As current global events have shown, enabling working from home – or remote working – isn’t just an option for today’s businesses: it can be a necessity. Thankfully, doing the 9 to 5 from home has increasingly been viewed as not just viable but appealing to business owners and employees. A 2019 report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggested that even prior to the coronavirus lockdown, over half of Britain's workforce were already working flexibly in some way.
Below we will run through a few reasons why working from home has become more popular in recent years, some tips on making flexibility work for your SME, and the key issues to consider when staff set up office at home.
This is a continuation from another blog 3 Mental Health Tips for Remote Workers
In recent years, the adoption of remote working has become more commonplace as businesses have discovered its positive outcomes. According to findings from the IWG Global Workforce Survey 2019, an incredible 85% of business leaders believe that flexible working practices have made their organisation more productive.
How do we account for this? Perhaps the old adage that happy workers are more productive (recently backed up by research) goes some way to explaining the boost. Employees who work from home gain the freedom to spend more time with loved ones, create an at-home workspace that’s customised to their needs, and eliminate the cost and hassle of a daily commute. These perks create happier, more productive employees – which would explain why the same IWG survey found over 80% of employees would reject a job offer that didn’t grant any flexible working in favour of one that did.
There are also specific benefits for SMEs in enabling remote working. SMEs can save costs on travel expenses and administrative overheads (such as office space and equipment) by encouraging employees to work from home. For SMEs who might want to reap the reputational benefits of being seen as a green organisation, the coronavirus lockdown has shown how having employees work from home helps combat air pollution by reducing the number of commuters on the roads.
Working from home has also become more appealing to businesses over time because advances in technology have made it increasingly viable. Cloud-based solutions, including software and communication tools, mean that seamless remote working is now possible for organisations large and small.
For example, here at Valda Energy our investment in digital service solutions means that our team has the flexibility to work wherever and whenever required. Even when team members are based at home, we can provide continuity of service to customers thanks to our cloud-based email, webchat and telephone services.
By investing in such solutions, many SMEs have also been able to future proof their business, weathering workforce trends and exceptional global circumstances through flexible working. Later in this blog, we will provide more examples of how cloud-based apps have enabled agile and collaborative working for SMEs where team members are in separate locations.
Like any working arrangement, working from home does carry some unique risks that all SMEs should be aware of. Chief amongst these is the increased likelihood of home workers becoming the targets of cybercrime and digital scams.
The home-based Wi-Fi networks used by remote workers often lack the same level of security as an organisation’s internal network. This puts employees who work from home at higher risk of falling prey to phishing threats. Cybercriminals have already begun to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and the rapid increase in remote working by disguising malware attacks as coronavirus safety measures.
We recommend that organisations reinforce their perimeter-based, in-office security tools with endpoint security measures that protect end-user devices like desktops, laptops, and mobile phones. Similarly, we advise ensuring that staff remain vigilant against phishing scams by not clicking on unconfirmed links, keeping an eye out for poor spelling and grammar in emails (tell-tale signs of a phishing attempt), and disregarding any suspicious requests or offers.
Remote working also poses a distinct challenge to managers who would otherwise be able to supervise staff in an office environment. How can you ensure your employees are staying motivated and productive when you can’t physically oversee their workday? And how can you help team members who are looking to collaborate on shared projects?
The key here is to ensure that all lines of communication remain open. We have previously recommended a number of cloud-based apps that allow teams to work collaboratively from different locations, as well as communication apps that allow all team members to stay in touch. In terms of managing employees, consider implementing clear work-from-home policies that provide guidance around such key issues as recommended work hours. Ensure structures are put into place for the support and guidance of employees, including regular check-ins and team meetings via communication apps.
We hope to have shown how, with some consideration and investments in the right digital solutions, SMEs can benefit from having a remote workforce – whether that’s on a long-term or short-term basis.
Here at Valda Energy, our twenty years of customer insight and experience in the business energy sector means we have adapted to remote working practices. By using cloud-based digital solutions, we’re able to continue providing a full service to our customers even where our staff are working from home. That means you can reach us through all our usual contact channels (email, webchat and telephone services) during our usual business hours.
To read other blogs regarding home working, please read this blog 3 Mental Health Tips for Remote Workers