Working from home: Frequently asked questions

Nick Stanley
By Nick Stanley


In this day and age, working from home doesn’t need much introduction. Even before COVID-19 rearranged the world, the trend for many people to work a day or 2 from home was well established, and the pandemic has only served to further entrench remote working as part of the regular employment landscape. 

We frequently receive questions from employers and other members about working from home or remotely, so we’ve put together this blog post to answer them.

We’ll keep updating this page as we get more questions. 

Also, check out our blog post on keeping remote workers healthy and productive.

Updated 21 July 2022.

Do I have to allow people to work from home?

Every employee in New Zealand has the right to request flexible working arrangements at any time and employers are required to consider any requests fairly and in good faith.

Requests and responses must be in writing.

Employers need to respond as soon as possible but no later than one month after you receive the request.

You can only refuse a request on specific grounds, e.g. there's a good business reason or it conflicts with a collective agreement.

Whether or not working from home will work for your business depends on your operations and

individual needs. For some businesses, there will be certain roles that can only be done at the workplace.

If you decline a work-from-home request, consider if there are other ways to boost employee engagement, e.g. further training or career advancement opportunities, benefits and perks, or additional leave policies. 

Do I need a work-from-home policy?

Deciding whether or not you allow employees to work from home (some or all of the time) will depend on your business and the types of work your team members do.

If you are going to let people work from home, having a written policy will help ensure everyone knows the rules and expectations. A wider policy on flexible working arrangements, including working from home, helps with transparency and ensures flexible work requests are handled fairly.

What should a remote working policy contain?

Firstly, consider what flexible work options you are open to, so you can document the guidelines clearly in a policy. The options could include:

  • Employees working from home on an ad hoc basis.
  • Employees working from home on particular calendar days.
  • Employees working from home on a rotating basis, e.g week on, week off.
  • Eligibility criteria if opportunities will be limited to certain roles or teams.
  • Certain minimums or maximums, e.g. being at the office at least 50% of the time.

The policy should detail the application process for employee requests and how the business will consider and respond to them. Also include any criteria or conditions for granting requests, e.g. performance indicators.

If you want to introduce mandatory work-from-home arrangements, you will need to run a formal consultation process with all affected employees.

If you need a working-from-home policy, you can request one via additional docs.

How do I respond to a work-from-home request?

Every request should be in writing, which you should formally acknowledge. Your response to the request must also be in writing and it's good practice to document your consideration process.

An online system for handling and responding to requests will make the process easy.

When approving a work-from-request, it's wise to specify:

  • What tasks will be performed.
  • Hours of work.
  • Where the work will be carried out.
  • Furniture and equipment needed to do the work.

When granting requests, be clear whether the change is on a trial or temporary basis or whether it is permanent.

How do I manage employees working from home?

All normal workplace rules and policies should still apply regardless of the working situation, e.g. health & safety, anti-bullying or harassment policies, zero-tolerance for drugs or alcohol, absence notification procedure.

When employees are working from home, remember to check in frequently and set up virtual communication tools. Having well-integrated, digital communication and HR systems will help everyone stay connected with a minimum of hassle.

Set clear expectations for availability during work times, as well as performance and productivity to keep the arrangement on track. Define how you will monitor performance and inform employees when they are not meeting expectations.

What are my health and safety obligations?

When employees work from home or another premises, that place is considered a workplace and both the employer and employee have the same health and safety obligations as if the person was at the workplace. This also includes the potential risks that could result in ACC claims.

In normal business conditions, you should only allow employees to work from home if the work hazards are identified, assessed, and controlled (as far as is reasonably practicable).

You must always seek to eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to, and if not, you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk.

Of course, when workers aren't able to come to the workplace, e.g. because of COVID-19 restrictions, it may not be possible to provide ideal work-from-home arrangements. Businesses are still expected to look after their people, take a realistic approach, and act in good faith at all times.

Employees should be reminded to identify potential elements and factors around their home that could potentially cause them (or their family) harm. Consider electrical equipment, cables, overloaded outlets, slip/trip hazards, excessive noise, lighting, fire hazards, and other people in the work-space. Ideally, the work environment should also be warm and dry.

Get more tips on working from home safely at

How should employees set up their home workstations?

It is important to ensure an employee's home office or workstation is set up correctly. Some key things to consider are:

  • Setting up a workstation or office desk in line with ergonomic guidelines, e.g. correct desk and chair heights, adequate equipment spacing.
  • Ensuring the employee has a suitably designed chair with adequate lumbar support.
  • Reminding employees to take 2- or 3-minute “micro breaks” every half hour.
  • Reminding the employee to stretch and move, keep a dynamic posture while working, and spend time working standing up (if possible).

What each worker needs in order to do their job from home will depend on the business and role, but items may include: laptop, monitor, keyboard, phone, headphones, internet connection.

Do I have to pay for work-from-home equipment?

Yes. The equipment is related to work, so employers should bear the cost of providing it.

If you cannot provide everything necessary, you can ask your employees to buy items and then reimburse them for these expenses or compensate them for using personal items. It is important to record any agreements and budgets in writing.

To make expectations clear, you should make sure your flexible work policies include the rules about the use, storage and return of equipment and what employees should do if equipment is faulty, lost, or damaged.

What's the best way for employees to maintain good mental health when working from home?

Working from home or remotely can lead to employees feeling isolated or unsupported. People may also work long or irregular hours, or not take suitable breaks.

Employers should ensure everyone stays in touch with each other (and management) and that there are good communication channels so people can raise issues or reach out for support if they need it.

Self-care when working from home is vital so encourage workers to look after themselves and pay attention to how well they are coping.

Having a routine and structure helps. Set boundaries and expectations about people working usual hours and taking regular breaks, as well as allocating time for micro-pauses, hydration and meal breaks, exercise, and talking with colleagues.

Ensure everyone can also separate work from home life, by working away from the bedroom or family rooms (if possible) and switching off devices at the end of the work day.

How do we keep up social interaction when people work from home?

Social interaction is a key component in any good company, and when people work from home it's easy to feel detached from the team. So maintaining connection is really important.

Having good online systems that allow people to connect easily and fluidly is essential. Consider creating a dedicated channel for people to chat, share jokes, or let off steam. It doesn't all have to be about work, all the time.

You can also schedule in regular social catch-ups, e.g. once or twice a week, to share stories, wins, or gripes, or to have a drink (it doesn't have to be alcoholic). Give everyone a chance to have their say and have some fun.

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