Recent advances in technology and a demand for a greater work-life balance has led many companies to adopt the concept of allowing employees to work remotely. This approach allows businesses to restructure and become more flexible, particularly when it comes to hiring talent.
However, there are both pros and cons that come with letting your staff spend some, or even all, of the working week outside of the office – some more obvious than others. This means, as a business, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of this style of work.
Why employees like working from home
Generally speaking, employees enjoy the fact that they can kiss their commute goodbye on the days they opt to work from home. And although some home workers or freelancers advocate maintaining a semblance of professionalism by dressing as if they were going to an office, others take great delight from the fact that they’re preparing presentations or taking calls while wearing their dressing gown!
Many people feel that they work better alone and appreciate not having a boss breathing down their neck, and of course working from home can be hugely beneficial, not to mention cost effective, for working mums and dads or those who have another dependent such as an elderly relative living with them.
But where does the employer come into all this? Needless to say there are plusses and minuses that you‘ll need to carefully consider when fielding requests from your employees about flexible working.
The pros of allowing employees to work from home
Whilst some business are already implementing a work from home policy, here’ are six reasons why it’s worth considering:
You’ll improve your employee retention rates. Childcare is a huge consideration for working parents and, allowing them to work from home when needed – such as sick days and during school holidays - will win you definite Brownie points over your competitors who don’t offer remote work for families.
Improved work-life balance
Even if a member of staff isn’t a parent, you’ll likely find that their motivation and engagement increases thanks to less sickness and stress due to a better work-life balance and the knowledge that you’re putting your trust in them by allowing them to work independently.
It will also allow you to retain key staff members who want to relocate to another part of the UK, or even the globe. For example, if the spouse of a much valued member of your staff gets a great job offer elsewhere, you’ll be able to hang on to YOUR employee by allowing them to work from wherever it is they’re moving to.
Wider talent pool
On a similar note, you’ll also open up your pool of applicants considerably. Struggling to fill a role because everyone coming for an interview is mediocre at best and downright unsuitable at worst? Cast your net wider and you could find the perfect candidate who just happens to be living 150 miles away.
You’ll also be opening up job vacancies to potential future star employees who are disabled or housebound and who find it easier to work from home.
Productivity is a big consideration for any employer and, depending on the integrity of the employee, you could find they’re getting even more done than usual thanks to them receiving fewer interruptions from their colleagues and their commute being eliminated.
The cons of allowing employees to work from home
Whilst there are a number of great reasons for remote working, there are also some challenges worth considering:
Relying on trust
The number one concern for most managers or business owners is trust. How can you really be sure that your staff who are working from home are self-motivated enough to be putting in a full day's work and not sneaking off to go to the gym during working hours or taking grossly extended lunch breaks?
Potential security threats
You will also be leaving your business vulnerable to potential security concerns. Unsecured networks, for example when using a coffee shop’s internet connection, can cause data breaches. A personal laptop is not likely to have the same level of antivirus software or defense against malware attacks as your office-based computers. And smartphones with sensitive company information on them can easily be lost, as can physical files and paperwork.
Communicating might become an issue too due to the lack of physical interaction among employees. For example, a misunderstanding that could be settled with a quick chat at someone’s desk could become more complex when emails, voice calls or WhatsApp messages become the primary form of communication.
Finally, employees that embrace remote work often also keep to a more flexible schedule. This can cause problems when it comes to organising meetings or conference calls, or when you need to speak to someone right there and then.
Embrace the pros while overcoming the cons
You can address a number of concerns by implementing procedures that deal with managing remote workers. One of the very first things you’ll need to do is make sure that your business data is secure by ensuring any devices that are to be used remotely are protected by antivirus and antimalware software – and that includes smartphones too. Moving all your documents and files to the Cloud to enable remote collaboration is also a good idea. As for your main asset - your people - ask them to maintain consistent contact with their manager and team and also request that they are physically in the office at least occasionally, and are always present for important meetings or presentations.