Is Remote Working The Future For UK Businesses?

What Are The Cost Implications?

There’s been lots of talk about remote working over the last year and a half with many UK businesses still forced to keep their office doors shut and their staff working at home, but how financially beneficial is it for your staff to work from home and is it something your business should be encouraging?

Remote working or ‘home working’, as its come to be referred to, is a concept that many businesses were adopting way before COVID-19 struck and the UK was forced into lockdown. In fact, between 2012 and 2016, so called ‘flexi-time’ had risen by 12.35%, meaning more of the UKs workforce were able to work flexible hours to suit their home life. Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has also revealed that the number of UK workers who moved into remote-working had increased by nearly a quarter of a million over the last decade. So businesses we’re heading in the direction of home working and remote staff, meaning the COVID pandemic only accelerated the growth of this movement.

cost of remote working

So yes, remote working does look to be the future for many workers in the UK, with the focus on mental health and personal wellbeing at its highest awareness levels in many years. Advocates for homeworking talk about the personal work/life balance benefits to every employee and the positive affect that home working can have on mental health. What they can sometimes forget, is that home working isn’t for everyone. Many employees have spoken up about home working saying they felt isolated during the pandemic and missed out on much needed social interaction with work colleagues. For many it could be left down to personal choice, some days in the office and some days from home. As people we are all different in what we need and want in order to deliver great work. Many leading UK SME’s are leaving the choice down to their employees saying the office will be open if staff want to go in equally, if they prefer to work remotely, they are set up to do so already.

So the shift in to homeworking is no longer something that is happening, it has happened. Leaving many business with the question of whether it is financially viable to move forward with a completely flexible home working policy? Outlined below are some considerations that every business should look into to understand if it is financially viable for them to continue offering flexible, office or remote working.

The Cost Factor

Wherever your employees choose to work from there is always going to be a factor regarding cost. Whether that is the cost to the business to rent or pay mortgage for office space or whether that is cost of travel and other factors for your employees. It is an expense to run an office when you think not only of paying the rent or mortgage but also utilities such as internet, heating, lighting, electricity, refreshments etc. Whichever way you look at it cost is always going to play a factor for businesses when they are considering opening up that office again. Opening a large office for a small number of people to allow for social distancing or allow for those employees who choose to work from home to continue doing so is going to have an effect on the bottom line. If you have space for 50 employees and 10 of those work full time from the office, 10 of those work full time from home and 30 decide to work between the office and home, your business will need to ask itself if you are willing to compromise the cost implications running a large office for reduced numbers. Many businesses need an office location for things such as events or meetings, so the decision may not just be completely reliant on physical daily numbers in the office.

Attracting More Talent

A huge factor that many businesses are now realising is that you can attract talent from a larger pool of candidates if you do not have to consider the location factor. Being a commutable distance to an office space previously determined how likely you were to take or apply for a new role or position. Remote working has allowed business to begin looking further afield for their potential employees and potentially finding a better candidate that could work for the business remotely. This has an impact on the financial viability of home working as you could find a candidate better suited to a position being further afield rather than having someone within commuting distance who would need more training, attention or time. In the long run it would have a better financial impact to hire the right talent, who can do the right job no matter where their location in the UK.

Does It Really Increase Productivity?

Home working has been praised for staff level of productivity in some businesses increasing, whether it’s due to the quiet and simple surrounding, due to decreased distractions, or not having the stress of commuting, meaning they can be more focused on their tasks, increased productivity is a massive benefit for the homeworking argument. It goes without saying that homeworking does require a level of trust from the employer to the worker, but studies have shown that focus & productivity increased by up to 13% when compared to in-office counterparts. Worried about concentration and output levels? There are many different types of employee monitoring software out there that can help business who feel that remote working wouldn’t be an option for some staff. Be aware, bringing in remote monitoring software may upset current home workers that have a great output and attitude, so it would be down to each business to decide if that was a route suitable for them and their staff.

There are other factors not discussed above, such as the cost of IT equipment to allow staff to work from both the office and at home, does that mean two set ups? Meaning double cost or moving equipment when the move between locations? The ONS found that staff based at home were less likely to take sick leave or be absent from work, again the staff retention levels were found to be better if staff could be flexible with their work/life balance due to circumstances like childcare. So ultimately if you’ve read this article down to here you’re questioning if your business should allow home working or get everyone back in the office as soon as it is possible to do so. The answer isn’t clear cut, what works for one type of business may not work for another. Each business will have to take into account both the cost, current productivity and the morale of their staff and make a final call on their plan moving forward.

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