For years we’ve heard about the benefits of flexible working and home working, and many predicted that this would be the way of the future. A survey in 2011 found that 59% of employers offered employees the option to remote work, up from just 13% in 2006.
Office space in cities is often ridiculously expensive and, with technology being as it is, there are many roles which can be performed just as well from home. Employees can save the cost of travelling to work, employers can reduce office costs and everyone can work in their pyjamas!
Last week, Yahoo bucked the trend by issuing staff with a memo stating that they were banning all staff from remote working. You can imagine the reaction this received but are they right in their approach?
The value of co-workers
Yahoo stated in the memo that one of the reasons behind the move was that many great decisions were made and ideas formulated during accidental hallway conversations and that these opportunities were lost when people worked from home.
They also stated that they felt speed was lost when individuals worked from home as it wasn’t possible to just pop along to see someone to move an activity or project along.
The benefits of remote working
Whilst Yahoo has focused on what’s lost through remote working (and we sympathize with their point of view), we want to present a balanced view.
There are times when it can be really beneficial to allow staff to work from home. We posted recently about ensuring workers were able to work remotely during bad weather or other transport problems. If you don’t allow remote working, then the business loses out on days when people can’t get to the office.
There are times when an individual really needs to just put their head down and complete a piece of work with no distractions. This is far easier to do when you’re away from colleagues and a ringing phone.
The practicalities of remote working
It is worth remembering that you have certain legal responsibilities if you allow your employees to work from home on a regular basis. We wrote about this in our post regarding flexible working arrangements.
If you do allow remote working then you do need to make sure you have a solid policy in place which addresses:
- Health and Safety considerations
- Working hours
- Any reporting requirements
- Circumstances in which remote working is and is not permissible.
- How you’ll deal with any additional expenses incurred by an individual working from home
It’s all about balance
You’ll make the decision as to whether remote working is practical for your business and whether you feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
For us, we go for a balanced approached. We agree with Yahoo that there’s a lot to be gained by having teams together but we also want to give our employees flexibility to work in way which is sensible; we don’t want them spending three hours trying to get to the office (when there’s transport or problems out of their control) when they could just as easily work from home.
Our feeling is that remote working will always be around although perhaps it won’t become quite as common place as many commentators once thought.