If you have ever imagined a lifestyle which allows you to earn money while kicking back on a beach in Thailand, you are not alone. The concept of remote working used to be a pipe dream, achievable only by those in the most senior of positions. Now, thanks to globalised connectivity and online collaborative tools, flexible working is being lauded as an economic and efficient way of fulfilling desk jobs with minimal investment. An IBEC survey carried out in 2018 found that 37% of employers had a policy of remote working, while a recent study carried out by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Intervention in Ireland found that almost half of all respondents (48.5%) worked remotely, either from home or from a co-working hub environment with other remote workers. Although the figures have shown that this style of working is certainly on the rise, the IBEC figures are lagging somewhat behind the global figure for employers with remote work policies, which is closer to 80%.

Positive effects of flexible working

In a world suffering from the effects of the climate crisis, sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips. The corporate world has been facing increasing scrutiny with many employers under pressure to explore ways of lessening their organisations carbon footprint. Encouraging flexible working is one way to do this, as it allows employees to reduce emissions by removing the daily commute from their lives. (Although, with air travel remaining one of the biggest factors of climate change, the digital nomad lifestyle which enables flying to different countries while working remotely could potentially be culpable.) This reduced commute time can also have the knock-on effect of improved employee retention. A recent study by Airtasker found that 25% of employees had quit a job at some point in their life due to a lengthy work commute.

Employers also now have access to a much larger talent pool than ever before. Whereas previously employees were required to present themselves at a physical location, nowadays they can log on remotely. This means that jobseekers are no longer confined to their local areas, nor do they necessarily need to relocate in order to pursue their career. This in turn means that employers also do not need to situate themselves in densely populated areas just to have access to the talent pools such areas provide. Flexible working also allows businesses to reduce spend when it comes to onboarding employees. Fully remote workers forego the need for office space, a canteen and other location-related necessities, meaning less of the associated spend.

Does it matter where your employee works from if the job is getting done?

All of this sounds great from a macro level, but what about when it comes to actually getting the work done? From an efficiency standpoint, countless studies have shown that flexible working can really boost employee productivity. A recent survey conducted by Connect Solutions found that 77% of those surveyed claimed that flexible working improved their productivity, while a Stanford study showed a productivity increase of 13%. Aside from the fact that flexible working means less office chit chat and meeting requests, employees tend to be happier, less stressed and have greater work satisfaction – leading to an overall increase in productivity.

Taking into account the hard savings combined with the increase in productivity, businesses that can successfully implement an ethos of flexible working stand to gain considerably over the coming years. So why are more organisations not doing it?

Changing attitudes

Successfully implementing remote working into your workplace may well require a shift in attitude. While some employers envision their employees binge watching Netflix while refreshing their work emails every 15 minutes, working from home doesn’t make employees any less accountable. Job descriptions and tasks remain the same and it will become painstakingly obvious after a short period of time if work is not being completed to the desired standard. If you as an employer cannot trust your employee to complete their work without being under your constant watchful eye, then perhaps that employee should never have been hired in the first place.

However, there is a fatal flaw in the otherwise perfect pitch for implementing a flexible working policy right away, and that is this; no two people are the same. As is always the problem with taking statistics at face value, studies such as those listed above can risk over-generalisation. Some employees may feel like working from home is the absolute dream yet may struggle when it comes down to the reality of it. Working independently presents many challenges, such as the inability to spontaneously brainstorm ideas with colleagues. Remote employees suffering from a lack of motivation may be more likely to procrastinate than if they were in an office with peers. Extroverted personalities may find that they miss the energy of the office and feel isolated. Despite their best efforts, some may find that they simply cannot focus when working from home. Even those employees that do respond well to remote working run the risk of a compromised work/life balance. In fact, a 2017 report from Eurofound found that working remotely can result in greater work intensification and interference with personal life.

So how can employers harness the benefits of working from home without risking the negative effects such an initiative can have? The key really is in the name ‘flexible working’. If you wish to roll out a remote work policy, then employees should be given the option to working how it suits them. For some, this may mean working from home full time. For others, it may mean they are based in an office but with complete ownership over their working hours. Employees interested in working remotely for the first time should be given a guide as to how best they can manage their time and output as well as advice on the nearest co-working spaces. If you wish to trial such an initiative in order to cut down on office space, you could have a desk share situation so that employees can still avail of having an office to travel into on the days when they might have meetings with colleagues.

If you need any advice on setting up a remote working policy then make sure to get in touch with us on 056-7701060.