Working from home – how to facilitate the movement

Working from home has risen globally by 159% since 2005, and amid the COVID-19 outbreak, it has surged in popularity.

Studies have consistently shown that businesses and employees benefit from remote working. Several suggest that allowing working from home promotes diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as companies that have a remote workforce have women make up 28% of their leadership roles. 

An Airtasker study found that not only do remote employees save an extra 408 hours a year from cutting time spent commuting, they also work an extra 16.8 days a year compared to their office counterparts. Another two-year Stanford study found that employees working from home made China’s largest travel agency Ctrip an additional $2,000 per person when workers were given a choice to work from home.

COVID-19 response

Essex marketing agency, VerriBerri, are enforcing working from home for all staff due to the recent COVID -19 outbreak. They have spent the last few days preparing internally so that this plan can be smoothly implemented as soon as possible.

Managing Director Sarah Kauter offers advice for other employers who are faced with enforcing working from home: “With technology being so powerful, there is no reason remote working needs to lose effectiveness. All the team have downloaded ‘Zoom’ so at each morning we can have a department conference call and have a quick daily update on how the workload is distributed. We already run a time/client monitoring device called ‘Clockify’ so we will be able to monitor how our client’s hours are being spent to ensure best practice is upheld. I will be running my payroll and HR remotely, using a site called ‘Spettro’, which is extremely low cost and allows employees to have access to any HR information they may need.”

Steps to take

Engaging Business has also just introduced a new Working At Home Survey at the request of businesses it currently works with, to monitor the happiness and wellbeing of their remote employees.

Lord Mark Price, former Waitrose MD and ex trade minister, also offers advice for employers on how to make the most of employees working from home, using the findings from their survey:

Trust – Many employers have shied away from giving employees the freedom and flexibility to work from home because they fear that they simply won’t get the job done.  Research again and again shows that many employees are more productive working from home. It is vital, however, that employers show they trust their employees working from home.  Show this trust through rewarding them by giving them this freedom and allowing them to coordinate their working day.

Empowerment – Most businesses aim to make employees feel empowered. There may be stumbling blocks when having an entire team suddenly working from home. Listen to your employees and their ideas – they will bring solutions to these stumbling blocks, and it will make them feel empowered in their new working environment.

Development – Could working from home bring new opportunities to develop your team? Online courses and training can be incredibly helpful for employees, and importantly it makes them feel a valued member of the team.

Information – Sharing information is the most important and difficult element of achieving an engaged workforce and with having your teamwork from home this could prove problematic. It could be very easy to slide into a ‘closed-door approach’ but putting in place daily meetings via conference calling will make the team feel that they are across any new information. Giving employees information means they will understand the business and strategy, making a stronger organisation.

The disadvantages

Although many employees, such as those at Verriberri will be required to work from home amid the COVID-19 outbreak, several studies have shown that having the choice to do so leads to the highest success rate. John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company said: “While remote working is not a new phenomenon, the move to contain the coronavirus will see many teams forced to take up remote working suddenly and unexpectedly. Most of these teams, working from home for the first time, may not have had the chance to trial how they can best work together in these types of settings.

“For instance, some that are suddenly thrust into working alone may find it too quiet or feel isolated.”

Nicholas Bloom’s Stanford study found this to be true, as when workers required to work from home were given a choice to come back from the office, productivity rose by 11%, having already increased by 13%.

Who benefits

For disabled professionals, the choice to work from home is a defining factor in their employment, with a ThinkBeyondTheLabel study finding that 81% of disabled professionals prefer telecommuting; with 73.5% saying that telecommuting makes them more productive in their work. Telecommuting was the second-ranked workplace benefit for those with disabilities, behind paid time off. There is currently a 30% disability employment gap in the UK and giving disabled professionals the choice to work from home could help see the gap begin to close.

Working parents, too, see the benefits when given a choice to work from home. A whopping 99% of working parents think that a flexible job would make them a happier person in general, with 77% saying that telecommuting would be the best option for them. Studies show that daughters of working mothers will end up getting better jobs and better pay, and with closing the gender pay gap being at the forefront of everyone’s agenda, helping working mothers and parents could not be more important.

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead to professionals across the world working from home. Although working from home is its most successful when employees have the choice to do so, as long as companies are willing to listen and communicate with their employees, it will still leave companies with a happier and more productive workforce.
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