According to the Office of National Statistics, more than 4 million people already work remotely in the UK. It's no wonder then that the traditional office feels under attack. And, what's more, this figure is predicted to rise to over half the UK workforce by 2020.
As the popularity of remote working rises, so does your need to discover if this is actually a viable and sensible option for your team and business.
Benefits of remote working:
- Increased productivity
- Reduced absence
- Lower overhead costs
- Trust, employee retention and performance management
Potential dangers of remote working:
If - for the traditional die-hard nine to fivers among us - the idea of your staff working productively anywhere but the office fills you with dread; read on. We're showcasing a non-bias no-nonsense blog on the benefits of remote working and why letting go may help your business and team reap massive gains.
Imagine a world where your employees work from anywhere other than the office. They'll send emails from the comfort of their favourite coffee shop, interrupting each article or sprint with a slurp from their steaming hot latte. They could even write articles, manage accounts and even join a video conference call from anywhere with WiFi.
Fear not, though - it’s not an all-or-nothing solution to 21st Century business and there are lots of variations on the theme. At one end of the scale are the employees who virtually never come into the office, working almost permanently from home or their favourite hot-desking hotspot.
Then there are those who travel for work, like sales teams. Laptop-happy managers might work away from time to time and finally there are employees who would rather stick pins in their eyes than not come into the office.
Whether remote working is right for your staff ultimately depends on your company culture and the type of business you run. It can prove a really attractive benefit when you’re recruiting but equally not all roles are suitable for out-of-office working.
So, before you decide whether to let your staff try it out, let's take a moment to consider the pros and cons.
The pros of working remotely
The benefits of remote working for your staff are obvious – no commute into work and greater flexibility but what about the benefits for your business?
Far from stymying productivity, remote working can actually improve it because your staff members are able to work in the places where they feel most comfortable and happiest. Research has shown that remote workers consider themselves more productive than those who are office-based with productivity ranked at 7.7 out of 10 compared to 6.5 out of 10 for those who are office-based and more than half of workers said working remotely would improve their motivation levels.
Not only that, remote working is better for their health, meaning less work days lost due to sickness and stress. And it’s also a great way to keep older, highly experienced workers in your business – with increasing demands on their lives outside of work, such as caring for families or elderly relatives, remote working can be an ideal solution, allowing them to still be productive but offering the flexibility to deal with other commitments.
If you allow your staff to work remotely, you’ll need less office space to accommodate them, saving money on operating expenses. Figures from Global Workplace Analytics revealed if bosses in America allowed their staff to work remotely just half the time, they would save an average of $11,000 a year.
Recruitment and employee retention can be expensive for businesses so holding onto talented staff is vital. By offering them a more flexible way of working you are providing a better work life balance and promoting greater employee loyalty. These are all things that will increase retention and reduce the cost of onboarding new employees down the line.
While many staff will appreciate the opportunity to work remotely some of the time, you’ll always get those who take advantage of the situation, slacking off to meet friends or disappearing down the gym when they should be working for you. Holding them accountable becomes much harder and you’ll need to consider what tools to use to monitor their time and track productivity such as online HR software. Remote working can be great for self-starters or those with a proven track record as part of your team but is more of a risk with juniors or those with no history with your company.
Maintaining and nurturing company culture
Staff who work remotely miss out on the usual office banter and water cooler chat which can often be vital in building a cohesive team. Video conferencing can make up for some of it, but it doesn’t completely negate the effect. Office staff might not view remote workers as part of the team and remote workers can feel like they’re permanently left out. You also can’t just pull them in for a quick meeting or stop by their desk to see how their work is going.
There are loads of ways to communicate with remote workers but this in itself can be overwhelming. With so many forms of communication on offer there is a danger of information slipping through the cracks and you can use as many different forms of communication as you like but they only work if the person on the other end is there to receive it.
Working remotely can increase the risk of security breaches, especially if your staff work with sensitive data. The loss of a laptop, for example, could lead to a serious data breach and even fraud. If you’re worried about security it’s probably better to stick to office-based work, or at the very least use encrypted software and password management programmes.
Before you leap headfirst in the world of remote working look at your business and your staff and identify whether there are opportunities to offer remote working, be prepared to invest in new technology, create a communications plan and figure out how you are going to benchmark and review performances.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure your workforce is ready to embrace such a shift in workplace practice.