5 min read | 23 March, 2021 By Laura Sands
Rewind a couple of years and working from home was a nice-to-do. Many business leaders saw it as impractical and were concerned about the impact of remote working on their employees’ productivity.
How times have changed.
With the pandemic forcing national lockdowns, businesses have had to adapt to survive. Working from home has become a significant part of that.
As lockdown restrictions ease, increasing numbers of businesses are expecting a return to the office. But how much of this will be compulsory?
Although some are mandating a complete return to 5-day a week office working, most businesses are embracing the move towards at least partial home working.
The Institute of Directors found that nearly three quarters (74%) of company directors said they would be keeping home working after Coronavirus, while around half of those asked said they’d be reducing their long-term use of workplaces. Little wonder, when you consider the benefits.
Working from home helps an employer:
With proven remote capabilities, increasing numbers of SMEs can benefit from the opportunities that come with working from home.
By allowing employees to work from home all or some of the time, you spread the net for potential talent far wider. You’re no longer limited to employees who are either within your immediate area or who are willing to travel.
And it’s not just about the practical benefits, having a reputation as a flexible employer can help you attract and keep talented staff. The International Workplace Group (IWG) found that an incredible 80% of people would consider turning down a job that didn’t offer flexible work.
By taking a more flexible approach to working location, you increase your potential for improved workforce diversity. Increased diversity isn’t just about ticking boxes and complying with guidelines. It’s proven to increase your potential for success.
Offering the ability to work from home means you will appeal to those with caring duties – often women with excellent experience but limited flexibility. You will also increase the potential for individuals with disabilities or medical conditions which otherwise limit their employment opportunities.
Remote working can also mean you attract employees from outside your immediate locality, increasing the diversity of experience, attitude and social profile in your organisation.
If managed well, leading a business that allows remote working can build trust.
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. It can help you build trust and gain respect from your team. Trust is a bit like a boomerang, what you put out, you get back.
Whether it’s due to dropping the commute, working in your own space or being able to fit a work-out into your lunchbreak, lockdown showed people across the UK the benefits of a better work-life balance.
Having the flexibility to work from home benefits employee health and wellbeing and supports a better work-life balance.
From flexible hours that fit in with the school run to attending self-care appointments, establishing remote working within your SME can reduce the toxic triplets of 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.
The IWG found that over half of survey respondents confirm that productivity has increased as a result of greater flexibility.
It’s important to recognise that working from home isn't right for everyone. Some employees love the buzz of the office, especially if they live alone or have a busy house or cramped living arrangements that aren’t set up for comfortable home working.
Others will struggle to find the motivation they need to do their jobs well or on time.
For these reasons, mandating a switch to compulsory homeworking could be as damaging as refusing to allow it at all.
As the owner or manager of an SME, you need to find an approach that creates the right balance of working environments for all your employees. Managing remote employees is a shift in management technique and one which you and the managers in your SME will need to learn.
Core to the success of working from home in your SME is a clear work-from-home policy. This must incorporate your people's needs and include the criteria for assessing the practicalities of homeworking. Consider details such as: