The ability to work remotely is now one of the most desired ‘perks’ of a job, and while there is gradual movement towards a more flexible working environment, it’s still not a commonplace scenario in most businesses. But with Work from Home Week being celebrated 20th-26th January, it’s the perfect time to raise awareness of the benefits of remote working and get organisations talking about it.
Of course, if you’re reading this sitting on your sofa or in your private office while working from home, then you probably already know everything that’s about to follow and you can smile smugly that you’ve achieved the coveted work from home job everyone wishes they had.
The Benefits of Remote Working
It’s no secret that working from home has plenty of benefits, but often it’s assumed that it will be of most benefit to the individual doing it. However, in reality flexible working also has huge advantages for the organisation too. In order to properly assess whether it’s a viable possibility in your organisation, it’s important to fully understand the implications and use this to help drive the discussion and make decisions.
Benefits to the Individual
- Reduced travel costs – no matter how you do it, if you have to travel more than five minutes to work, then odds are your costs will be considerable. Being able to work from home, whether full time or on certain days, means travel costs will be significantly reduced, freeing up money for more urgent needs.
- Less time travelling – along with money, commuting is also extremely costly in terms of time, and being able to work from home means that you can spend more time getting on with work instead of sitting on a train or in traffic. For many people travelling is also very stressful, and being able to avoid that stress could mean better focus when you do start work, which will also be great for productivity.
- Fewer distractions – while having company is great, and a social workplace is good for wellbeing, it can also lead to distractions that you can’t avoid when people are sitting right next to you. In the confines of your own home, however, you can choose what and who to interact with, meaning it’s easier to focus on the task at hand.
- Better work-life integration – this is often the main benefit people desire; the ability to work flexibly means you have a better chance of getting not only your work done, but also managing your personal affairs. If you live local to your doctor for example, then you won’t have to take half a day of holiday to attend an appointment, instead you could go out during your lunch break or after work. Plus without having to commute, you’ll have more time to yourself in the evenings.
Benefits to the Organisation
- More productive staff – numerous studies have found that flexible workers are often significantly more productive than their office-based counterparts. This occurs not only because staff have fewer distractions, but because they also respect your trust in them and work hard to maintain it.
- Improved staff wellbeing – it is widely known that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and having the flexibility to integrate their work and life is one of the best things to improve well-being, morale and engagement.
- Lower costs – with fewer staff on site businesses will naturally have less expenditure in terms of utilities and facilities, helping to lower outgoings. But research also shows that many staff would rather have the ability to work from home than a pay rise, which could also potentially help lower salary costs.
- An expanded talent pool – research has found that a lack of flexible working options is putting off an estimated 1.9 billion qualified staff. By offering this as a possibility, businesses will have a much wider, more diverse talent pool to choose from, leading to improved outcomes for the business.
- More innovative workforce – due to having to work independently staff will be encouraged to use initiative, innovate and problem-solve to get things done. This will inevitably have a ripple effect throughout the business.
- Fewer unplanned absences – many businesses have reported huge drops in unplanned absences and sickness as a result of remote working. This may be due to the fact that because staff don’t have to travel to work they are more willing to continue to work when they are not feeling 100% where normally they would decide to take a sick day instead, or come in and share their illness with the rest of the office, which would normally lead to even more sickness.
- Promotes a culture of trust – organisational culture is a huge factor in engagement, productivity and outcomes, and by implementing flexible and remote working, organisations can demonstrate a clear culture of trust that will positively influence all these things.
The benefits of remote working are numerous for both the individuals and their employers, but often these benefits are diluted by fear and uncertainty about how to make it work. One of the biggest concerns many employers have is that if left to their own devices, their staff won’t actually do the work required. But as many experts have commented, just because staff are sitting right in front of you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re engaged or working the whole time. In fact, most research suggests that productivity and engagement actually increase as a result of flexible working. Other concerns around who should be permitted to work from home, how to manage remote staff and security issues can all be resolved with the implementation of new systems and processes which can be discussed and established before committing to offering flexible working.
Admittedly, remote working will not be an appropriate solution for every industry or for all roles, but for those where it is a plausible option, it seems that overall the argument for working from home heavily outweighs the arguments against. With businesses looking for ways to improve their organisational performance and maximise the talent of their staff, remote working could be the revolution they need. Many organisations have now come to recognise this and are already reaping the benefits of a happier, more engaged and productive workforce, but it’s time to spread the word even further and make working from home a well-used tool to boost workplace performance, and not just as a perk to draw people in.
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