Guest Blog by Hilde Haems, HR Manager at Global Payroll Provider SD Worx
Home is where the heart is, as the old saying goes. Yet we spend the best part of our waking hours either at work, or commuting. The recent National Working from Home Day clearly indicates the appetite for employees to work from home. The onus is on businesses to support flexible working, and actively ensure that employees remain engaged and motivated wherever they may be working.
The day was founded by Work Wise UK, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to make the UK one of the most progressive economies through smarter working practices. It’s not trite to link smart working and economics – when employees are motivated they’re productive, and productivity is, quite simply, good for business…
Giving back control
The option to work flexibly and from home is open to all. The UK Government has changed the law in this regard and now all employees, not just parents and carers, have the legal right to request flexible working. Employees will have different motivations for wanting to take up the option. They may have children to drop off at school, a relative in need or a doctor’s appointment. Everyone’s motivations and reasoning is different and it is in the business’ interests to be as flexible as possible, giving them the autonomy to combine work with their personal lives.
People are used to being in environments where there is control, yet employees are under increasing stress in the modern workplace. Working from home can give workers a change of scenery and a sense of space, allowing them to focus on specific work. By virtue of being physically present in the office they may be pulled into last minute meetings which can reduce the amount of control they feel they have on their work, whilst being at home they can focus on the task in hand.
Counter to that some employees may not enjoy working from home, thriving in an environment where they can verbalise and bounce ideas off people face to face. It’s all a matter of personality. Managers need to not only recognise the different personality types in their organisation, but be flexible enough to cater for them for the wider good of the business. This way they can ensure that employees are fully supported, stay motivated and do their best work possible in the environment that suits them.
It’s not just businesses and their employees that benefit from flexible working. Working from home causes less traffic congestion as fewer people are commuting across cities and driving to work. In addition to having an environmental impact, staff spend less time either end of the day travelling. You might not initially think it, but reducing the time getting caught in the rush hour can have a significant impact on a person’s morale. If employees can work from home, they not only reduce their carbon emission but also gain more free time back – boosting employee wellbeing in the long run.
Previously, business cultures may have encouraged and reinforced the idea that staff are only working if they’re seen at their desks during the 9-5. In this way flexible working is aligned to the issue of presenteeism. Businesses that recognise the benefits of flexible working, and encourage staff to work from home as needed, help employees maintain their mental and physical wellbeing, thereby lowering the resulting sickness rate for the business.
There should always be guidelines set between both parties. For example an employee working from home could start to find it harder to distinguish between work and personal time, succumbing to the ‘always on’ temptation by checking emails at all hours. The employer should reassure the employee and ensure that they’re reinforcing a healthy work life balance that keeps work and life distinct.
Flexible working is ultimately about trust. Trust between the employee and the employer that they are working to their best in the environment that suits them. Trust breeds motivation and and success, for the employee and employer alike.