consider what future working arrangements may be.

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“We are no longer in a situation where businesses are firefighting a sudden lockdown and the way that staff working remotely are managed and supported must reflect that,” said Watson.

“New staff are particularly vulnerable, especially those who joined during lockdown. There is an unintentional danger that they feel they are in a sink or swim situation because colleagues who they would normally turn to for advice are not physically next to them.”

SMEs trying to navigate the challenges presented by coronavirus without the support of an in-house HR department may face particular challenges.

Watson said areas businesses need to address include providing proper supervision to ensure work is up to standard, with effective communications so staff feel supported and that time is well managed.

Policies and procedures around data protection and confidentiality need to be clear to reduce the risk of breaches and health and safety measures must ensure companies meet their duty of care, not just in ensuring staff have the proper equipment to work from home but that their mental wellbeing is being looked after.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all way of working for every person and company when it comes to home working. But if businesses don’t take action now to ensure staff at all levels are nurtured, supported and looked after they risk problems on so many levels,” Watson said.

“With the vast challenges all companies face right now it can be all too easy to be overtaken by events and to slip into a situation where employees feel ‘out of sight, out of mind’ when that is not the case.”

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