Is remote working right for your business?

Remote working, flextime, career breaks and zero-hours contracts are all types of popular flexible working methods. Remote work, however, appears to be disrupting the office 9-to-5 grind more than any other type of flexible working. We investigate why and what the benefits and downsides are to employers and staff.

The number of people working outside of the ‘traditional office’ environment has hit an all-time high. A recent survey shows that 75% of employees would consider leaving their office-based job if they were offered one that allowed them to work remotely.  This trend is not going away anytime soon.

The idea of remote working is increasingly appealing as businesses look to save on costs, extend their talent pool and address the work-life balance dilemma.

  • Cost Savings  

The cost saving for business through this type of work cannot be understated as office space and office furniture can be extremely expensive.  Through working remotely, a business can save a significant amount of money on their bottom line.

Remote working is also appealing to employees who could potentially save hundreds of pounds each month on car fuel costs and train travel.

  • Flexibility

More often than not employees choose to work remotely as they require a more flexible work-to-personal life ratio. This is convenient for that have children or make the tiresome costly commute when they do not live close to the main office. Remote working enables employees to continue to work and maintain the responsibilities they have outside of work.

Flexibility is not just a win-win situation for the employees, the business also benefits from being able to hire staff as and when needed.  Some positions may only require part-time work which is more common among individuals who work remotely.

Working in a familiar environment with a reduced number of distractions can also create increased productivity. Of course, this is a big tick for businesses and helps them to lift their bottom line.

There seems to be some misconception about how much work gets done while working from home, however, recent studies have shown remote workers are twice as likely to work more than 40hrs a week due to the core hours in the working day available to accommodate outstanding work.

  • Wider Talent Pool

By considering the recruitment of new employees who are willing to work remotely, businesses can open themselves up to a wider pool of applicants. What this means in real terms is that businesses can employ staff from all over the country, and even the world, with the skills that fit the job and business needs regardless of location.

What are the downsides to working remotely and what can you do to fix this?

Working remotely can come with its own set of challenges for businesses and employees.

  • Loneliness

Working remotely can sometimes be lonely. Remote workers can find themselves missing out on the ‘water cooler’ moments which they may have in the office. It is therefore essential that the employees make themselves available and try to stay in touch so that they continue to be part of a happy and productive team.

This lack of contact with the overall team can impact the office staff as well. Ensuring remote workers stay in touch and are included in day to day activities can be more difficult. This effect can work both ways and is far more applicable in smaller businesses, where lack of in-house staff members is more noticeable.

  • Communication and Project Management Software

Communicating as a team will allow you to keep to your timelines and get work done as efficiently as possible. Working remotely does make this harder, but if your staff use the right tools they should find themselves working as effectively, if not more effectively than if they were in a traditional office.

One such tool is Slack; a product which allows businesses to communicate quickly and use the correct channels for certain topics. Slack allows your daily communication to be fun as well as formal.

When working remotely having this kind of communication allows you to build relationships which would otherwise be difficult. Slack is also a great tool to use to integrate with other systems. Platforms such as Trello, which is a project management tool can help you keep track of current objectives and to see who is responsible for each task.

  • Managing your time

Managing time as an employee when working remotely can be difficult. This is partly because other staff members might see them as being contactable 24/7 and they may be unable to switch off as their working and personal environments overlap.

One way to combat this is to have clear periods of the day where they are contactable. Team members will know when they can contact them and in turn, they know when to ignore or when to deal with incoming messages.

There are several applications which can help businesses with this. Slack can help as employees can set ‘do not disturb’ times.

On the other hand, tools such as Todoist can help arrange the day to optimise tasks; highlighting what and when tasks need to be done. Collaboration on this tool is also possible and as a team, you can work your way through the lists, create notes and prioritise tasks.

Other notable pieces of software:

  1. Skype
  2. Business Calendars
  3. Powownow and GoToMeeting
  4. Dropbox
  5. InVision
  • Security and GDPR

While remote working has many benefits for the business owner there may be increasing the risk to sensitive business data. With the advent of GDPR, Organisations must put a secure information management process in place that encompasses both home and remote working. Businesses need to prove they have educated employees who work from home accordingly and taken all necessary action to mitigate the risks to their information. “This will not just count in their favour should the worst happen. It will also help to protect knowledge of competitive value, such as IP and customer data”, observed Phil Greenwood of Beta News.

Is remote working for your business?

When deciding if remote working is for your company, there are several things to consider. Firstly, your staff need to think of an environment where they are able to work effectively and without distractions.

Secondly, it’s important to think about how working remotely can affect the wider office staff. It’s vital that you as the employer takes this into consideration.

Thirdly, consider data issues like GDPR and put in place protocols to protect the company and mitigate any risks.

For many, remote working is a great option. However, weighing up the pros and cons for your business, is a must, as is ensuring you have collaborative software in place.