Well managed home work has its benefits

Allowing employees to work from home typically attracts mixed reactions from managers.

Studies have shown that organisations which allow staff to work at home can benefit from higher productivity, commitment, loyalty and improved morale. Other advantages include more available office space and a reduction in overheads. Last month’s Work Wise Week, which included Work From Home Day, was intended to show employers how feasible it can be for them to offer remote working to staff.

Penny de Valk, strategy director at information services firm Ceridian in the UK, said: “Our survey of 100 companies, last year, revealed that home working offered more benefits than pitfalls.”

Home working is an opportunity for organisations to focus on measuring productivity rather than the amount of time spent at work. It also fits in with the current prevailing business ethos of increased flexibility and a sense of corporate social responsibility.

“Companies and individuals are looking at home working as a means of managing their carbon footprint, and supporting their corporate social responsibility initiatives,” added de Valk.

Nationwide Building Society is a founding member of the Employer’s Forum for Work-Life Balance. It offers all staff the opportunity to apply for flexible working hours. John Wrighthouse, director of human resources, said: “We know, from experience, that this helps to create a meaningful work-life balance, resulting in successful business performance.”

But introducing home working can involve a significant culture change in some organisations. In these cases, employers may be reluctant to offer the benefit owing to fears that staff productivity will fall without direct management supervision.

Kate Keenan, an independent business psychologist, said difficulties can arise from managerial issues such as, keeping in touch regularly with home working employees and setting objectives so that people can self-evaluate their performance. “That’s quite hard for a lot of managers because it requires a degree of trust, plus faith and assurance that people have the skills and the motivation to keep going. From the organisation’s point of view, it requires a different style of management. A lot of current HR management is about having bums on seats and seeing people, [whereas] remote working means you’ve got to trust the person to do the work,” she said.

Keenan added that working from home can help to reduce stress for some staff, but others need the social life of work so a trial period may be beneficial. It is also important for managers to regularly meet with home workers to ensure business objectives are met.