23/06/2014

By Jeanette Ramsden, co-owner, The Curve Group

In February 2013 Marissa Mayer the new CEO of Yahoo made the statement that her employees were no longer allowed to work from home. Her reason “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.” Vodafone responded saying that British businesses can save up to £34bn a year by looking at new ways of working including hot desking and remote working. But how practical is this, what does it mean for the hundreds of thousands of people that work flexibly and therefore often from home. What does it mean for an employer?

Advantages of working from home

Employee retention — for some people working from home really helps them, therefore improving their chances of staying with you for longer. This is especially applicable for working parents with childcare responsibilities.

Productivity — offices are great for enabling communication between teams however they can also be distracting (we have at a scheme in our office where if you are in deep concentration you can put a hat on and no-one will disturb you)

Commuting time and cost — living in a country where most people have to commute to a job this can be not only expensive but also take up valuable time in a day. A small trip down the stairs doesn’t have this effect.

Applicant’s pool — if you are recruiting from the people that can only get to your office then you will have a much smaller pool of applicants to choose from. It also helps disabled people who might find working from home a much better and easier option.

Cost savings — office space is expensive, especially in big cities, but so too is all the things that go with it, even the water cooler bills mount up. So it goes without saying that having a home working policy can save your company money in the long run.

Location — depending on what you do and where your clients are you might find that you can locate your sales staff near your clients rather than being based in your premises.

Disadvantages of working from home

Managing homeworkers — seeing your team on a day by day basis makes them easier to manage, especially if they need their performance monitoring. If you do go with home working then you need to put effective measures in place to monitor your team and check quality of work.

Costs – Whilst office space can be expensive so can providing suitable equipment for staff to work from home. You also have to consider adaptions to people’s homes if you have disabled employees.

Staff development — this needs to be maintained carefully and continued communication is needed between staff and employees. An effective training programme is the best way of doing this and ensuring upgrading of skills.

Team spirit — this needs to be maintained for a whole host of reasons and so whilst home-working does work for some of our team we are careful to ensure that they still feel part of the team and don’t feel isolated.

Security issues — depending on the business you are in, there may be some security issues with people working from home

So what is the best result for employers and employees — we would say a mixture of the two:

• We have home workers attend once a week for briefings, training, company updates and general team building. Each team have a day allocated when the whole team are in the office thus cutting down the need for desk space but still allowing flexible working.
• We have invested in top notch IT to ensure accessibility of IT enabled tools for the job. Also to ensure there is no potential risk to our clients on security issues. The initial outlay is more expensive but definatley worth it.
• We have a culture that measures on output, rather than input, so little monitoring is required. Where someone is new to the role or working on a special project the use of daily calls / Skype and mentors over comes most issues.