We live in an exceptionally competitive business environment. Everyone is fighting to get their voices heard above the noise and that fight is taken to the competition in a number of different ways.
It could be a new marketing direction, a change of strategy or leadership, exciting new tech that positively affects efficiencies and productivity or, like many businesses, a bold leap into the world of remote working.
Earlier this month we blogged about the effects of working from home on those who actually do work from home and back in May, our article entitled The Pros & Cons of Working Remotely gave equal weight to the advantages and disadvantages of flexible working from a business standpoint.
This blog aims to tie everything together.
It will come as no surprise that today’s forward-thinking businesses need to be flexible and a component part of that flexibility involves taking an holistic look at the current workforce and practices and identifying new and better ways of responding to the needs of the modern-day employee.
Who Had The Bright Idea That Working From Home Was A Good Move?
No-one knows for sure who’s idea it was but in 1972, a communications specialist working for NASA called Jack Niles realised he could do his job from his house just as well as he could from his office and referred to his situation as ‘telecommuting.’ He was given the moniker ‘The Father of Telecommuting.’
Seven years later in September 1979, American Frank Schiff, vice-president and chief economist of the Committee for Economic Development (1969 – 1986) wrote a fascinating article in the Washington Post entitled ‘Working At Home Can Save Gasoline’. The age of telecommuting was born.
Earning a living once meant inching your way through two hours’ traffic every morning. It was physically and emotionally stressful and took it’s toll on worker’s productivity, their sense of well-being and crucially, their job satisfaction. At the end of the day, the same soul-destroying process was repeated in reverse. And again the next day. And the next….
So After All That, Is It A Good Idea?
Frank Schiff was right – working from home takes millions of vehicles off the road every day and reduces the stress on the public transport system, slowing the degradation of the environment. It saves employees money in fuel costs, vehicle wear and tear, even insurance costs but the biggest and most significant savings is that of time. There’s more time to work, more time to be with the family and unwind and less time spent in the car agonisingly switching back and forth from first to second, on the tube with some stranger’s unwashed armpit in your face for 40 minutes or waiting for a bus that seemingly doesn’t exist.
For businesses, the benefits are equally as clear. Allowing employees to telecommute saves money on infrastructure, utilities and even regulatory compliance and it makes for a very attractive employment model. It’s a win-win.
Of course it’s not for everyone. Plenty of businesses require their employees to have face-to-face interaction, to use specialised equipment or to be at the behest of tight security protocols that prevent working from anywhere but the office. Others are so old-school that the idea their employees are anywhere else aside from the office is unthinkable.
There are also the issues of the loss of social interaction and the inability to form coherent intra-office teams which deter employers from embracing the telecommuting culture.
You Said This Would Tie It All Together…
We did, you’re right.
The thing is, there’s a conclusion but not a conclusive answer.
For most businesses who have looked into remote working, the benefits outweigh the risks and the way to get it right is to have a sensible and robust plan in place. Companies that take the time to ensure they have a remote working policy that takes in all scenarios, where the employees understand that they can talk to management if something isn’t right and the supporting technology is precisely what the remote worker needs to do his or her job are the ones that succeed.
Over the next five years, further advancements in technology, including unified communications and the knowledge that those who already work remotely are on the whole more productive will ensure that an ever-increasing number of businesses and organisations embrace a working model they never would have considered five years ago.
If you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and you decide it’s worth trying, try it. Conversely, if you’ve weight up the pros and cons and you’ve decided it isn’t worth trying, don’t try it.
Sorry. That’s the best we can do!
Have a good week.