Working from home - or remotely - has benefits for SMEs. And it's not exactly new. In fact, if we look back to Victorian times, many women did just that. Why then is it still the exception and not the rule? We're hoping to change that by exploring 5 benefits for SMEs who work from home.
Working from home: 5 benefits for SME employees:
- Recruit and retain great people
- Build trust and gain respect
- Achieve a greater work-life balance
- Save overhead costs and reduce travel
- Improve employee productivity
Did you know that homeworking is no longer strictly associated with extra learning and work outside of school? Us neither. Since it's first appearance in the Collins English dictionary way back in 1900s, it's popularity has steadily increased and it now receives over 1.6k of global search queries each month.
And it hasn't stopped there. Highlighted as a key tool for agile working, homeworking - or remote working - hopes to drive our business in a new direction: one where work can be completed just as efficiently, if not more, from home.
Future-proof your business
Workforce trends are changing; a move to a service-based economy means that many employees no longer need to work from a physical office; staff want a better balance between home and the office, and an increasing number of older workers appreciate more flexible lifestyles. Millennials too are looking for a focus on output, not hours.
Thanks to innovations in cloud-based software and communication tools - which grant access to workplace applications from anywhere - remote working and flexible hours are now viable options for corporate industries.
According to Deloitte, 73% of UK workers operate either part-time or have some form of flexible working arrangement. Data from the Office for National Statistics recorded a high of 4.2 million people working from home in the UK. And according to Acas, more than a third of homeworkers are employees, while the rest are self-employed or work in a family business.
Acas claims the number of homeworkers is predicted to carry on rising, particularly in office-related roles.
Did you know? Any employee who has worked continuously for 26 weeks - and hasn’t made a statutory request in twelve months - can legally request flexible working, which includes home working.
Legally, companies must acknowledge the request, which they can then refuse if you can explain, on specific business grounds set out in law, the reasons.
What are the benefits of working from home?
There can be many for both you and your employees. By offering it you are preparing your company for the future and the trend to agile working.
Employees expect more from 21st century working. With so much choice and opportunity, great talent now looks for autonomy, work-life balance and an employer that isn't traditionally fixed or dictatorial. Homeworking helps companies compete for - and retain - talent among a wider candidate pool.
With the UK average employee turnover rate at approximately 15% a year, this is important. And, if you're open to recruiting home workers from across the country, or overseas, you could increase the talent pool.
Turns out it helps with attracting staff too. Gaining the reputation of a flexible employer can help you attract and keep talented staff. As the International Workplace Group (IWG) found, 73% of people believe that flexible working is the new normal; 80% of people would consider turning down a job that didn’t offer flexible work.
Working from home could also have massive benefits for employees who require assistance in returning to work after illness or prolonged absence. Check out the latest government policies to ensure you're inline with the latest legislation.
Acas research shows that in comparison to those who work solely in the office, employees who work from home tend to feel happier. We believe this has a lot to do with trust, not competence.
When your people feel respected and supported they'll stay. This is supported by a study from Aviva, who found that 22% of workers quit roles in search of more flexible employment options.
Accepting a request to help your staff manage a medical condition or family commitments through homeworking demonstrates employee care and can help build trust and gain respect from your team. Trust is a bit like a boomerang. We find that what you put out, you get back.
Working from home can help with employee health and wellbeing and achieving a better work-life balance. From flexible hours that fit-in with the school run to attending self-care appointments, it can lead to a decrease in our toxic triplets; presenteeism, leavism and absenteeism.
Working from home saves unnecessary travel costs, pollution and time. Depending on the size of your team and business, you may find that you can even reduce costs by downsizing your office space.
Employees can work at their own pace and style to some extent, collaborating when necessary with reduced noise and distractions. They’re more likely to reach higher productivity levels without wasting time and energy commuting. IWG found that over half of survey respondents confirm that productivity has increased as a result of greater flexibility.
Working from home for SME employees
Home working isn't suitable for all businesses. Not everyone finds it easy to self-motivate when working from home and some people simply engage better in a team-focused, office environment.
Then there's the task of managing remote workers.
We recommend keeping the lines of communication open and practising open, honest conversations. Even though your staff may work from home, they'll still need support and guidance, so make sure they know who to turn to.
Aim to create a clear work-from-home policy that incorporates your people's needs. Be sure to include the criteria for assessing the practicalities of homeworking and think about:
- Does the job role lend itself to working from home?
- Can you trust your people? If not, why not? Could you improve your company culture?
- Managing employees who work from home
- Equipment costs and tax implications. Check out gov.uk for more info.
- Security of information and GDPR
- How often staff need to be in the office and what counts as working time.