By Francesca James

Organisations looking to revolutionise the workplace, reduce absenteeism and slash the overhead of office space should start with the small steps of helping employees to work at home ad hoc, according to a study of 10 major employers, including Barclays, Unilever, Nationwide and the Civil Service, led by Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA).

Informal working from home is given a broad thumbs-up by employers, reporting reduced sickness and absence and greater levels of morale and performance.

Commenting on the study, AWA managing director Andrew Mawson says:

“It is very encouraging to see a meeting of minds emerging when it comes to flexible working. For years, employees and employers have been out of sync though times are changing. Management trust and clear objectives are critical to making a success of informal homeworking, requiring the right training and a positive approach to measuring performance based on output. However, organisations going through major change have tended to resist this, resulting in an underlying suspicion among some employers that homeworking in any form is not legitimate working.”

For employees, informal home working allows for reduced travel times, periods for quiet, uninterrupted work and a better work-life balance — especially among established workers who are confident about the needs of their job, according to Mawson.

The study of 10 major employers concludes that ad hoc home-working is the springboard for some organisations to introduce formal home-based working, but the revolution is in its early days, with communication critical to success to avoid staff becoming isolated for colleagues and core values.

“Ultimately, we foresee a future where more than 4 million people — about 10 per cent of the current work-force — will work at home on a formal basis; and where almost all employees will demand some form of flexible working,” says Mawson.

“Cost- and carbon-reduction are currently significant drivers for many organisations, and the smartest ones are already planning an employee-to-desk ratio of 15:10, cutting excessive, expensive office space by as much as 40 per cent. The future of the office is that it will no longer exist in its current form.”

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