Rights and Responsibilities
‘’if smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go.’’ – Mark Twain
An interesting morsel of news which caught the eye last week from the UK, where Hammersmith and Fulham Council in London said it was OK for their employees to smoke at work if they were working from home.
In my 28 years’ experience of running my own business, I’ve never been one to deny an employee a cigarette break, otherwise nerves can get a little frayed.
However, like the very tastiest of news morsels, the story brought to mind a lot of interesting questions about the legalities of working from home. Is it ok to work in your underwear? Are you allowed to work from your cosy bed? To what extent can employers keep an eye on their employees at home? Can the boss keep a video call open all day to keep in constant touch with their underlings?
Even more importantly, to what extent are employers obliged to provide a good working environment for their workers, and does this extend to providing desks, computers, screens, chairs, broadband and covering electricity bills?
No doubt there are many legal eagles flicking furiously through voluminous books of case law and employment legislation at this very moment.
In the office/real world, employers are indeed required to provide their employees with a suitable working environment and suitable tools and equipment to do their jobs. Therefore, it would be no surprise to see a flurry of cases in the years to come regarding compensation and judgements on working from home which could pose a headache for both employees and workers.
It would be a great shame to see a ‘race for the bottom’ approach when it comes to home working, be it in terms of employers’ responsibilities or employees’ rights.
The situation requires good leadership and good foresight, and a company’s objective should be to try and balance maximising productivity, keeping costs low and keeping their employees engaged and satisfied.
For employees, it is important to enjoy the benefits of working from home and realise that time doesn’t stand still. Careers keep progressing regardless of where you work, and there are still opportunities to improve, learn and get ahead.
Looking back to the UK, the latest news is that the number of pending employment law cases has rocketed to 39,000, and rising. Back at home, we’ve all heard the stories of people being forced to work from their own computers, using their own printers, poor broadband etc.
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago on the importance of leadership in these times of change and crisis. Leaders in companies do need to realise that happy workers are productive workers, and that they need the right tools to do their job.
As the great industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, once said, “There is little success where there is little laughter.”