· Features

Hot seat: Your work-from-home policy must address the drawbacks

Flexible, remote and hybrid working has been high on the agenda for most companies. Closing central city offices enables a cost saving as well as allowing for a much more agile workforce, which ultimately drives improved work/life balance.

Offering remote working can also open up your talent pool by giving you the ability to fish further afield, rather than close to an office location. It is a good engagement piece for the younger workforce and Gen Z colleagues too, as flexibility is a hot topic that is important to them too.

However not all industries are the same, and not all HR hot topics lend themselves to every sector.

The commercial vehicle industry in which eStar operates is predominantly site-based. Our workforce is made up of mostly of technicians who work with specific equipment, specialised tools and highly regulated working environments.

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We of course appreciate that there needs to be some degree of agility, so we try to offer different shift patterns to accommodate a better work/life balance in conjunction with our customers’ needs. We also introduced a raft of additional benefits last year, including additional annual leave and sick pay, mental health first aiders and discounted gym membership to support people.

With certain office-appropriate roles, we have introduced some flexibility to work from home.

Ultimately, with the roles that we can offer more flexibility with, we have tried to.

For those roles where remote work is impossible, we have made sure that our rewards, recognitions and benefits have been designed to provide the best possible levels of work/life balance. Colleagues telling us what they want to be rewarded with has been key.

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Many in our workforce understand that their role cannot be done from home, and that their hours cannot be amended too far out of the core shift pattern. They get it and understand they can’t fix trucks and vans on their driveways.

Office workers can have their own individual shift pattern or core working hours. While technicians can adjust their hours to a degree, we simply can’t operate with all technicians having their own individual working pattern – they need support, both physical and managerial.

We have a minimum of three on per shift, for example. We don’t like to do lone working here – health and safety is too important.

Some organisations put themselves under pressure to force a flexible working policy across the business that doesn’t suit colleagues. They may have challenging home circumstances, or struggle financially so keeping the heating on all day isn’t affordable.

For colleagues struggling with their mental health, being on their own isn’t ideal. Others can’t afford, or don’t have the space for a proper home-working setup.

When considering a remote work policy, HR should:

● Assess the workforce you have properly. Who is hybrid or flexible working possible for? Who is remote working possible for? And who has to be office- or site-based?

● Don’t try and shoehorn everyone into the same policy. It just won’t work. While you may be able to group job roles, individuals still need to be assessed for suitability.

● Don’t feel pressured. Just because a similar or competitor business is doing it, it doesn’t mean it will fit with your setup. Stand on your own judgement rather than feeling like you need to match someone else’s.

Our rewards, recognitions and benefits have been specifically designed to support colleagues with both physical and mental health and wellbeing in mind, which is a much better solution for most than a blanket remote working policy that can do more harm than good.

Kate Clay is HR director for eStar Truck and Van. She won HR Director of the Year at the HR Excellence Awards 2023

This article was first published in our January/February 2024 print edition. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.