The Increasingly Blurred Line Between Home And Work
There was a time when there was a clear dividing line between your work and home life. You’d go to work, do your job, come home at the end of the day and your home life would begin. The two parts of your life were entirely separate and, apart for the occasional work event where spouses and ‘other-halves’ might be invited, never the twain should meet.
However, if you are under 50 years of age, it’s unlikely that you ever experienced such a complete disconnect between your work and home life. Technology has gradually blurred the lines with an increase in pagers in the 1980s, mobile phone usage in the 1990s, the Blackberry in the early 2000s and smart phones in the years that followed. As a result, we have become increasingly contactable “outside” of work be it by phone, email, text, or a wide array of messaging Apps, whenever, and wherever we might be.
If you then scroll forward to the 2020s, “working from home” all, or some, of the time has rapidly become normal for many and, even though there seems an increasing shift towards a return to the office now that the pandemic is seemingly abating, the result is that work and home are now the same place for many, with the line between the two largely erased.
Of course, there are the sensible among us that still manage to switch off from work, both literally and metaphorically, when we finish for the day. However, for employers, the disappearing boundary between home and work can create previously unconsidered issues.
Take, for instance, the situation a client recently found themselves with. As almost one in five people met their current partner at or through work, it is not particularly rare for people to be in a relationship with someone who works in the same industry. Nonetheless, our client had concerns about confidentiality and conflict of interest because an employee who works from home does so alongside his wife who works for its biggest rival.
How could they ensure that the employee’s spouse wouldn’t see commercially sensitive emails or documents? What if the employee accidentally let valuable information slip? Could they make their employee and his wife work in a different room, perhaps, or insist that one of them worked else?
This was a situation our client had never had to consider before and they were genuinely concerned about how to address it. So, K Bater Consultancy helped update their company policies and procedures to ensure they clearly applied wherever an employees did their work. This included a revised Code of Conduct, which covers how employees are expected to conduct themselves, and policies relating to specific areas of concern such as Data Protection, the treatment of confidential information, and computer and IT usage. As employer’s have a duty of care for staff wherever they work, we also ensured their Health and Safety policy and procedures were updated adapted so that they applied to the new situation they, and many other companies, now find themselves in.
However, as good as a company’s policies and procedures might be at setting out the rules, businesses need to ensure they continue engaging with staff to address concerns, much as they would if the employee were physically present in the office. So, a discussion was had with the employee about their home working situation and the company’s concerns, and they were reminded of the importance of maintaining some separation between work and home life, even if the two have become increasingly interwoven.
Fortunately, in this and most instances, employees are capable of being as professional when working from home as they are when in the office, and the company’s fears were soon allayed. It just requires everyone to understand the different challenges remote working can pose, and a new type of trust that trade secrets won’t be shared over tea and biscuits.
About K Bater Consultancy
K Bater Consultancy provides human resource support, advice, and solutions to small and medium sized businesses across the UK.
Its founder and principal, Kelly Bater, has more than 20 years’ experience advising and supporting small and medium sized businesses with all aspects of human resource management, is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and has a Post Graduate Diploma in HR Management.
To find out more about how K Bater Consultancy can help your business, contact Kelly today on 07500 939255 or via email at email@example.com