HR Expert Jenny Holt, who works from home herself as a freelance writer, explains the benefits of home working:
The number of people working from home is hitting record highs as employers are recognising that the advantages for doing so far outweigh the negatives. There are now around 1.5 million people in the UK using their primary residence as a base for working, with around 900,000 of them men and 600,000 women. The figure jumps to 4.2 million when you include those people working partially from home. So what is causing this shift from attending a workplace on a day-to-day basis towards operating from a home office? Here are the facts.
The pros of working from home are fast outweighing the cons, as people realise that they can save both time and money when they skip the often-lengthy commute and increase their working hours by staying at home. Despite this, a lack of trust on the part of employers is preventing the trend from growing as fast as the populace would like.
“Although organisations that have embraced homeworking often say that it has improved retention and productivity,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, “there are still too many employers who are afraid to let their staff try out this way of working.”
Flexibility around working hours is one of the main draws for home workers, as those with caring responsibilities – to children or other family members – can fulfil them while still bringing in a significant wage. The prevalence of this situation is perhaps reflected in the fact that an increase in women working from home – 35% between 2005 and 2015 – represents the greatest shift in the trend. The ability to use home as a base is also benefitting those who have difficulty attending a formal workplace, a fact evidenced by the 160,000 strong workforce classified ‘disabled’ by the Trades Union Congress who work from their primary residence.
Many large companies who allow employees to work from home report significant increases in productivity – 35-40% in many cases – decreases in absenteeism, and a general improvement in their ability to efficiently meet targets. Distractions in the form of chatting co-workers, non-work-related interactions, and micromanagement which detracts from employees’ ability to set clear targets and fulfil them within a given time frame, are all elements that contribute to this equation.
There’s no doubt that successfully pulling off the home-working situation requires a certain mind set, good discipline, and a distraction free space in your house, but all the evidence points to the shift being an increasingly positive trend in the world of work.
Adrian Lewis, of absence management software provider Activ Absence allows home working and feels it’s a useful business model:
“One of our staff works from home on a permanent basis. Our software gives us full visibility of when he’s working, which means we don’t contact him on his time off, and we set firm productivity targets. It’s worked very well for both parties and enabled us to retain skilled talent who would have otherwise left.
“We also let our other staff work from home when they are ill if they feel well enough. Our software gives us visibility of who is working, where and when, and means that if one person has a virus or bug, we significantly reduce the chances of it spreading to the whole office. Productivity and visibility have not been an issue at all, and staff appreciate being able to recover without the added challenge of commuting.
“If we were in London with this week’s travel challenges, we’d extend it to all staff for the week – why risk staff being late or absent due to predictable transport challenges when allowing staff to work from home would ensure everyone was working?”