Author: Jayne Halperin, Senior Partner & Head of Finance Practice
Since a happy employee is a productive employee, helping your workforce manage this juggling act of career and lifestyle should be top of any business’ priorities. First on the list of ways to accomplish this is through offering your employees flexible working – and one particular method of flexible working that has been hitting the headlines recently is the growing trend for remote and home-based working.
As technological advancement continues to facilitate home and remote working the trend continues to grow with an estimated 4 million of us (myself included) now telecommuting for at least half of our working weeks. Despite the growing popularity and normalisation of this working practice, we continue to see that there is still a great deal of resistance within UK business to accept that home-working could benefit both employee and employer. The main reason for this is the lingering fear that working from home is little more than an excuse to slack. Taking heed of the cautionary idiom ‘give someone an inch and they will take a mile’, employers often react to a home-working request with scepticism. Put off by imaginings of employees – free from the overseeing gaze of their colleagues and line managers – undertaking corporate tasks whilst sitting in their pyjamas… or worse…
The reality of home working, however, appears to be very different.
A Government-funded skill and employment survey conducted by Cardiff University has shown that almost three quarters of home workers put in more effort than was actually required to complete their tasks. In addition, 39% stated they put in extra hours, compared to 24% of their office-bound counterparts. These statistics appear to demonstrate that not only can the flexibility of home working benefit the employee, there could be multiple benefits to the business and bottom line as well.
It seems counterintuitive, but the answer to making your employees work harder is apparently to give them the freedom not to. But why?
Professor Alan Felstead, research professor in the University of Cardiff’s School of Social Sciences was quoted as saying: ‘Remote workers are over-compensating to prove to their colleagues that they are not in their pyjamas at home and prove to their employers that they are a safe pair of hands willing to go the extra mile in return for the discretion an employer gives them to work at home or in a remote location.’
So the answer, it seems, is that it is a mixture of Freudian premonitory guilt and not wanting to jeopardise the benefits of telecommuting that keeps home-workers on the straight and narrow. Though it isn’t only the employee who can benefit from such an arrangement – here are just a few reasons how offering home-based working as a perk to your employees could benefit your business, too.
Peace and quiet
Offices are actually remarkably distracting places – mainly because they are full of other people. Noisy colleagues or distracting conversations, and the temptations of tea-room banter and office gossip can be detrimental to concentration. Working from home ensures a more controllable working environment, and your employee can create their ambiance exactly as they want and need it for their own optimum concentration (including the temperature levels: which continues to be an ongoing
feud debate in the Cedar office).
Positive impact on employee engagement and wellbeing
Collaboration and communication are of course necessary, and relationships important, but it appears that people who work from home are acutely aware of the need build relationships and be visible, and go to great efforts to ensure they aren’t overlooked just because they aren’t in the office. Not having to physically commute leads to more available working time, and lower stress levels, which both in turn have a positive effect on morale and productivity.
Tempt talent through the door, and keep it there
Giving employees the freedom and flexibility to manage their own time, and allowing them to be self-motivated, creates a culture of trust and openness that is most often repaid with loyalty and good, old-fashioned hard work. Employees appreciate being trusted and treated like responsible grown-ups who are just expected to work without supervision. Giving potential employees the option to work from home is a highly sought-after perk that can be as valuable to them as a higher remuneration package, and also widens your geographical net of potential talent. It’s a particularly valuable option to attract educated, high-ability parents who would otherwise not be able to consider you due to family commitments, and can improve the overall quality of your workforce.
Let your employees manage their own time
Though most home workers are available during their core working hours, home working can give them the flexibility to complete their tasks when they are at their most naturally productive. ‘Morning people’ and ‘night owls’ are not merely myths, we all have different brain structures that affect our circadian rhythms and our ability to focus at certain times. 9-5 isn’t for everyone.
Save on overheads
Having a proportion of your workforce based in their own homes not only saves time, and also has a positive impact on your business’ carbon footprint, it also has some cost-saving merits as fewer resources are required to accommodate these employees within your premises. Many believe that remote-working is the future of business and eventually we will all be doing it.
We aren’t suggesting you close your offices just yet though. Just as the traditional working day isn’t for everyone, we must recognise that neither is home working, and there will be members of your team who need the camaraderie and structure of an office environment to keep on task. More often than not people know themselves if they are the kind of organised, self-starter who would thrive in a home-working position, and line managers should certainly have an awareness of who it could work for. Productivity monitoring software is available to keep tabs on your home-based workforce, which is worth considering if trust is still a factor, but ultimately the proof will be in the pudding and if KPIs are being met and everyone is happy and if KPIs and key metrics are being delivered, everyone will be happy.