Smarter Working Practices Needed

Small Business News – 26th February 2009

Smarter Working Practices NeededFewer than one in ten businesses trust their staff to work away from the office, according to research by BT Business.

The survey found just 8% of firms felt they could rely on employees to get the job done properly when working remotely, with most managers admitting they were reluctant to move staff away from traditional desk-based working.

The research also suggested that a failure to use smarter working practices could be affecting productivity – 42% of staff felt they could do a better job at home or out on the road with customers, given the right business technology and support.

“This boils down to a matter of trust,”

said Federation of Small Businesses national chairman John Wright.

“In the current climate, small firms need to be operating at full stretch. The recent bad weather demonstrated the need for British businesses to enable their employees to be productive, wherever they are.”

Home working organisation Work Wise UK chief executive, Phil Flaxton, said the benefits of introducing flexible working practices, such as job share or home working, far outweighed the negatives – particularly for small firms.

“When you think the average desk space for each worker costs around £7,000 a year, or £9,500 in London, small firms could save considerable amounts of money by introducing smarter work policies that don’t require every member of staff to be based in the office,” he said.

Flaxton said that while home working does not suit every business model, there are a number of other options open to firms which could help reduce costs, improve morale and boost productivity.

“Four day weeks, nine day fortnights, job shares and shift rostering are just some possibilities, and each business should look at what works for them,” he said. “Unfortunately, we still have a strong culture of ‘presenteeism’ in this country, where managers think that as long as staff are in the office, they’re working. But that isn’t productive.

“If line managers don’t know how to manage remote staff properly, the system won’t work,” said Flaxton. “The key is to manage your staff’s output, not input. In other words, it’s a cultural shift, because it’s not what staff do between 9 and 5 that matters, it’s whether they get the job done.”

To download a toolkit to managing remote workers, visit

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