With the Olympics nearly upon us the merits, and otherwise, of ‘home working’ have been discussed in businesses both in London and where regionalised events are taking place. However, leaving the Olympics aside, employers are increasingly adopting flexible and home working practices as a corporate strategy because it makes good financial sense.
Although remote workers are thought to complicate a manager’s job, a highly distributed workplace has too many potential advantages to dismiss.
O2 conducted a pilot during February this year, in which staff who would normally work in an office were compelled to work from home. This helped employers to see very clearly the cost savings available with a policy of home working:
Of the 3,000 workers subjected to the pilot, just 125 ‘mission critical’ people worked from their desks as normal. The remaining staff saved a collective £9,000 in reduced commuting costs, while 14 percent said they saw more of their families and 36 percent said they were more productive than when at work. An additional 12,000 hours, time otherwise spent commuting, was spent working. Workers said they spent a further 1,000 extra hours sleeping and otherwise relaxing.
The top five reasons why employers can benefit from home working are:
• Better staff recruitment and retention – Home working can widen the recruitment pool by attracting people who have traditionally struggled to find work, such as single parents, those with disabilities and those workers who are geographically isolated. In addition, lifestyle concerns can easily trump salaries in a top worker’s decision process.
• Improved motivation and productivity – Employees are more likely to have a high morale where employers are seen to take account of their needs. Employees who enjoy flexible working are better at meeting tight deadlines, will put in the extra mile when the business needs it and take time off when more convenient, improving personal productivity.
• Improving the quality and reputation of the service – Good employment practices can enhance the reputation of a business. Home working and flexible working can extend the hours when businesses are in touch with customers.
• Reduction of sickness absence and travel costs – Not working in an office environment can reduce exposure to colds, flu and other contagious diseases. Cutting out the commute can reduce stress. Motivated staff are less likely to take sick leave, another way in which the business may benefit from increasing productivity.
• Infrastructure cost savings – Home working can save on car parking space, office rent and running costs. Businesses save millions each year through flexible and home working, whilst Suffolk County Council is an example of an organisation that was able to cut the size of its new central services office block by one third by using these practices.
In today’s world, true competitive advantage in business is being able to anticipate change, react quickly and be there 24/7. With flexible working in place you can do just that, creating a new way of working that takes into account business productivity factors as well as improving quality of life for your employees and yourself.
Considering the aforementioned benefits, it would be wise for employers to think about incorporating a work from home policy, or expanding their current policy. In the past, home working has sometimes been considered a risk for employers. However, as technology advances and business norms change, it could soon be more of a risk not to incorporate home working into talent management.