Currently, six million workers could be given the right to stay at home under plans Ministers are reportedly drawing up.
The benefits of remote working for employees have long been discussed, but what about the benefits for employers? Does allowing staff to work from home go beyond the cost saving benefits?
It seems many employers are actually in favour of continuing the WFH phenomenon even after Government advice changes. In our recent Meraki Talent poll, we asked for your views about remote working. Over half (52%) believe it was a good thing, 34% think it is OK as long as staff can come in if it was essential. Only 8% believe it is a bad thing and 5% are concerned about the towns and cities missing out on the footfall of office workers.
Employers leading the remote working trend
A number of leading companies across industries have fully embraced the concept of a remote workforce. There was a trend starting even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year it was announced that HSBC was the latest big bank to formalise flexible working, with a plan for a huge reduction in the amount of office space it uses globally. The bank said it is reducing its office space by 40% and moving to a hybrid-working model that enables staff to work from home as well as in offices.
But it isn’t just banks leading the way. Big4 firm, Deloitte will allow its 20,000 UK employees to choose how often they visit the office, if at all, after the pandemic. They add themselves to the list of organisations, throwing out the rulebook and embracing ultra-flexible working. The accounting firm said it would let staff decide “when, where and how they work” following the success of remote working during the pandemic.
Last month a poll of 520 business leaders by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed that almost half of London companies whose staff can work from home expect them to do so up to five days a week post pandemic. Despite many large tech companies and financial service organisations planning homeworking, the poll showed that smaller businesses are more likely than larger ones to move ahead with remote working.
Could WFH be a mutually beneficial arrangement?
There are countless benefits for employees to WFH but less is documented for employers. Here are five:
1. Skills shortage solved, well almost
Organisations, particularly in sectors with skills shortages such as IT, are starting to see remote work as a vehicle to attract that hard-to-find talent. It allows firms to recruit from different parts of the country.
2. Better Diversity and Inclusion
In the absence of a daily office commute, working parents can benefit significantly from homeworking. Remote working has been life-changing for disabled people and has opened up more opportunities for them, many of whom had previously been excluded from the workforce by being denied the flexibility they need. It also helps workers who may (or may not) have disclosed their unseen disabilities to their organisations.
3. Staff retention
Remote work leads to more loyal employees. No longer do staff have to schedule medical appointments before (or after) work or miss out on important events at their children’s schools. According to a report in 2019 by US company Owl Labs, 74% of employees say a remote work option would make them less likely to leave their current company.
4. Employee productivity and satisfaction
Several studies in recent months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office. One study by Stanford university found that employees who WFH are 13 percent more productive compared with their in-office counterparts. On average, those who WFH spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive.
Cutting out a commute can be both a huge morale booster and a huge time saver with workers reportedly happier. Studies have shown that having work-life balance can be even more important to employees than their salary!
5. Cost savings for the employer
With more people homeworking, companies need to invest more in the cloud to support remote functionalities. There are other costs as well, such as providing IT equipment and in some cases office furniture to staff.
Data published by Instant Offices shows office costs per employee per area of the UK. London has an average cost per person, per month of £500 to £1500 and Edinburgh £160 to £550 per month (based on Q2 2019 to Q1 2020 figures.) Analysis by company ALTUS suggest that flexible and remote working can save organisations £10,000 per employee.
Companies cutting office space, or not renewing rents, can make significant savings but it appears most organisations realise there is a need for some kind of collaborative area for employees. It is likely that shared office spaces, used mostly for social and collaborative purposes, will pop up in cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. Late in 2020, Standard Chartered Plc would offer its global employees the option of heading to a “near home” location, which it will rent from an office-sharing company.