Why firms should let staff work from home

The treats on offer to companies that let their staff and consultants work from home have been cemented thanks to a formal project into so-called ‘teleworking.’

Productivity gains, better morale, more accurate work and reduced overheads resulted for entrepreneurs and public sector employers alike, according to the initiative by Hampshire County Council.

Under the project, staff at the council and at local enterprises worked remotely for just two days a week, in a bid to explore the perks and pitfalls of teleworking technology and practices.

Over a six-month period, the results supported the idea that remote working is more eco-friendly than traditional employment, given car users saved 80 miles a week, representing a saving of £80 a month.

Forgoing the daily commute, whether respondents typically used cars, buses or trains, made workers less stressed and presumably reduced congestion, as 95% of them normally journeyed to work at rush-hour.

When asked during the experiment whether their productivity had improved, just over three quarters of respondents said teleworking had boosted their output.

After the project, managers agreed, saying that results showed 87% of respondents had increased their productivity, in some cases by as much as 25%. Significantly, quality and accuracy of work also improved.

Tom Corbin, of the Mobile and Teleworking Initiative for a Smarter South East (MATISSE), said the results come just as enterprise needs to achieve economic growth in a smart and sustainable way.

“For many businesses and individuals, teleworking will be a practical and affordable way forward.

“It promises to deliver more productive employees and a better work-life balance,” he said.

His comments refer to the stark finding that before their foray into remote working practices, just 12% of the workers cited a good work-life balance.

After the pilot, this figures rose to almost 48%. Moreover, as firms strive to retain their staff, the numbers ‘very satisfied’ in their job leapt from 19% (pre-pilot) to 57% (post pilot).

Peter Sinclair, of SEEDA, which sponsored the MATISSE initiative, said it “is evidence that embracing technology is good for business success and employee satisfaction.”

The downsides of remote working and working from home emerged as less opportunities for peer work, intimate team-building and social interaction. One firm reported “less buzz” in their office.

Conversely, many said the home environment is better if they have to concentrate on more complex tasks.

A number also found more time for interaction with staff when in the office. All managers, both at the council and in companies, confirmed the productivity gains and the benefits of less stressed, happier staff members.

 

15th November 2006

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