Remote Working

  | James Innes

Working from home has always been seen as the ideal way to achieve the perfect work-life balance and in 2002 the UK Government appeared to recognise this by introducing the Employment Act. This entitled employees with children under six years of age to request flexible hours and required all employers to give due thought and consideration to such requests.

The pros and cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to working from home both for employers and employees. Some of the advantages include:

  • A reduction in the time spent travelling to work and the amount of expenses incurred as a result of commuting – this can also have a positive impact on the environment with a reduction in CO2 emissions and congestion at major traffic hot spots
  • Employers may be able to reduce their office space and therefore cut down on their expenses for premises – desk sharing is now a common practice which enables staff to alternate between working at home and in the office
  • Staff retention and loyalty can increase due to the benefits of being offered flexible working hours resulting in a potential reduction in costs for the recruitment and training of new staff

Disadvantages of working from home can be:

  • A feeling of isolation with a lack of involvement in shared decision making
  • A possible lack of motivation and a resulting loss of trust and confidence from managers
  • Reduced access to company information and involvement in team activities or training
  • A lack of effective management and support structures with a feeling of not being involved in work of significance to the company
  • The temptation to work longer hours and not to take regular breaks, including missing lunch

Making remote working successful

There are a number of technological developments which have made working from home much easier and more effective for employers and employees. Broadband technology and Virtual Private Networks allow employees access to office systems from their own homes while also reassuring employers of the security of their data. Business calls can be made from home through the use of Voice over IP and wireless Internet connections mean that work can still be done even when travelling is required. Video conferencing can be used to ensure that employees remain in touch with the office and can participate in important meetings or discussions. Instant Messaging is also useful to enable employees to be updated by their colleagues or to seek advice or assistance when required.

It is important to recognise the benefits of working from home, both for employees and employers, but it is equally important to ensure that members of staff who choose remote working are provided with the same level of support as their office-based colleagues, otherwise the whole process can be counterproductive.

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