According to a survey by the The Confederation of British Industries, 59% of employers now offer remote working from home to their employees.
While many employees appreciate the opportunity to do so, for HR managers this way of working brings with it a whole new set of challenges.
In a 2013 memo to workers explaining why the company was eliminating policies that allowed remote work, Yahoo HR head Jackie Reses argued that some of the “best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussion,” and that actual presence in the office encourages better collaboration and communication.
However, with increasing numbers of employees wanting or consenting to work at home – or using home as a working base for at least part of the week – it’s clear there are a number of benefits for business, such as:
- Improved employee retention– home working can help retain working parents with childcare responsibilities.
- Access to a wider pool of applicants– for example, disabled people who may prefer to work from home.
- Possible productivity gains– due to fewer interruptions and less commuting time.
- Increased staff motivation– with reduced stress and sickness levels.
- Financial benefits– savings on office space and other facilities.
- Convenience– ability to locate sales staff near clients rather than in your premises.
- Better work/life balance– employees working from home can lead to improvements in health and well-being.
If you’re doing HR in a business that does allow and encourage home working, the aim is to clearly to deliver the best of both worlds. Most importantly perhaps, is the need to ensure that your ‘remote’ team members are able to give of their best in an environment that comes with a whole new set of distractions and issues.
Anyone who has worked from home on a regular basis will know there have inevitably been times when they’ve felt isolated and alone. In fact, research from Acas found that around a fifth (20 per cent) of homeworkers often feel socially isolated – a figure which is expected to grow in 2017.
But is this feeling of isolation normal? And what can you do to overcome it?
“The feeling of isolation can be quite traumatic, especially if a person has previously been office-based and they are used to social interactions on a daily basis,” comments Eugene Farrell, Head of Trauma Support Services at AXA PPP healthcare.
“We spend roughly 90,000 hours of our lives working, and when an average of 38 hours per week spent interacting in a workplace disappears, some people can find it hard to adjust.”
There are plenty of tips on how to boost productivity and help your home workers thrive at AXA PPP healthcares’s Small Business Health Centre.
Good advice for your remote team members includes:
- Stagger business phone calls throughout the day to provide regular human interaction
- Skype or Facetime contact instead of emailing eases the isolation caused by the lack of face to face contact
- Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all brilliant ways to connect wit peers, but do log off when you need to concentrate
- Go out at least once a day to refresh your mind, even if it’s just a walk to the shops
- Take your laptop and spend time outside the house, in the local park, a coffee shop, hotel lobby, library or any public space with free Wi-Fi