The spread of home working is opening up a new range of possibilities for the way businesses can work and structure themselves.
As well as opportunities and benefits, home working brings new responsibilities for the employer and employee. For example, flexible-working regulations mean you now have to seriously consider requests to work from home from all employees who have 26 weeks service at the date the application is made.
Advantages of employees working from home
With increasing numbers of employees working at home - or using home as a working base for at least part of the week - it's clear there are a number of benefits for business, such as:
- Improved employee retention - home working can help retain working parents with childcare responsibilities.
- Access to a wider pool of applicants - for example, disabled people who may prefer to work from home.
- Possible productivity gains - due to fewer interruptions and less commuting time.
- Increased staff motivation - with reduced stress and sickness levels.
- Financial benefits - savings on office space and other facilities.
- Convenience - ability to locate sales staff near clients rather than in your premises.
- Better work/life balance - employees working from home can lead to improvements in health and well-being.
Disadvantages of employees working from home
There are also some disadvantages to employees working at home, most of these relate to those working from home for all, as opposed to part, of their working week:
- Difficulty monitoring performance - there could be difficulty managing home workers and monitoring their performance. See effectively manage employees who work from home.
- Performance issues - possible deterioration in employees' skills and work quality.
- Cost of working from home - initial costs of training and providing suitable equipment, including adaptations to meet health and safety standards and the needs of disabled employees.
- Problems with staff development - difficulty of maintaining staff development and upgrading skills.
- Information security risk - information security problems could be more likely to occur.
- Increased telecommunications costs - for example, increase in telephone or broadband bills or the requirement to supply your employee with a mobile phone for work purposes.
- Communication problems - could increase feelings of isolation amongst home workers.
- Decreased staff morale - it can be harder to maintain team spirit when employees are working at different locations.
- Not all jobs suit home working - working from home suits some jobs better than others. Equally, working from home suits some personality types but not others. Some people may prefer colleague contact by face to face communication.
A shift towards home working doesn't mean employees have to work only at home. Often splitting time between home and the workplace is the most productive solution and you may want the homeworker to attend meetings to keep them fully involved and informed.