Monthly Archives: May 2020

Home working – What arrangements and support needed to be provided to enable staff to work from home and to what extent will this continue in the future?

By a CCG Assistant Director and Head of Pharmacy & Medicines Optimisation

During the Covid-19 epidemic, some pharmacy staff (e.g. including all staff in this CCG) have moved to 100% working from home.
Staying in contact with staff and within teams can be done using software such as Microsoft teams, Zoom, Facetime or Webinar interfaces to enable meetings to be managed from home. These systems use similar interfaces to those we are familiar with seeing on our TVs on news, current affairs and comedy programmes. They enable people to speak in turn and for each member to have a video view of each participant, which gives us access to some body language of each participant. Most interfaces also enable documents to be shared.

Advantages of home working
There are a large number of social advantages for the worker and employer. Home working reduces time spent commuting, and money spent on cars, parking and fuel. Reduced use of fossil fuels is becoming essential as our world resource use outstrips regeneration.

Home working gives you time and space to concentrate and allows you to plan your day effectively in advance. It is especially useful where a job needs complete concentration, since it can reduce the interruptions and distractions found in a traditional office environment.

Issues with home working
The available IT infrastructure of the organisation needs to support the use of the technology. Some computers may need additional capabilities such as extended memory & a camera view. Malware/virus scanners need to be robust enough to perform their essential functions but not be so robust that they prevent access to essential software. This is particularly pertinent in big NHS organisations where the flexibility to use new software may be determined by the IT department, not the user. I have found working between different organisations can require persistence to get the right interface working in each place
Home internet signals need to be robust. Without a robust signal, meetings may need to be curtailed or sections can be missed.
Very large meetings require the use of both a computer with camera and a phone concurrently – to enable functionality for larger teams to call in together so that the software is not overwhelmed. There is also a need to train staff how to get the best from the technology, which is not time-consuming but should not be overlooked.
Personal Contact. Working from home every day we have all missed the social contact and corridor chats with colleagues where relationships are built and soft information is gained. It is especially difficult to build new relationships or to be inducted into a new team remotely.
Finally, there has to be a high level of trust in staff for working from home to be feasible.

Overall, one beneficial effect of this terrible epidemic is that, where you have suitable work to undertaken, working from home for a portion of your week could become usual practice in the UK. In a results-driven environment, having the choice to periodically work from home in the future should improve productivity and has benefits for both the employee and their manager.