Over the past decade there has been a 13% rise in the number of people working from home. The reasons vary, but it is the development of modern technology that has made it possible to work just as effectively as in the office.
There are many benefits to employees, including: a reduction in commuting time; saving in travel costs; fewer disruptions; reduced childcare costs; and being able to manage a better work-life balance. These reasons are encouraging more and more people to make the change.
A survey in the Microsoft whitepaper, ‘Work without Walls’, listed the top 10 benefits of working from home as:
– Work/home balance (60%)
– Save fuel (50%)
– Avoid traffic (47%)
– More productive (45%)
– Fewer distractions (44%)
– Eliminate long commutes (44%)
– Quieter atmosphere (43%)
– Less stressful environment (38%)
– More time with family (29%)
– Environmentally friendly (23%)
The benefits are to employers as well as employees. Many companies have adopted a flexible working culture as they acknowledge that a happy worker is a productive and loyal worker. The key advantages to businesses are seen as:
Better staff recruitment and retention
Homeworking can widen the recruitment pool by attracting people who have traditionally struggled to find work, such as single parents and those with disabilities. It also enables employers to hire ‘top talent’ with no geographical limits.
Improved motivation and productivity
Employees are more likely to have high morale where employers are seen to take account of their needs. Many employers are reporting productivity gains achieved by homeworking.
Improving the quality and reputation of the service
Good employment practices can enhance the reputation of businesses. Homeworking and flexible working can extend the hours when businesses are in touch with customers.
Reduction of sickness absence and travel costs
Not working in an office environment can reduce exposure to colds, flu and other contagious diseases. Cutting out the commute can also reduce stress.
Infrastructure cost savings
Homeworking can save on car parking space, office rent and running costs. BT saves £2.2 million per year through homeworking and flexible working.
As a result of the Flexible Working Rights legislation introduced in 2003, employers were obliged to give consideration to anyone with children under the age of six or disabled children under the age of 18.
The Government is now extending the right to request flexible working to all employees after 26 weeks’ service, removing the current statutory procedure for considering requests. Employers will have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner. However, they will have the flexibility to refuse requests on business grounds.
With the government highlighting that a further 4.5 million people would like to work from home, employers need to be prepared for the changes in legislation and able to manage a home workforce.
A different leadership style is required and thus many larger organisations are reaching out for help to specialist leadership development companies in order to remotely manage their teams successfully. If managed correctly, companies are likely to have a much more effective and competitive business model.