All successful businesses should constantly be looking to become more efficient and get the most of their most important asset, their staff. But in these austere times the efficiency of your business has become even more pertinent and businesses are having to think “out side of the box” to ensure their survival. One option that is becoming increasingly feasible with advances in technology is that of working from home.
Flexible Hours – The first benefit of working from home that comes to mind for many employees is the chance to work flexible hours. Although the two don’t by definition go hand in hand, staff who are removed from the constraints of the office may be able to work hours that then fit more conveniently with the rest of their time pressures, such as childcare. They may as a result be more inclined to work longer hours and are likely to display higher levels of morale.
Childcare – In addition to the idea of working flexible hours, simply being at home to look after children can in itself be hugely beneficial to parents and may actually negate their need to request flexible (and potentially awkward) working hours from the employer in the first place. In which case there is more chance staff with children will be available when they are needed most.
Fewer Days Lost to Illness – Every business loses a frustrating number of days to illness each year and many of these absences may be due to the effort needed to get to the office when not feeling well. Allowing employees to work from home may encourage more to produce some level of output rather than take a day off. In addition, some of the worst offending illnesses like colds and flu are spread in the workplace. Home workers will be less likely to pick these up and be absent as a consequence.
Less Commuting – The bane of many employees’ working day is the long commute to and from work. By avoiding this daily toil employees may drastically improve the morale of their staff and as a bonus find that they are more inclined to put a few extra hours in here and there, putting to good use the time they’ve saved.
Flexible Location – In an age when companies are operating more often from multiple locations it can be strategically beneficial to base an employee at their home so that they can then respond to the demand to be in one particular office as and when it arises – particularly if their home is located between work sites.
Greener – An increasing concern for both employees and businesses is the impact that they have on the environment. Allowing staff to work from home can not only increase their morale as they lower their carbon footprint but also improve the green credentials of the business and therefore its brand – making it a more attractive place to work and increasing brand appeal to clients.
Fewer Distractions – In a busy workplace, noise, distractions and interruptions are all inevitable factors in reducing the productivity of staff. For years it has been seen as unavoidable but working from home can provide a way of factoring out these issues. Most firms who have utilised home working report that productivity rises significantly as a result.
Business Continuity – Ensuring that an organisation can continue to function successfully in adverse scenarios is a concern for any business, and although it may be lucky enough wide scale disasters there is always the threat of localised disruption, from a PC not working to a power cut. Whatever the risk, allowing staff to work from home spreads the risk and provides another option/contingency to keep operations moving smoothly.
Equal Opportunities – There are millions of workers in the UK alone who either have special requirements in the workplace or have certain disabilities that make a conventional workplace less conducive to a productive day. By allowing staff to work from home a company is not only becoming more accessible to a wider talent pool but in some cases reducing the costs that may be associated the special adaptations that some staff may require.
Location Neutral – Firms allowing home working can also access the best talent regardless of its physical location. If there’s a developer in the Outer Hebrides that can offer a very specific coding skill he can still be employed even if the firm’s office is in Plymouth.
Effective home working is within easy reach of most businesses, by employing the right technology, such as unified communication packages (including VoIP and Video Conferencing), the barriers to effective communications between home workers and office based employees are being torn down. Moreover, by using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) a VPN Provider can give staff access to local office networks to do their job as if they were physically sat at their office desk, wherever they are based.
With all businesses looking to become more efficient in the current demanding climate, working from home could be the ideal way to squeeze those margins. Not only can it reduce the overheads of both large and small scale enterprises but it can create more productive and motivated staff. In fact repeated studies have shown that staff are more productive when working from home and some find they are also prepared to put in longer hours. What’s more, by providing the option to employees, businesses should find that they become more competitive in attracting the best talent in their industry.
For the benefits of working from home for small business see Working From Home Part 2 – The Benefits for Small Business.