Recent research by globalworkplaceresearch.com shows that 80-90% of the US workforce wants to work from home, at least part of the time. The advantages for the employee are clear: workers who are given the option to telecommute at least part of the time are happier, and less likely to leave their present role, or take an unauthorised sickie.
It isn’t just the employee that benefits: Perhaps surprisingly, working from home also raises productivity. Some companies report that employees actually put in more hours from home, using their usual commute time for extra work. The pressure group 1 Million For Work Flexibility states that telecommuting reduces turnover, enhances a company’s green credentials and is cost-effective, saving the company money on office space and other associated costs.
Despite the benefits, and the fact that over 50% of employees are in roles that are at least partly compatible with working from home, under 3% of the workforce telecommutes for more than half the time. So, what is it that is stopping employers from letting their employees work remotely?
One reason that companies cite for their reluctance to try telecommuting is the failure by high-profile companies, like Yahoo! The pioneering web services provider banned remote working for employees when Marissa Mayer became their CEO in 2013 – and she wasn’t alone. A number of other well-known corporations did the same. (It’s worth noting that even Yahoo! allows working from home now, they just needed to get the system right for them.)
Employers may have concerns about cyber security when it comes to remote working. If you consider an employee taking a work laptop home and connecting to the office servers via a secure connection with all the latest patches installed it seems low risk but there are other factors to consider. If a worker uses their own equipment, it may not be as well secured and could introduce malware or a virus to the network. Copies of confidential files downloaded to a laptop or
If a worker uses their own equipment, it may not be as well secured and could introduce malware or a virus to the network. Copies of confidential files downloaded to a laptop or smartphone are no longer secure – anyone who can access the device can read them. Although all these issues can be addressed by a combination of technology and policy, you can see why IT managers might be reluctant to open that can of worms in the first place.
There seems to be the attitude that working from home is either all or nothing; either employees work from home full-time, or they come into the office. Either every department works remotely, or none does. The truth is that there are some roles that are much more suited to distance working than others, but that most roles can be carried out from home at least part of the time.
How can you build a team, when people don’t really see each other? If you’re not bumping into each other at the coffee machine or killing time in a meeting waiting for that one person who’s always later, how do you forge relationships? Michael Ortner, CEO of Capterra, says that ‘a company is nothing but its people and its culture’ and considers telecommuting to be dangerous.
Although it’s true that creating a virtual team is different to fostering camaraderie in person, it’s not impossible. There are strategies that help to foster a sense of belonging to virtual teams, even those that span sites, and even continents.
Even though study after study shows the benefits of allowing employees to work from home, at least some of the time, employers just seem to have an inbuilt resistance. It’s not a technological issue, with cloud-based solutions and software as a service taking off, remote employees can easily and securely access the services they need to if they can connect to the internet. The benefits are clean and tangible, and yet there is a great reluctance; as though no matter how many studies show increased productivity, the CEO or people in HR just can’t get past the idea that you might be less productive, slacking off to play video games rather than staying on-task.
If you’re keen to work from home but your boss says no, then you’re going to have to make your case for remote working. It may be that your manager doesn’t want to relinquish the control that having you physically present gives, so you will have to do a PR job for remote working. Over at Inc.com they advocate a seven-step program to convince your boss to let you work from home, starting with taking a sick day but still putting in a full day’s work.
Remote working brings plenty of benefits for both employee and employer; with environmental issues, fuel prices and road congestion all on the rise, telecommuting surely has a role to play in the future.
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