Over recent years, remote working has become increasingly popular, as technology has reduced the need for a physical office space for some industries. Many employers and HR professionals also advocate this way of working as an approach to enhance the work-life balance of employees.
As many businesses continue to have staff work remotely in line with government advice, what have they learnt so far? Research conducted with SME business owners by Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance reveals new perceptions on the remote working of staff in London and across the rest of the UK.
When the government first advised companies to work from home, just over half (52%) of UK business across the country, felt positive about employees carrying out their work remotely. In London however, 75 per cent of SME business owner shared positive feelings towards this.
Now several weeks later, three quarters (75%) of UK SME business owners feel positive towards staff working from home. In London, 91 per cent of SME business owners positive about the transition to remote working, and 0 per cent have any negative feelings towards this.
Despite the research from Hitachi Capital showing that many SME business owners view remote working positively now, many had concerns about this working approach before Covid-19 changed the way that they needed to operate. The top three concerns from leaders at SMEs in London were costs for setting up the business (12%), business logistics (7%), and maintaining customer service (6%).
Just over a third (34%) of SME businesses in London had to create a work from home policy for the first time to react to the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently of the SME businesses still trading in London, 50 per cent have their full workforce operating from home.
An overwhelming 81 per cent of business owners at SMEs in London agree that working from home during this period would help their business to become more successful in the future. Furthermore, 83 per cent plan to implement some form of work from home policy following the lockdown period.
The remote working study also revealed the top positive outcomes for SMEs in London during this experience, these were found to be that it will enable them to allow staff to work from home more in the future and that it has led them to invest in new technology which will serve them well in the face of future challenges.
“Generally speaking, SME businesses in the UK have been cautious to implement a work from home policy up until now. Our study shows a new response to remote working which hints at what the future of the workplace might look like post-Covid-19,” comments Andy Dodd, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance.
“Of course, the benefits of remote working provide employees with a better work-life balance, the positive impact for both employee and employer through greater trust and empowerment cannot be understated. Business owners now have greater confidence that employees can perform successfully from their own home and have the technology they need to operate remotely. This demonstrates that the UK SME market who have adapted during this period, can seek to build more resilient businesses in the future.”
To keep their business running successfully away from the office, SME business owners in London are keen to keep the office culture alive by arranging social events such as virtual yoga and team lunches (45%).
Business owners are also looking to keep employees communicating as often as possible through channels such as Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams as well as becoming more hands on themselves with projects day-to-day (42%).