Web conferencing, instant messaging and collaborative documents are making it much easier for employees to work from home. With 84 % of British companies now offering these technologies, it’s no surprise that the amount of people working remotely has increased by nearly a quarter of a million over the last decade.
We take a look at the reasons behind the rise and ask whether remote working should be available to every employee.
It cuts costs
A survey carried out by Vodafone revealed that UK businesses could save £34 billion by allowing employees to work remotely. This is hardly surprising when you consider the high cost of overheads such as rent, heating, lighting, office equipment and computers.
Working remotely also enables employees to save money, as cutting out the daily commute means there’s no need to pay for pricey season tickets, petrol or bus passes.
It broadens your talent pool
By employing remote workers, businesses can advertise their positions far and wide. For example, Automattic, who created WordPress, employ 450 staff spread over 45 countries. While they do have physical offices, by using online tools, their remote workers are able to collaborate and share ideas in real time.
It keeps your workforce happy
It’s easier to maintain a healthy work life balance when you work from home, as remote workers can fit their work around their other responsibilities, taking the stress out of the school run, GP visits and other family commitments.
If distractions at home do get in the way of work, employees who work remotely can easily re-locate to a different environment or go for an invigorating walk while they wait for inspiration to strike.
Collaboration is easy
The Cloud and advances in online communication have had a huge impact on remote working. Video conferencing allows groups of remote workers to brainstorm and give feedback, while collaborative documents like Google Docs enable employees to work on projects in real time.
Technology has also made it possible to prevent home workers from feeling cut off from their office based colleagues. By using project management software such as Microsoft Project, each team member can see what everyone else is working on.
It’s simple to keep track
With nine out of ten employees claiming that remote working boosts their productivity at work, employers needn’t worry about the output of their remote workforce. However, it’s still important to keep track of progress and communicate approval.
While time tracking software can be valuable, daily meetings via Skype are a less formal and equally effective way to communicate goals and offer motivational feedback. An occasional invite to an office based meeting or social event could also help remote workers to feel recognised and valued.
What about social isolation?
When Virgin Pulse surveyed over 1000 employees, 66% of them said their co-workers positively affected their productivity and 40% said working with their colleagues was what they loved most about their jobs. While Google Hangouts, Slack and ad hoc video chats can help remote workers to feel less isolated, they can’t always replace the spur of the moment office camaraderie that creates long lasting bonds between employees.
There are two solutions to this problem. The first one has already been adopted by cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, and Tel Aviv, where you’ll come across a variety of cafes and hubs set up to provide remote workers with company. Similar coworking spaces are also gaining popularity in the UK.
The second solution involves creating opportunities for remote workers to meet socially. 30% of tech company Togg’s employees work remotely, so the company organises in house meetings, social events and team challenges because they believe relationships are “best built face to face and maintained online”.
Like Togg, many UK companies are advertising posts which offer a combination of remote and on site working, giving employees the chance to forge strong working relationships with their office based colleagues.
Should remote working be available to all workers? There are certainly plenty of advantages, however, working from home seems to function best when it’s combined with occasional face to face interaction, either with colleagues or in a co-working space.
Are you a remote worker? What do you enjoy about working from home? We’d love to know!