Cloud based storage, wireless connections and smart mobile devices have allowed workers to operate independently of the physical office while still having access to critical data. Simply logging into the company network has allowed workers to operate just as efficiently from any location that allows them to get online. This revolution has meant the need for an office to accommodate every paid employee is no longer necessary and therefore many companies have physically downsized their premises. Indeed nearly five million of the 30 million workers in the UK operate from home on a regular basis.
Obviously one of the key areas to address when allowing workers to operate from home is how you monitor what they are doing. But even on this front there have been significant advances with software able to monitor employees’ output, their time ‘logged in’ and whether they are achieving the targets they have been set.
A key factor of home-working is that it can allow staff to operate their own hours, making the 9 – 5 workplace a thing of the past. It can be especially useful for staff members who have children and value the flexibility of being able to split their work day into shifts so they can do the school run, and then work again in the evening. Theoretically this means that staff allowed to manage their own time in a flexible manner will be more motivated.
There are some challenges, however, in embracing a flexible approach. Companies must adapt their data security and business policies to protect information and ensure compliance in a mobile environment. It is vital to make sure the company network can handle the demand of remote users, particularly in terms of bandwidth and application performance.
One area that many companies are now embracing – or are certainly planning to in the near future – is BYOD (bring your own device). This concept allows employees to use their own devices to conduct the work they need to do. The advantage to the company is two-fold; there is a massive cost saving in not having to buy hardware, and the employees do not require training as they are confident and proficient with their own equipment. The key requirement for this to work is the software element as opposed to hardware, and fortunately the majority of business-related software (e.g. Microsoft Office) is available across most platforms. Of course, if speed allows, the applications can be run from the cloud environment itself, making software licensing even easier.
Another element where the flexible approach works well for an organisation is through the increasing pressure to implement ‘green’ measures and policies. A workforce that doesn’t have to travel to the office every day produces a smaller carbon footprint. In 2014 the Carbon Trust estimated that increasing the ability for workers to operate from home could save 3 million tonnes of carbon per year.
The key to successfully allowing your employees to work from home is through careful planning and implementation. It is certainly not advisable to simply allow the majority of staff to work from home initially. Look at the individual needs of each staff member and consider their job role. Offer the opportunity to work from home in a phased approach. Monitor how successful the change has been for your staff, your customers, and other relevant stakeholders, as well as impact on your KPIs, before rolling out. Of course, the first stage is to ensure that you have the correct infrastructure in place to allow home-working.