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Flexible working

Woman sitting on sofa with a laptopPortable IT equipment, the widespread availability of broadband internet and the explosion of cloud-based computing services mean it’s easier than ever to allow working from home in your company. And while homeworking can certainly bring benefits to your business, you should think carefully before introducing it.

Homeworking pros and cons

Working from home can bring a number of benefits to your business:

  • Increased productivity. People who work from home are less susceptible to interruptions and often find it easier to focus and be productive.
  • Boosted motivation. Allowing homeworking demonstrates trust, reduces commuting hassles and helps staff balance work and other obligations.
  • Cost savings. If working from home is the norm for a proportion of your workforce, your business may be able to occupy smaller premises.

There can be disadvantages to working from home too:

  • Management is trickier. With less face-to-face contact, it can be harder to manage your team of people.
  • Extra costs. Enabling homeworking can involve significant - and sometimes expensive - changes to your IT systems.
  • Communication problems. It can be harder for a team to communicate successfully when they work from different locations.

One way to get round this is for employees to work from home on a part-time basis. This solution gives staff time in the office for face-to-face catch ups whilst benefiting from the increased motivation and productivity offered by homeworking. This might also reduce the amount of office space you need as employees may be able to desk-share - sometimes referred to as 'hot desking'.

Is working from home right for your company?

Often, the appropriateness of homeworking depends on the job itself. For instance, while telesales staff, writers and consultants may thrive when working from home, it is impossible for retail staff or factory employees to even consider homeworking.

As well as evaluating the job roles in your company, there are other key factors that will determine how appropriate homeworking is. Notably:

  • Are your employees suited to it? Working from home creates new challenges in motivation and self-discipline.
  • Can your IT cope? Understand what new IT you might have to invest in before committing to a homeworking programme.

If you offer homeworking to one person in your business, you may set a precedent which others want to follow. You should therefore make sure that working from home fits your company before you offer it to your staff.

Homeworking IT issues

Think carefully about how to introduce homeworking. Your employees will probably need access to new equipment to work effectively.

You remain responsible for their computer health and safety no matter where they work, so you will need to supply effective, ergonomic computer hardware. You may also be responsible for supplying office equipment.

Effective communications are important, so lay on a broadband internet connection and mobile phone. Call forwarding may also make it easier for people to contact your homeworkers.

Keep an eye on security, especially if your employees require access to sensitive information like your customer database. A virtual private network allows you to create a secure 'tunnel' between a computer in your employee’s home and your company IT systems.

Homeworking management

Think about how you will manage people who work from home. It can be tricky to monitor their performance, so agree deadlines and meet face-to-face regularly. Homeworking employees typically need better time management skills than their office-based colleagues, so think about extra training too.

In general, maintaining good communication is key to homeworking success. Technology can help a lot. Use collaboration tools, instant messaging, webcams and the good old telephone to ensure all your employees can stay in touch with the business.

 For further, related information, see:

Find more articles, videos and tools about homeworking in the Resources box to the right.