Why don’t more employees work from home?
Picking up on Phil Flaxton’s post about WorkWiseUK’s National Work from Home Day, I started wondering why the growth of home-working has not been much faster. The CBI can see strong business advantages in using high-quality home working for certain jobs and they have supported WorkWiseUK. Meanwhile, according to the 3rd Government Work-life Balance Survey, another 4.5 million employees (20% of the UK workforce) want to work from home on a regular basis but can’t.
This looks like a simple win-win situation, but there has been considerable resistance from line managers in some enterprises.
All too often this has been about concern that home working might be difficult to manage, and some also fear that their role will be undermined. Frankly, better management is essential in the new business environment and managing by attendance is simply no longer good enough. If senior managers allow line managers to block homeworking then they will miss out on valuable business benefits and our enterprises will be that much poorer.
The business benefits of high-quality homeworking include:
- Improved motivation and productivity – Employees are more likely to have high morale where employers are seen to take account of their needs. In some cases productivity gains as high as 20% have been reported.
- Infrastructure cost savings – Home working can save on car parking space, office rent and running costs. For example, BT calculates that it saves £2.2 million per year through home-working and flexible working.
- Better staff recruitment and retention – Home working can widen the recruitment pool by attracting people who have traditionally struggled to find work, such as single parents and those with disabilities.
- Reduction of sickness absence costs – Not working in an office environment can reduce exposure to colds, flu and other contagious diseases. Cutting out the commute can reduce stress and then risk of travel-related accidents.
Some of these factors are also benefits for employees, who will of course also save the time wasted on commuting.
Once the broader public policy benefits of reducing congestion and emissions are added to the sum, it is clear why this issue is for all the year round – but National Work from Home Day should mark the point where the debate changes up a gear.