Remote and flexible working is the way of the future, and the recent Coronavirus pandemic has helped to drive this fact home for more employees and employers alike than ever before. But what are some of the specific benefits small businesses can gain from adopting remote working practices and what are the main hurdles they need to avoid?
This is what we’ll be talking about in today’s article, empowering small business owners to make decisions about the future of their ways of working.
Letting your employees work from home at least some of the time saves money – both for you and for them. Your employees will save money on lunches out and transport costs to and from office – whether that’s public transport or gas and car maintenance costs. Meanwhile, having fewer people in the office on any given day means you can opt for smaller business premises, saving you as a business owner a pretty penny.
Money isn’t the only thing you can save with remote work, either – it also helps to save on carbon emissions, making your business more sustainable. Your smaller office will have lower utility bills, and by skipping the commute, your people won’t contribute as many greenhouse gases by driving to the office.
Better work-life balance
Perhaps the most obvious benefit for employees who can work from home is a greater work-life balance. Whether it’s being able to easily slip away for a dentist appointment or act as a carer for a sick family member, having some say over where and when they work helps your employees take care of the things that matter to them most.
Employees who work from home also save heaps of time by skipping the commute, meaning they have more time to hit the gym first thing in the morning or drop the kids off at school.
Additionally, offering remote work to your employees can help you attract a more diverse workforce. Being able to work from a home office helps those with disabilities work comfortably and on their own terms.
Higher levels of productivity
Interestingly, people also tend to get more done when they’re working from home. A Stanford University study found that home-based employees got more work done and took fewer sick days than their office-based peers.
Skipping water cooler chats and not having people stop by your desk constantly for a question or a bit of small talk helps people to focus on the task at hand: a 2019 survey by FlexJobs found that 49% of people chose to work from home on days when they really needed to buckle down to finish an important piece of work.
Greater employee satisfaction
The overarching outcome of all the specific benefits of allowing your staff to work remotely at least part-time is greater overall employee satisfaction. A better work-life balance, greater flexibility and saving money all lead to happier, more loyal employees.
Offering flexible work to your employees can also help you to attract a larger, better-qualified pool of applicants. By not limiting your possibilities to those who live within a commutable distance of the office, you can choose the most qualified applicant for the position overall, rather than the most qualified one within a certain radius.
Remote working is also increasingly being seen as a major perk among applicants: according to research by Gallup, as many as 35% of Americans would change jobs if it allowed them to work off-site full-time.
Offering your staff the option of choosing where to work from can also help with your employee retention. According to Forbes, 54% of people would switch jobs if it offered them more flexibility, which would lead to a 12% reduction in turnover.
All of this is not to say that remote working is a perfect solution or one that any business can adopt seamlessly without much effort.
While remote work can sound like a dream for introverts and those who get their best work done when faced with minimal distractions, social butterflies and those who rely heavily on teamwork in their role can struggle when taken out of an office setting.
According to a survey by FleishmanHillard, 80% of the people who had to work from home during the Coronavirus pandemic had some issues with communication, with 55% saying not being able to communicate with people in person was one of their biggest problems.
Similarly, working from home can blur the lines between work life and personal life, meaning people may feel they can never truly log off. That’s why it’s important to establish boundaries and underline to your team members that they’re not obligated to check their emails outside their work hours.
This is not to say that these people can’t adapt to a remote work environment at least on a part-time basis, but it does mean that you need to invest in your company culture as well as some good cloud technology in order to make remote work as seamless and enjoyable as possible for everyone on your team.
In order to make working from home a success for your company, you need to put some thought into your company culture so that your remote team feels like exactly that – a unified, supportive team. You’ll also need to make sure your IT solutions support your employees in doing their best work and helps you all communicate with ease.
For more information on remote working technology that could support your SME in adopting more flexible working practices, come back to our blog next week for an article dedicated to the subject.