Homeworking has been around forever, but its usage up until recently has been limited by cultural barriers, traditional ways of working and technology. While adopted and loved by sole practitioners, freelancers, maverick entrepreneurs and other niche careers and offered as a perquisite for senior management; homeworking has always had its place, but took its first giant leap with better internet connectivity in the late nineties /early noughties.
We describe the above as “Homeworking 1.0”, and in the business environment, the key element to its success was trust. Businesses only reserved homeworking ‘privileges’ for their most trustworthy staff – after all, if you can’t see them, do you really know what they are up to?
However we have managed to overcome the “lack of trust” element through changes to business culture and with help from technology. The result is that many British businesses are now making homeworking a reality for many of their customer services staff. Welcome to “Homeworking 2.0.”
The 2.0 version is now being used by some of the UK’s largest and most successful businesses. This is partially because virtual HR practices have been developed to overcome the biggest barrier to homeworking – trusting employees when they are out of sight of management. We now have the tools to easily identify who is working, what they are doing and measure productivity, which means that ‘trust’ has become a non-issue in the homeworking sphere. All the traditional ‘people’ activities – from recruitment to performance management, are now effectively performed virtually.
The employee-centric “ecosystem” evidences employee behaviour, customer interactions and events. This ecosystem is similar to the monitoring currently used within a traditional contact centre, and we have found that it’s a mute point for serious employees who want the freedom to work from home.
Today, homeworking can be extended across a business – including customer service departments, administration and other common operational functions. When implemented correctly, it has been proven to be a viable, effective and highly efficient option – achieving much more than simply saving money on office space.
Of course, technology has also played a major part in the evolution to Homeworking 2.0. Today, high-speed broadband and home computing are pervasive and key enablers for homeworking. The technology now exists to support every single imaginable business process virtually, while providing employers with the highest levels of visibility, control, security, compliance, scalability and resilience.
The HR benefits of Homeworking 2.0 are opening up the eyes of senior management in blue chip companies. Considering the virtual nature of homeworking, the very best people are sourced, recruited and then deployed, whatever the requirement. Through sophisticated virtual recruitment techniques, we can now find people who care, who are passionate about their work and have the closest possible experience and affinity with their employers.
This means businesses now have the ability to compile a workforce from anywhere in the UK, based on exact requirements. Using this, businesses such as the RAC and Aviva now have a highly diverse, skilled and agile workforce, hand-picked from across the country.
Of course, there are a number of challenges to make homeworking a success. The engagement and cultural alignment of remote workers can be overcome in a number of ways, and we have developed processes and techniques, underpinned by technology, so that people can engage, interact, collaborate, raise questions, help each other and perform all of the other typical interactions in traditional workplaces.
Homeworking 2.0 has become a saviour for businesses in their quest to access flexibility and to find the best people with the right skills and attitude, and to keep staff performing, engaged and happy. By also offering real jobs to disabled employees and individuals with special requirements which would otherwise be unable to be addressed in the traditional work space, adheres to most businesses’ diversity programmes. And of course, the ability to save significant amounts of money on office space is an attractive proposition too.
By Steve Mosser, Founder and CEO of Sensée