The ability to work from home has been welcome during the pandemic. But, is home working really here to stay? Employees have been working full-time at home, or for at least part of the week, in ever-increasing numbers. A year or so on, it’s now apparent that both staff and their employers have enjoyed numerous benefits as a result. At iNet, we’re huge fans of WFH, but there are some potential downsides. Here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of enabling a home working policy. Advantages of working from home include:
- Increases in productivity – fewer interruptions – this includes potentially lengthy travel time or fixed lunch breaks, and the small talk that is typical (often welcome) of an office environment. In contrast, employees who work from home tend to start earlier and finish later, and generally benefit from the quieter home environment, getting more done, and slightly faster. Technology plays a significant role in enabling the WFH trend – Microsoft Teams with integrated telephony means staff can physically be anywhere and still collaborate with clients and colleagues. Learn more about iNet’s MS-Teams solution.
- Agility, Flexibility and Convenience – Being agile is critical. With staff no longer restricted to an office location, they may be more receptive to working unsociable hours. This is a huge advantage for Contact Centres, for example, enabling agent availability in the evenings and weekends to service customers more conveniently or across the globe. If you run a business, iNet’s Call and Contact Centre technology supports home and remote working, and across multiple channels such as voice, web chat, and even social media. Learn More, here.
- Happier staff and more loyalty – With no commute and working at home, it may be easier for employees to meet childcare and other dependents needs, fitting work into their life, rather than fitting life into their work. Encouraging staff in their personal lives increases trust, motivation and contributes to loyalty. Better sleep, more time for family, exercise, and spending more time preparing meals all also contribute to improved health and wellbeing and a better work/life balance.
- Massive Talent Pool – Geographic independence by enabling WFH is an incentive to attract new and diverse talent from essentially, anywhere. Organisations can seek out and attract the best and brightest talent to join an organisation, giving them a genuine competitive advantage.
- Finances – Savings on office space, office supplies, utilities and other facilities can be significant in running any business. Employees may be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs if they have to work at home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week. This includes gas and electricity, metered water, business phone calls, including dial-up internet access. In some cases, a laptop, chair, mobile phone and other equipment can be claimed for. To learn more from UK Gov, see if you can make a claim. Can I make a claim?
Some of the disadvantages of employees working full-time from home include:
- It’s not for everyone – Some employees might prefer the routine and structural rigidity that working in an office environment offers, this being the optimum for them to achieve high levels of productivity. Some employees see work as a relief from their home lives, enjoying the balance of being in a couple of physical locations.
- Mental Health, Isolation and burnout– Working from home can be hard at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. Some employees can feel disconnected when physically separated from colleagues and this can lead to malaise and in some cases, depression. There are ways to counteract these feelings through a hybrid model where some days per week or month are spent with colleagues, enabling the best of both models of working. But, working from home can be lonely. Fortunately, there are a few things one can do including making a daily schedule, carving out 10-15 minutes per day for meditation, calling friends, and having regular video meetings with colleagues. Writing down your goals or going for a walk can be really helpful in clearing your mind and helping you reset. That said, it is often difficult to know when to switch off when working from home. Take care not to overdo it and potentially burnout.
- Monitoring performance – It can be difficult managing home workers and monitoring performance levels. Managing home workers would require a different style and approach. Much of iNet’s communications technology is designed specifically for managing home workers, in a Contact Centre for example, ensuring the critical areas of performance and KPI’s can be reliably measured regardless of an agent’s location.
- Risks to Information security – Without clear policies in place, information security problems could be more likely to occur when employees are working from home. Risks with laptops being taken home and open access to servers remotely can give rise to issues such a malware attacks and data breaches. Employers should ensure they understand their legal obligations and put in place measures to protect company data by using encryption software and ‘remote-wipe’ apps if mobile phones/devices provided are stolen or go missing. VPN’s (Virtual Private Networks) also encrypt data and provide secure access to a remote computer over an internet connection. Talk to iNet about risks for home workers.
- Broadband speeds – Although it is 2021, there are still areas of the UK where broadband speeds are notoriously slow, and this really impacts the ability to fulfill any job role remotely.
- The type of job matters – WFH suits some job roles better than others. And, some personality types are better suited to WFH than others. Some people thrive in physical meetings or may prefer colleague contact by physical, face-to-face communication. One should consider the impact of the job type when reviewing the value of a working from home policy.
The pandemic swiftly expedited WFH as a practice. Now here, it seems unlikely it will ever completely go away. At iNet, we feel organisations should remain agile and flexible, enabling a suitable range of policies that cater for the needs of all their staff. While all options are still on the table, a Hybrid model is quickly gaining traction, allowing for a mix of home working and office-based working on a weekly or monthly basis. This provides the right balance, giving employees and their organisations the best of both worlds.
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Michael Pavlou, CEO, iNet Communications Group Plc