Hands up those of you who would change to a lower paid job if it gave you the opportunity to work from home?
If you’re in the ‘yes’ camp, you’re not alone. In the latest Cezanne HR industry survey, almost 40 per cent of people questioned in the UK said they would be willing to sacrifice salary for more freedom to choose where to work. There were some significant regional variations, with those in the North West and East Midlands most likely to want to work from home (46%) – in stark contrast to Scotland, where only 90 per cent would choose salary over home-working.
It’s a trend that is also echoed in Europe, with one third of French respondents and a quarter of Italians also giving the thumbs up to remote working.
It would be interesting to know how these figures compare to the number of employers who would welcome more widespread use of home-working. The concept has been enthusiastically embraced by some – and of course the technology to support home working is now widely available – but it would be fair to say it is still regarded with suspicion by a significant proportion of line managers.
So for those who are still sceptical, what are the advantages of letting more of your people work from home?
It helps you build a more flexible workforce
There will always be companies whose operations revolve around having people on site 9-5. Advances in technology have, however, led to a more fluid business environment where clients and consumers expect to be able to access services or contact suppliers beyond the confines of the traditional working day. Companies who enable home working are often more able to offer a more flexible service to their clients, over extended hours. People are more likely to be willing to deal with clients in different time zones, or to cover the early shift on the phones, for example, if they can do it without having to bring a commute or car journey into the equation.
It helps you retain key talent
The job market is the most active it has been for some years, and companies are struggling to hold onto their best people. A more flexible approach to work can sometimes make the difference between whether someone stays or goes. Home-working gives employees the opportunity to balance personal and work life more effectively. It’s not just an issue for working mothers or those with caring responsibilities. Employees without family commitments are often equally keen to manage their working life in a more flexible manner.
It will help you save money
There are obvious savings to be made in moving to a culture where home-working is the norm. You can cut down on office space, reduce utility bills and generally make more efficient use of resources. Some public sector organisations have led the way on this, making significant savings by equipping staff with the tools they need to work from home. There are other less obvious savings to be made too. Companies who enable home-working are likely to see sickness absence levels drop thanks to reduced stress amongst employees and a decline in short term absence. People are less likely to suffer from ‘Monday-morning-itis’ or to take ‘duvet’ days if they are based at home and don’t need to travel.
It encourages people to utilise technology
The technology to enable effective home-working has advanced enormously in recent years, and it really is now possible for people to work any time, any place. The cost of the latest people management systems has also come down significantly, putting state of the art communication within reach of even the smallest business. The latest generation of HR solutions offer self-service options which allow employees to manage their personal data, access key documents, book holidays, and record absence on-line. Many HR systems also come with integral social portals that allow people to get quick answers to questions, collaborate on projects, and inter-act with their peers. People who are home based need to learn how to fully make use of these tools in order to do their job effectively – you may even find they make better use of them than their office based peers and become the real drivers of creativity and innovation in the business.
Your people will be more productive
Anyone who has done even the occasional day working from home knows how much more you can achieve without the constant interruptions and distractions that come with office life. Allowing people to work from home – even if it’s only for part of the week – means they can focus on key tasks, get important projects finished and are likely to be fresher and less stressed without the daily battle to get into work.
Reaping these advantages does of course rely on home-working arrangements being effectively managed. See next week’s blog for our top tips on making sure remote working is successful.