By Shirley Borrett, Development Director at Telework Association &
Author of Lawpack’s Working From Home Kit

Working from home has been on the increase for the last 20 years as technology has become more effective, cheaper and more secure. Freelancers and self-employed people starting their own business have been the main practisers of home working for a long time, but for a number of reasons over the last few years working from home has been increasing in the business world.

Although many businesses still have their share of dinosaur managers, they are thankfully becoming a threatened species in companies large and small throughout the UK.

Global markets, recession, terrorist threat, natural disasters and environmental concerns have forced companies to examine how to make their businesses more competitive, more productive, more resilient and greener. A well implemented, well managed working from home scheme can make a significant contribution to all those goals.

More productive staff

For the last two decades both research and practical examples have shown that people working from home doing information rich work are more productive than their office-based counterparts.

When the AA moved some of their staff from call centres into their own homes they found that the productivity of the home working people was 36% more than the call centre ones – and customer satisfaction went up too. The quieter environment of the home meant clearer, shorter conversations with vehicle drivers in trouble. It was easier to get people to work split shifts to cover morning and evening rush hours when they only had to travel to their spare room. Less stressed, more comfortable, happier staff resulted in them dealing with lots more calls per hour.

Research by the Telework Association published in 2010 revealed not just that 85% of respondents thought they were more productive working at home, but that 68% of those could actually measure their increased hourly output. That increase in hourly output included a quarter of people whose additional productivity was more than 50%, a quarter who were between 30% and 50% more productive and four in ten measuring it between 10% and 30% more productive. The remaining people produced up to 10% more in an hour.

Amongst the many practical reasons given for this increased productivity, a significant number of people talked about ‘repaying the trust’ that managers showed by allowing them to work from home. This is of course likely to lead to greater loyalty, less staff turnover and lower recruitment and training costs.

A more resilient business

Business continuity makes a significant contribution to the bottom line – with tight margins, if a business suffers major interruptions, profit will easily disappear. So, regardless of terrorist threat, flood, snow, earthquakes, ash clouds, train driver strikes and 10 miles of stationary traffic on the M25, people have to be able to get to work and be productive. They can do that much more reliably and consistently if all they have to do is walk to their spare room or battle across their snow-covered lawn to their garden office.

Greener businesses

More staff working from home and less working in company offices mean that companies needs fewer square feet of expensive office building. This not only saves on costs but also uses less electricity and makes for a smaller carbon footprint. And if employees aren’t commuting on a daily basis, not only will carbon emissions drop but travel congestion will reduce, making commuting easier for those who can’t work from home, like nurses, doctors, teachers and all the emergency services.

Companies more attractive to employees

All companies want to attract the best people to work for them and home working doesn’t just appeal to parents, carers and disabled people. Graduates often cite flexibility in working arrangements as more important to them than a salary increase and a better work-life balance appeals to high-flyers, executives and anyone who has a life and interests outside their work. And as more people become concerned about the impact that their personal lifestyle has on the environment, fewer will be prepared to commit to a long daily commute.

More competitive businesses

Lower office costs, higher productivity, greater loyalty, lower absence and staff turnover, better contingency planning and business continuity will all contribute to making a company more competitive and more profitable. And the company will be contributing to safeguarding the environment.

All these factors make flexible and home working a ‘good thing’ for individuals, for organisations, for UK plc and for society and the environment. Enlightened managers are recognising the potential benefits and encouraging suitable employees to take up home working for all or part of their jobs.

What the employee has to do is put together a good business case to convince their manager that they are suitable to start working from home and that the company will achieve the expected benefits. Get all the tips you need to convince your boss that you want to work from home with Lawpack’s Working From Home Kit.

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Published on: January 21, 2011