Employee satisfaction is fast becoming a major competitive differentiator for companies vying to attract and retain talent, as well as get the most out of existing employees. Perks ranging from unlimited holidays, gym membership, free meals and discounted public transport are becoming a standard offering, and are no longer reserved for the C-Suite, or tech companies in Silicon Valley.
One perk in particular is having a significant impact: working from home. Thanks to advances in modern technology, staff often find they can carry out their jobs just as effectively (if not more so) from outside the office, providing they have an adequate internet connection and a device. Supporting this trend, recent research found that 81 per cent of UK workers believe that having the option to work from home is important to the future of business.
Furthermore, 30 per cent said they felt happier while working from home, with benefits ranging from avoiding a stressful, long commute, to saving money, to being able to walk the dog.
So with employees keen to reap the benefits of remote working, it’s also important for employers to understand the benefits, and lead the charge in creating a positive flexible working culture throughout the company.
The Big Brother boss
There’s still a stigma that working from home equates to sitting in pyjamas watching re-runs of Friends, instead of actually working. Not only is this is preventing many bosses from implementing flexible working within the company, but it’s turning them into Big Brother.
Research found that nearly half of UK workers felt increased pressure to demonstrate they were being productive if they weren’t in the office, indicating that implicit trust in staff to work effectively no matter where they are isn’t widespread. This is resulting in bosses constantly checking in on employees, and expecting them to deliver beyond normal capacity to prove that they’re being productive.
As well as resulting in a negative working culture, bosses are also missing out on the tangible business benefits that come from giving employees the freedom to work remotely. A global survey of business professionals by Jabra found that the home office is considered the most productive workspace, as the many distractions of working in an office environment are removed.
Furthermore, increased employee satisfaction generally corelates with healthier workers that take fewer days off, resulting in a more productive workforce overall.
Ironically, in most cases, enthusiasm to work from home isn’t fuelled by being able to slack off, but instead, the freedom and benefits that come with it. Business leaders need to understand that the way we work is changing: the 9-5 is no longer normal practice, and commuting to an office 5 days a week doesn’t have to be either. They need to foster a culture that’s positive, engaging, and supports remote workers, as opposed to following them around with an all-seeing eye.
Creating a collaborative culture
So how can business leaders do this? For starters, it’s important to arm employees with the tools they need that will enable them to communicate and collaborate no matter where they are in the world.
Ensuring that remote workers have easy access to the office is a great way of easing fears about appearing unproductive. Bosses might get nervous if their employees appear to be offline for a day, but if they’re able to touch base with a quick message or conference call, both parties will feel reassured and connected. Similarly, if employees working from home have a query or question they need resolving before undertaking a task, they won’t have to wait until the next day to do so.
Scheduling regular, live conference calls can be a great way of encouraging natural conversation and collaboration between teams, regardless of location, but they can lack the element of face-to-face interaction. After all, everyone’s had an awkward back and forth where you speak over each other because you can’t read the body language of participants. Encouraging video conferencing platforms removes this, and helps maintain a sense of community and culture that’s often felt in an office.
Remote working isn’t a fad, so it’s crucial that businesses engage with the genuine desire from employees for flexible working, and ensure they support them with the right culture and technology. Managing a disparate workforce can be challenging, but by taking practical steps, businesses of all sizes can foster a collaborative and positive culture, no matter where there employees choose to work from.