How to manage home care workers

    How to manage home workers

    The nature of social work has not made home working an obvious
    option. But, writes Nathalie Towner, a few councils are now
    offering it to their staff. Home working is ultimately just a
    different working style and should have no effect on the output of
    the team but it does have its challenges. Whole processes need to
    be rethought and managers need to adapt their style, to deal with
    the different demands of overseeing from a distance.

    1 Case study: Cheshire Council

    Natalie Brill is manager for central Crewe’s older people
    team at Cheshire Council and nearly all her staff are home-based.
    “Social work is one of the most difficult jobs to do from
    home, so we began with a pilot project,” she explains.
    “To start with it terrified me as I had visions of an empty
    office but I do in fact get to see people regularly.” The
    process is now fully established and the team is made up of nine
    home workers, while Brill and the admin team are office based.
    “One of the things that came out of the pilot is that if you
    are working for a community based team you need to live close to
    your patch,” she advises.

    2 A home office

    The home environment must be suitable for work and the individual
    must have access to all the necessary equipment. “All the
    social workers are provided with a computer, printer, desk, chair
    and a business phone line, as well as a lockable cabinet to store
    confidential papers,” says Brill. “Every 12 months I go
    to their home and go through a home-based risk assessment.” A
    key factor is that they have space to take confidential calls.

    3 Communication

    It’s essential to get together on a regular basis. “You
    must agree in advance on objectives and the person must be
    contactable throughout the day,” says Rebecca Clake, adviser
    to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The Crewe
    older people team have a weekly meeting where everyone comes into
    the office for an hour and they will also have a regular day in the
    office for filing and to support admin staff.  Brill adds that all
    the home workers have to be competent in IT. “Email is a huge
    source of communication,” she says. “I will forward
    certain messages to all the team instead of waiting for the next

    4 Contact with the office

    At the beginning of the week, each member of Brill’s team
    fills out a complete work programme, so she always knows where they
    are. At the end of working day staff must contact the office. Home
    workers will have supervision like any other social worker but
    Brill says that she does have to give the staff a lot more support
    because she is the pivotal person in the office. “We have
    phone contact every day and staff will always call if they need to
    discuss anything,” she says.

    5 Peace and quiet

    Home working isn’t for everyone and some members of staff
    will feel isolated or daunted by how well organised you need to be.
    For most though there is no turning back. “It is a challenge
    to manage staff performance but people love working from home and
    tend to work better as they are not being constantly
    interrupted,” says Brill. “They have peace and quiet to
    work without the phones ringing and increased flexibility to manage
    their routine.”

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