The benefits of working from home

Small business advice

6 July 2020

The shift towards more flexible working arrangements has been evolving over the last few years with developments in technology making mobile working easier than ever. However, the coronavirus has meant that a much higher number of people are now working from home. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 45.8% of adults in employment were working from home in April 20201. This is compared to 5.1% of the UK population who mainly worked from home during the period of January to December 20192.

Now, with more people enjoying the perks that come with working from home, such as being able to cut out the commute and getting to spend more time with their family, there may be a more long term shift for many small businesses to adopt remote working going forwards. However, there can also be some downsides to working from home.

So what are some of the benefits and the challenges of working from home for small businesses looking to adopt longer term remote working?

What are the benefits of working from home?

There are a number of advantages to working from home, for both you and your team. 

  1. Productivity. One of the most frequently discussed benefits of working from home is that it increases employees’ productivity. According to one report, working remotely increases productivity by 16%.3
  2. No commute. According to Totaljobs, the average UK worker will spend 400 days of their life commuting4. Commuting can be one of the most stressful parts of an employee’s day, particularly if they regularly get stuck in traffic or face train delays. Having the option to work from home eliminates the stresses that are associated with commuting, even if it’s just for one day a week.
  3. Employee retention. Employee retention can also be an advantage of home-based working. Some members of your team may struggle to balance childcare and full time work, which could result in them having to leave their job. Offering the option to work from home can allow parents to take their children to school and still be back at home in time for a full day’s work. 
  4. Recruitment. Remote working can also benefit your business’s recruitment efforts. Not only can it act as an incentive for candidates who may be looking for flexible working, but it also widens your talent pool as you aren’t restricted to the candidates that live in your local area. 
  5. Technology. It’s now becoming easier than ever for people to work remotely with all of the technology and digital tools that are available. From shared drives and folders to allow your team to work collaboratively on projects regardless of their physical location, to instant messaging and video conferencing so your team can communicate.
  6. Lower costs. As your team wouldn’t need an office space and other facilities typically associated with working in an office environment, you could also lower your costs by having your workforce work remotely. This is particularly the case for businesses based in London. According to research by Savills, work stations in London cost businesses an average of £15,000 per employee in rents, rates and service charges5.
  7. Avoid office politics. Whether it’s the temperature that the office heating is set to, or the music that is being played on the sound system, being able to work in their own home allows your team to avoid the office politics and create a work environment that is perfect for them.

What are the challenges of working from home?

Alongside the benefits that come with offering your team the option of working from home, there can also be challenges for both you and your people.

  • Work/life balance: One of the main reasons people choose to work from home is to improve their work-life balance. It can be difficult to juggle life admin with a busy job, so working from home can help with balancing work life and family life. However, research from AXA Business Insurance revealed that work can start to bleed into personal time if boundaries aren’t put in place. Over half of home-workers surveyed found that making sure that they had a clear divide between home and work was a real hurdle that they had to overcome6.
  • Workspace: Finding the right space to work from in the home is important to a productive business. While AXA’s research revealed that a third of those surveyed had a dedicated office, others may use bedrooms, reception rooms or even the garden shed6. Workspace can have a big impact on productivity levels, so it’s important for regular home workers to establish an office area where they’re able to work productively, free from distractions.
  • Support: Home-based workers are also at risk of feeling unsupported, unappreciated and disengaged. Remote working can make people feel threatened, like everyone else is progressing in their role and getting noticed by management. It can also become more difficult for employers to identify problems within their team and pick up on health and wellbeing issues when they don’t see their people every day. They may be well connected with mobile phones and email, but this virtual communication cannot always substitute the regular face to face interaction.
  • Distractions. While open-plan offices can be distracting for different reasons, home workers can also find distractions looming round the corner. Whether that’s their family and friends asking for favours as they know they are at home, or the household chores that need finishing. Sometimes these everyday distractions can become too tempting for home-based workers, so it’s important for them to clearly define when the working day begins.

How can you support your home-based workers?

If you do adopt home working going forwards, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that your team are fully set up and comfortable with their working environment. This is particularly important for those team members who may be new to remote working, and may therefore require a bit more support.

Help get them set up in their home

Make sure they have a good working space, with a desk and chair set up to ensure they’re sitting comfortably and their posture is correct. You should also ensure that they have easy access to resources such as technology, IT support and HR.

Keep up the communication 

To help identify wellbeing issues and offer the appropriate support to home-workers, there must be sufficient lines of communication in place. If you're able to, make sure that you book in those face-to-face meetings that virtual meetings can’t always replace. Identify good work that they’re doing and highlight it to others; recognition is a positive motivation. For employees that can feel isolated and miss the social interaction, you could set up an instant messaging service which would support real-time communication with others in the business.

It’s important to get the balance of communication right; enough that employees feel connected but not so much that they feel watched. Remember though, some people need more communication than others, so the communication balance should be tailored for each person.

Offer the appropriate training

Working at home comes with its own stresses, so offer employees training on how to handle these. This could include online training on issues such as ‘how to balance work and family when your work is your home’. Offering a regular training schedule to remote workers can also help to make them feel more valued as they are continuing to develop their knowledge and progress in their roles.

Set up an Employee Assistance Programme

Give your home-based workers easy access to support by setting up an Employee Assistance Programme. It can be trickier to identify issues and know when to step in with support when your team works remotely, but an effectively run EAP can help you with this and provide ways of enabling these employees to deal more effectively with the pressures in their lives.

How we can help

When a member of your team has something on their mind, whether that’s work stress, money worries or family problems, they can find it difficult to concentrate on anything else. Your employees bring so much more to work over and above themselves and the skills you employed them for. And, while some things they can manage, others might seem too much to cope with.

With an Employee Assistance Programme in place, your team can get help with the things that are affecting them right from the start. Before their everyday stresses begin to influence their wellbeing and productivity. You can rest assured that, no matter what they’re struggling with, your team will have someone to speak to confidentially, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Find out more about our Employee Assistance Programme. 

Find out more about our small business health insurance, including what is and isn’t covered, and get a quote today.

 

Sources and references

1Office for National Statistics, 2020

2Employee Benefits, 2020

3OddsMonkey via Small Business, 2017

4Totaljobs. UK Workers will Spend over a Year of their Lives Commuting

5The Guardian, 2015

6AXA Business Insurance ‘The Home Business Insight Report’, March 2014 - based on research among nearly 800 home-based businesses.

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