Editor’s Note: This is a guest post Irma Hunkeler -Head of Operations with BlueGlass. Her opinions are her own.
We are in the midst of a flexible workplace revolution. More employees than ever before are working remotely, and it’s predicted that by 2020, 30 percent of the workforce will either be freelance, outsourced or remote workers who spend much of their time working from home.
While the benefits of working from home are immediately clear for employees, namely avoiding the daily commute and working to a schedule that suits them, the advantages for employers are not always quite so obvious.
So how could you benefit from a more flexible approach that gives your employees the freedom to work from home? These are a few of the most compelling reasons why adopting flexible working practices could boost your small business.
1. Less time spent commuting
A reduction in the amount of time spent on a stressful and unpleasant commute is undoubtedly a benefit for employees, but it could also give your business a boost too.
The health and wellbeing of your workforce has proven links to productivity and a reduction in absenteeism. Whether it’s an hour and a half train ride or a 30-minute drive through rush hour traffic, this is time they’ll never get back. When working from home, an employee arrives fresh at their desk and raring to go.
Working from home also reduces their travelling costs, which means your employees can spend more of their money of the things they love. The result is a happier, healthier and more motivated workforce.
2. Improved employee retention
One of the biggest headaches for small businesses is losing the employees that make them tick. Small businesses cannot always compete with larger organisations when it comes to salary and benefits, so it’s important to make the most of the advantages you do have.
While endless meetings and outdated workplace practices might keep workers in larger organisations tied firmly to their desks, the agility and entrepreneurial spirit that’s alive and well in many small businesses can give employees the freedom they crave.
Home working can give parents with childcare responsibilities the flexibility they need, while other workers can benefit from an enhanced work-life balance. Both of these factors play a crucial part in employee retention.
3. Access to a wider pool of applicants
One of the key drivers behind the rise in remote working is the ‘millennial effect’. Younger generations have grown up being able to communicate cheaply and effectively from anywhere in the world, so it follows that they expect the same in a workplace environment.
For younger employees, workplace flexibility is one of many factors they consider when looking for a new role. Numerous surveys have indicated that this it is something that they want and expect. Offering this type of benefit can help employers attract the young, highly skilled employees that might not otherwise be interested in a role.
Giving employees the ability to work remotely also allows you to hire outside of normal commuting distance. This can be particularly beneficial in locations or professions with skills shortages, as small businesses can widen their nets and work with the most talented individuals, regardless of where they’re based.
4. More autonomous employees
Giving your employees the ability to work from home allows them to operate in a way that suits them. People can be very particular about how and when they like to work. In an office environment, all employees must adapt to the same approach. However, at home, they have much more control.
Some workers will subscribe to the tidy office, tidy mind mantra, and need to create a serene, spotless environment to be able to perform at their best. Other workers, perhaps those with a more creative bent, might do their best work curled up on the sofa or even late at night.
Of course, you will need to put certain rules in place, but within those guidelines, your team will have the freedom to create an environment and a schedule that allows them to perform at their best.
5. Lower costs
We’re probably preaching to the converted here but office space is expensive. If you rent office space then you can claim some of the costs back as part of your capital allowance, but it’s still likely to be one of the biggest fixed costs your business will have.
We’re not necessarily advocating doing away with an office altogether, but by allowing your employees to work from home two days a week and operating a hot-desking policy the rest of the time, you could reduce the amount of office space you need. It’s true that hot-desking is not every employee’s favourite policy, but if it gives them the freedom to work from home for part of the week then there’s a good chance it will work.
6. Make better use of technology
Working from home would be impossible without the fantastic technology we have today. Technology is the key enabler of mobility, with fast Wi-Fi connections, smartphones, cloud computing, instant messaging, project management software and VoIP allowing colleagues to communicate and collaborate instantaneously.
The temptation might be to think that a remote workforce is a disparate workforce, but given these invaluable tools, these days that’s simply not the case. As well as putting the necessary technology in place, there are also a number of other steps you can take to give your home working arrangement the very best chance of success.
7. Reduced salaries
We’re not suggesting that your employees will be happy to take a pay cut in return for more flexible workplace practices, however research has shown that 36 percent of employees would choose the ability to work from home over a pay rise.
That means that rather than seeking a pay increase for their good performance, employees could be rewarded by having the flexibility to work from home. Not only will this help to keep your wage bill down but it will also improve the level of cash-flow in your business so you can take advantage of more of the opportunities that come along.
8. Increased productivity
Business owners need to have a certain amount of trust in their employees to let them work from home, but those that do can benefit from an increase in productivity.
According to a Canada Life survey, homeworkers rank their productivity as 7.7/10, compared to 6.5/10 for office workers. That’s because they claim they’re not in a loud environment or distracted by co-workers. A Stanford survey also found that employees who work from home are 13 percent more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Embracing flexible working practices does not mean shutting up shop so staff can work remotely five days a week. This is not an all-or-nothing proposition. In the vast majority of cases, the most productive solution for business owners and employees is to split time between home and the workplace. If you do, these benefits show that’s it’s not just the employees who will reap the rewards.