Remote Working is by no means a new concept. It has long been employed by businesses with dispersed work forces, but the trend is now being seen across the UK and in most cases is considered to be a valuable benefit, with 70% of people feeling that companies should permit remote working for their staff. A new age of technology means that working remotely is more efficient than ever before.
Let’s take a look at the facts. Between 2008 and 2014 the number of people working remotely increased by 1.2 million, according to the Office of National Statistics. A study last year by YouGov found that 54% of UK office workers are currently able to work remotely. Only 17% felt that remote working reduced their efficiency. These numbers all indicate that Remote Working is something that businesses should seriously consider offering, in order to attract and retain the top calibre of candidates.
So why is Remote Working on the rise?
Exceptional talent is a precious commodity, and offering the option to work remotely means that companies can secure the best candidates on the market, wherever they are. Similarly, it also means that businesses aren’t at risk of losing people if their personal situation changes (i.e. they move to a location that isn’t commutable, they need to be flexible to fit around their family life). Remote Working is coveted as a highly valuable perk amongst many employees and to keep up with the ever-increasing competition in the hiring market, companies are offering it as a benefit to entice potential candidates.
How is it possible?
Smarter devices, better internet connections and new apps, mean that working away from the office is now both easily achievable and extremely productive. There are a wealth of options for different chat, phone, video, web and email tools to ensure an open channel of communication between employees and teams. Sharing data and collaborative working are much easier, due to improvements in the quality, security and accessibility of cloud computing.
Skype is one of the best known methods for communicating remotely via messenger or video call. Powwownow is an excellent conference calling tool, also offering video and web conferencing, call recording and screen sharing. Softwares such as Asana and Trello are big names in the project management and collaborative working market, with polished user-interfaces and strong mobile capabilities. For document sharing, Box, DropBox and GoogleDocs are all considered to be good options. This brief list only scratches the surface of the vast choice that employers have when putting a Remote Working system in place.
Although modern technology allows “telecommuting” to be possible, that’s not to say it’s not without challenges…
Does it work?
There are many hurdles to overcome when it comes to working remotely. It seems that the biggest problem that remote workers face is the age-old “out of sight, out of mind” issue. Lacking a tangible presence in the office can mean that those working remotely can slip under the radar. Equally, the isolation and minimal face-to-face networking can result in feeling a bit out of touch with what’s going on. Virtual working spaces and home offices have their fair share of distractions too, which is why it’s suggested that a quiet, professional area is created in order to avoid this problem. Companies like WeWork allow Remote Workers to access a flexible workspace and collaborative network, as and when it’s needed.
From an outsider’s perspective it’s easy to imagine the Remote Worker, sat happily in their pyjamas on their sofa with a cup of tea, but in most instances that’s just not the case. There is a huge element of trust involved with working remotely. It’s imperative that objectives and targets are set out properly, and can also be measured in more than just final results. This means that Remote Workers are perhaps under more scrutiny than those who are office based.
All that being said, by contrast, Telecommuting presents an enormous number of benefits, including saving on travel costs and offering a much more flexible work environment for those that need it. Provided workers are proactive and self-motivating, working remotely has been shown to increase productivity - In research done by Microsoft Small Business Resources, 52% of participants claimed that they’re more productive when working remotely.
Having a remote team means that overheads are lower – costs like office space and furniture don’t exist, replaced instead by relatively reasonable subscriptions to tools and software, allowing employees to communication and collaborate.
As previously mentioned, offering Remote Working means that businesses can hire the best talent on the market, even if they’re located elsewhere – and technology means that instantaneous communication is possible across a number of platforms. A better work-life balance results in happier, healthier employees. Companies that offer Remote Working have seen a decrease in the number of sick days taken by their staff, and they actually get to have a life outside of work!
It’s clear that some roles simply aren’t compatible with the Remote Working model, but provided that the position is possible from a remote location, it’s definitely something to consider.
The traditional office is far from becoming obsolete but perhaps it’s time for more of us to take a look at the possibilities for working remotely, and how it could benefit businesses across the country and even the globe.
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