Flexible working and working from home is a growing trend with more employers offering employees greater flexibility in how they work. Working from home or remote working, is gaining in popularity as workers try and cut down on travel time and reduce their carbon footprint. In addition to home or remote working, flexible working can include job sharing, working part time, or working compressed, annualised or staggered work hours.
With an estimated 14%* of employees now working from home, the world of work is changing. Whether you’re in full or part-time employment, are self-employed or work as a freelancer, chances are you spend at least a part of your week working from home. In honour of Work From Home week, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at the advantages and the challenges of working from home.
The reason for the growing trend in flexible and home working are the many advantages that come with these new ways of working. Some of these advantages include:
- increased well-being
- improved staff retention
- reduced absenteeism
- improved levels of motivation and enthusiasm
- eliminated or reduced need for travel
- reduced operating costs
The advantages for employers is clear, allowing staff the freedom of flexible working including working from home makes for happier employees. Working from home is common for freelancers and the self-employed as it offers significant cost savings.
Flexible working includes things like working non-standard work hours and job-sharing, as well as remote working and working from home. Staff may be able to work from the comfort of their own home, or might co-work in work hubs away from the main office or work ‘on the go’ with the use of technology.
These non-traditional ways of working pose challenges in terms of communication, managing workloads effectively, technology, performance management and work-life balance. Some of the other challenges cited by Institute of Leadership and Management include resentment among team members (48% of those surveyed), presumably due to not all staff enjoying the same privileges or concerns about performance. Problems dealing with clients (41%) was also identified as a significant challenge.
Further challenges include difficulty in maintaining work-life balance due to the inevitable work-life blur that occurs when you work from home. Although the freedom of being able to multi-task by achieving some home chores alongside work is attractive, it’s common for work tasks to spill over into personal and family time. This is especially risky when there is a lack of designated work space such as a home office. Working from a dining table or a corner of the living room is fraught with potential distractions. Ergonomics too are of particular concern as the work space is less likely to conform with health and safety guidelines as those in a traditional workplace.
How do we overcome these challenges?
The ILM identifies good communication, planning and performance management as some of the key elements of successful flexible working. The best way to achieve this is by ensuring that good communication strategies are in place to keep remote workers in touch with management and the rest of the team. Proper planning together with well developed administrative systems also have a part to play in keeping things running smoothly.
Performance management has always been a major concern when staff members are away from a traditional work environment where their work can be more easily monitored. Employers need to develop effective strategies for bench-marking performance and monitoring in a way that works for them and their employees.
Technology that is fit-for-purpose is vitally important in order for remote and home workers to perform effectively. A poor internet connection, outdated equipment or poorly functioning software can greatly impact on performance.
To overcome the challenge of avoiding distractions while working from home, it’s important to establish a functional work space preferably away from the main living space within the home. If a home office is not possible, a dedicated space which is properly organised and takes into account health and safety, data protection and productivity is essential.
If the predictions are correct, up to 60% of us will be working remotely in the next decade. To succeed, we will need to adapt to this new way of working. Although employers will have a large part to play, employees, small business owners and freelancers will need to equip themselves with the necessary technological, time management and communication skills to ensure their success.
* Source: Work From Home www.workfromhomeweek.co.uk