How To Ensure Your Home Workers Are Flexible - And Not Just Remote
By 2015 it's predicted more than 37% of the workforce globally will be 'mobile workers', based from home or travelling away from the HQ (or 1.3 billion employees, according to IDC figures).
As more businesses look for ways to streamline overheads and increase productivity, more home-based working can be seen as an easy win. An RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) study last year found that employees with flexible working arrangements - involving more home-working - reported an average gain of 5 hours per week, worth £4,200 per annum per employee; reducing the amount of time people spent at their workstations also brought savings. It also reported that flexible workers felt more valued and trusted by their organisations and were more motivated as a result, that it gave more opportunities for fulfilling parenting roles, reduced stress, and more chance to exercise and live a healthier life.
This rosy picture doesn't perhaps reflect the full range of experiences, or delve deep enough into the realities of changes to ways of working overtime. Home-working involves a fundamental shift in work practices, day-to-day experiences and relationships, raising a host of issues around motivation, communication, team dynamics and management for the firm.
The first rule is that home-working isn't going to be right for everyone. Firms need to think about individual personalities and who is suited to home-working, and whether they have the skills to do it. It's important not to generalise but to explore the individual needs and requirements of the person. An extroverted person may feel isolated and struggle with working alone for long periods. This might affect their work detrimentally, but alternatively may enable them to get more work done as they don't have the social distractions of the workplace. However, a quieter, more reflective person may be very productive at home, without distractions, and may not feel the need the join the social activities of the team. The drawbacks of this are that the team may miss the expertise, knowledge and experience of that individual. The most frequent issue that we hear on our Employee Assistance Programme helpline is the isolation and lack of support that home-workers feel. They often feel that they are not cared about, and that their only value is their on-line presence. There is a sense of the soul of the person being lost in home-working.
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