Working outside of the office can be beneficial to many businesses.
The UK is lagging behind when it comes to remote and flexible working, according to a slice of research from software company Condeco.
The company’s report ‘The Modern Workplace 2018’ stemmed from a survey of 500 business leaders in six countries, the UK among them, and the results showed that here in the UK, remote working doesn’t seem to be being embraced as much as it is in some other countries.
In the UK, in 37% of businesses surveyed, staff work flexibly at least some of the time. This figure was 52% in the US and 43% in Australia. Furthermore, 10% of UK companies don’t offer flexible working at all. Of the companies that do, nearly a third said that less than a quarter of their staff actually work flexibly.
Unflexible On Flexible Working
If businesses in the UK seem unwilling - or perhaps unable - to get on board with remote working, what are they missing out on? Perhaps part of the reason for companies’ scepticism stems from the worry that employees will take advantage. Could productivity drop with workers surrounded by home (and possibly family) distractions? Will emails and phone calls be responded to? Will that report that’s due by Friday be in your inbox, or will it not even have been started?
These are understandable concerns and ones that have no doubt been experienced to some degree or another by many businesses across the country. There is also the issue of working within a team environment - something that remote working could potentially disrupt. Remote employees might also end up feeling, well, remote, cut off from discussions and decisions in the office, and that might leave them less likely to want to work remotely, because they feel their career might suffer as a consequence.
The Condeco research also notes that the modern office environment has adapted to suit modern working requirements, with more open plan spaces and multi-disciplinary teams working within ‘pods’. The UK has embraced this environment more than most, with over half of companies surveyed adopting open plan workspaces, compared with 43% globally, reflecting an acknowledgement that the Millennial generation has changed the working environment for their own needs.
While all of the concerns about remote working are understandable, the benefits it brings shouldn’t be ignored. It also worth noting that Condeco goes as far as warning that by not embracing flexible working, companies could risk losing out on the best international staff. Could businesses find themselves with employees with envious eyes for their global counterparts?
Employee satisfaction is a key reason for considering remote or flexible working. A happy worker is, by and large, a more productive and loyal worker, and while it's understandable to worry about the impact on a workforce’s productivity, it could also be argued that to do so would demonstrate a lack of trust. Sure, employees will likely do some house errands while at home, or perhaps spend half an hour in the garden soaking up the sun (if they’re lucky), but if that leaves them more content and, ultimately, more productive in the long run, isn’t the payoff worth it?
As a freelance writer myself, I have spent over a decade being trusted to deliver on time, on budget and on message, and working from home has honestly helped me to focus the mind far better than working in an office environment ever did. Now that’s not to say that remote working is for everyone and that it suits every business. However, to not even be open to it as an option could run the risk of fostering discontent.
If employee satisfaction is too abstract a benefit, then how about cost? Fewer employees in an office at any one time means that the office space can potentially be lessened, rents can be lowered, as can costs related to technology, stationery, furniture… and so on.
Time was when the key barrier to remote working was technology. Working from home and working effectively from home are two completely different animals, and success relies heavily on technology and employees’ understanding of that technology. The more disparate the team, the more important the technology requirements to keep everything running smoothly. The need to pay attention to ‘unified communications’ - the integration of tools such as instant messaging, voice, audio and web services - which allow for connectivity within teams wherever they are, is a must in order for remote working to truly be a success.
Video conference meetings, as an example, are an obvious means of team collaboration, but Condeco’s study showed that 13% of UK respondents said that the quality of those meetings needs to be better.
The cloud has also led to a rise in the number of collaborative tools that anyone with a web connection can take advantage of, providing workers with real-time access to shared files that anyone can work on at any one time. Technology is not only helping to solve problems, it’s actively providing new opportunities for both employees and businesses.
While remote working will not be right for every company - or indeed every employee - it potentially offers some real, tangible benefits for both parties.
Interested in implementing remote working for your own business? Contact TMB to find out how we can help.