Will this Summer be the Tipping Point for Remote Working?
Sanjay Parekh, Managing Director WebExpenses, discusses why this summer could be the catalyst for the widespread adoption of remote working.
It is estimated that an extra four million people will have converged on London by the end of the summer. Although the Government has taken steps to keep disruption to a minimum, transport woes have dominated the media for months and it’s unlikely that any commuter in the Capital will be completely unhindered by the Summer’s events, regardless of their mode of transport.
The seeds have been sown for an environment in which remote working is king, and many London based companies are adjusting their attitudes towards working from home in order to minimise any interference to their day-to-day operations.
The advantages of home-working have been clear for some time. It can improve employee retention, particularly in the case of working parents; it offers a wider pool from which to recruit; removing the need to commute could generate higher productivity and it also translates into savings on office space. However, there are concerns from many Managing Directors and CEOs as to whether the infrastructure exists to support home-working en-mass or output and productivity can match those produced in a traditional office environment?
Mobile phone giant O2 had already implemented a remote working trial in anticipation of the perceived congestion in the capital this summer. The experiment found that more than a third of the 3000 employees at O2’s head office were more productive working from home. Post analysis surveys also discovered that 88% of the employees involved thought that they had been at least as productive as a day in the office. The staff involved collectively saved £9000 on commuting costs and 12.2 tonnes in CO2 emissions.
The technology is now in place to make large-scale remote working a viable option for UK companies. Most employees now have access to high-speed broadband connections at home and on the move and many organisations utilise extranets, allowing access to their internal network from an external computer. The integration of cloud computing software into many organisations’ operations has meant that employees no longer need to be in the same building to successfully collaborate on a project. Advances in video conferencing and live chat technologies have also minimised the potential for disruptions to meeting schedules caused by home-working.
As well as this, modern cloud computing software empowers businesses to manage and implement powerful, integrated business processes at the click of a mouse, without being anchored to clunky on-premise systems. It allows businesses to create strong, scalable systems without being restricted by location. By offloading number-crunching and data storage to the cloud, many businesses have already removed their dependency on employees manually processing day-to-day tasks, further aiding the move towards remote working.
However, to completely shake off the traditional office format would be an error. There is a growing focus on the work/life balance in modern society which is reflected in government legislation. This is not necessarily advocating entirely remote workforces but flexibility will be increasingly important in attracting the top candidates. Although the office environment promotes discipline in an organisation, productivity through lack of distractions and have a positive impact on staff morale, offering staff flexibility has proven benefits.
A BCC survey of employers found that 70% of respondents noted some or significant improvement in employee relations as a result of offering flexible working. Giving a workforce the option to work remotely increases flexibility and, as a result, gives employees a better sense of job control. This then translates into increased employee loyalty, lower stress levels and a generally happier workforce.
It would appear that the conditions are right for the widespread adoption of remote working and, over the coming weeks, organisations will have to seriously consider breaking free from the traditional working format and embracing the numerous advantages of a remote workforce.
This business advice article Will this Summer be the Tipping Point for Remote Working? was written by Sanjay Parekh, Managing Director of WebExpenses.