The internet has been readily available for businesses for some time now, meaning that working from home has become an increasingly popular option to tackle many different challenges. Ironically, working from home also presents us with a whole new set of challenges to consider.
Not all businesses can make the change to work remotely such as logistics and manufacturing, but most businesses have an administration department who work full time in the office. This blog is more suited for them.
We discuss some of the pros and cons of staff working from home. Both the seen, and unseen types.
So grab your mug, favourite beverage if you will, and let’s work together to give you the best diagnosis the Tech Doctor can offer on where your business stands to benefit from home working.
Working from home is great and all, but there are more pressing issues to get too.
Like whose round of coffee is it?
Some of the biggest challenges that employers face are ones of the psychological kind. Mental well-being. When it comes to an employee making decisions that directly impact the business, the better the employees mental health is, the more focused and motivated they become.
As a business owner or manager of your team, you are in a position to greatly boost someones potential by nurturing them to grow. Motivated staff statistically take less days off work.
One particular factor that is well documented over the years is work related stress and how well a business manages to reduce this as much as possible. These factors include:
- Hard to meet deadlines
- Travel & commuting
- Financial challenges
- Family matters
- Workplace staff disputes
Although not restricted to the list above, they’re the more common contributing factors surrounding stress in the workplace.
Addressing the initial idea of working from home
In most cases if you were to say “Hey, Sharon! Fancy working from home instead of coming into the office?” you would probably become the best boss in the world. Most staff would love the idea of being able to get up later in the morning or afternoon (depending on their shifts) without having to sit in traffic and saving lots of money on fuel or travel.
That there, is the bullseye factor. Getting up later, saving money and no stress on travel.
For much of the UK workforce, this is an all too familiar sight every working day.
Source: Open Access Government – Traffic Jams
For many, the morning commute can trigger a days worth of unmotivated work ethic simply based on a negative traffic or travel experience. Fuel is also being used by sitting in traffic day in, day out resulting in higher commute costs. Train tickets are never a cheap option either.
Transportation and travel is estimated to cost a working person between 14% – 25% of their monthly take home wage in motor fuel expenses.
If we travelled by train it can double or even triple the costs of travel. From Biggleswade, UK to London Euston it costs nearly £600 per month:
Going by the above, we can begin to understand why Sharon may be excited at the idea of being able to work from home. Less commuter stress and potentially up to £6,208 better off a year if she travels by train. Immediately we can begin to understand the benefits that someone might experience when looking at the benefits of your staff working from home.
What benefits are there for the business?
Let’s say that Sharon is now £6,000 a year better off, this immediately puts less financial strain on her monthly expenses. On the flip side, for businesses who rent offices there is the potential to downsize or even work remotely completely, resulting in a huge reduction in premises costs and insurance premiums.
Going back to the point about employee mental health and motivation, here are a few points to also consider with working from home:
- Fewer absence days – A lot of employees who require time out of the office are still able to work. It’s factors such as commuting or feeling run down that contribute to this. By allowing staff to stay at home in the comfort of their own homes, they are more likely to work through colds, flu and other things.
- Childcare – With working parents comes the struggle to juggle child care requirements. Flexible hours doesn’t mean reduction in work, it can also mean someone leaving early to collect their child, then resuming work once they get home.
- Maternity / Paternity – Some parents of new born children would love to start earning full wages as soon as possible. Working from home reduces the need for childcare whilst being able to actively carry out business critical tasks from the comfort of their own homes.
- Staff disputes – With staff interacting less frequently and mostly over video, you are far less likely to see workplace disputes and grievances. This promotes better working relationships especially where different personalities may have clashed originally.
These are just a few points about working from home for staff, the benefits and not all businesses can make this change. For those who can allow their office staff to work from home more frequently (such as split shifts, flexible working, etc) the benefits are endless.
What about the downside? There is always a downside.
You are absolutely correct. With all the above benefits, you must address the not so beneficial element of home working. The biggest talking points when surveyed by us recently is around productivity and costs. Both being equally as concerning as the other.
Let’s go ahead and jump in to the other factors surrounding your staff working from home.
Trust is by far the biggest challenge of the three mentioned. You can spend all the money in the world, give the best tools for the job and still have members of staff who take advantage of the boss not being able to see their computer screen.
And this fear of mistrust is not unfounded either.
Aretehr.com wrote an article on employees spending too much time on social media at work which discussed how employers can work with employees to try and find the happy medium. Which is great, if you are in line of sight of your employees. When they are working from home though, not so great.
Fear not, however, as there is light at the end of the tunnel here. Remember when we spoke about being motivated due to improved mental health and workplace ethics? This is where being the best boss around comes into full force!
Consider why the employee has enough time to spend on personal matters?
Targets, direction and instruction are the best tools to avoid idle thumbs. In a lot of cases, boredom contributes to wandering thoughts.
We all know that one person who has their phone stuck to their hands, tapping away, trying to get the best likes and shares on social media but this behavior can also be down to the fact they had to hide it at work in the first place. Almost like the child who wants a cookie, so will sneak more cookies out the jar than just eating the one they would have been given in the first place.
It also puts you in an overwhelmingly advantageous position of being able to set expectations and targets for work performance. If you didn’t have processes or expectations in place before home working, you will definitely want to have them in place if home working becomes a reality.
Productivity & Reliability are two sides of the same shiny coin.
To really get the best out of remote working, you need ways of monitoring how productive your staff are vs how often they are available to do the things they are tasked with completing.
Most businesses nowadays (both remote and office based) use online planning platforms such as Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Teams. Planner gives your staff tasks, deadlines and tracks how far along projects and tasks your staff are. Teams gives your staff the perfect opportunity to collaborate in real time regardless of location and also works as a phone system too.
To help with understanding these two suggestions, we’ve given you a video to watch just to see what the Microsoft Planner product is (and why it is quickly becomes the back bone to getting things done.) with a hands on demonstration.
The final point to discuss is the aged old question. Expense.
Making company wide changes are expensive. Right?
This solely comes down to initial cost vs long term savings and exactly how much you plan on providing your staff as a means to work with. Let’s break down some of the common investments and what savings could potentially be made from them:
Computers & Laptops
Depending on how your staff access information in your company, depends on what you will need to provide them to do their job. If working on documents and cloud based web browser systems then the likelihood is that your staff can use their own PC or laptop from home. Most business requirements normally get a good laptop and headset for under £450 if the need to buy one in is anticipated.
Using a cloud based system like Microsoft Office 365 for Business is one such system that facilitates cloud based browser functionality without the need to install anything. This means all the power of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint all from the web browser, keeping all your work centralised and up to date in real time. It also gives you emails and cloud based storage too included in the subscription.
Add Microsoft Teams into the mix (comes as part of M365 for Business) and you have everything in one place.In terms of relevant costs, M365 for Business starts at £3.80 per member of staff per month.
Telephony is the back bone to a business. If your staff don’t have a requirement for a phone system or use their own mobile phone then there is no additional costs involved.
In 2020, we are seeing more businesses come away from the traditional desk phone and moving over to VoiP (Voice over Internet) which comes with the benefits of cheaper calls and better coverage. One such system, is Microsoft Teams.
If a phone system which allows your staff to work from anywhere is needed, you can expect this to cost between £12 – £17 per user per month depending on bundles and add ons.
Added benefits to this, is if your staff loses internet connectivity then Teams can be run from a smart phone meaning your staff are always contactable. This also applies to the office where Teams also relays calls to smart phones in the event of internet loss.
A realistic cost per member of staff to work from home with Microsoft 365 would come to approximately £16 – £22 per month. This covers all the essentials for home based working, email and communications.
Depending if a computer or laptop was needed to begin with, up front costs would estimate between £450 – £500 depending on the spec of computer and if a headset was needed or not.
The deciding factor is if a staff member calling in absent and not being available for work instead of being able to ask to work from home equates to more than £22 per month then the option of working from home will become both a cost saving initiative as well as a staff morale and work ethics boost for years to come.
Do you give your staff the freedom to work from home or are you totally against the idea? Let us know in the comments!
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