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The Benefits of Working From Home

Paul Clapham explains the benefits and opportunities for employers and employees The Benefits of Working From Home

Working from home has been regarded as a practicality for only a few decades for many in the workforce. Others, notably salespeople, have been doing it for far longer. So who are the winners and are there any losers in this game?

If the tools of your trade are a computer and telephone, you don’t need to commute to and from an office. It’s hugely wasteful of time, money and your energy.

Do the sums: how many pounds and how many hours thrown away. Then multiply by the number of people in the business being this wasteful. It will be a horrifying number, or a wonderful opportunity: we can save this many thousands and improve our lives.

Not that simple

Beguiling isn’t it? Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. In the first place, for some businesses staff working at home isn’t practicable or effective. In such cases, groups of people need to be in the same room to get a desired result - telephones and a webcam just don’t cut it.

Then you have good old human nature to deal with. Plenty of people struggle to work from home. They like being surrounded by their colleagues - we are, after all, a gregarious species.

There is also the problem of self discipline. Someone who works hard in an office may effectively become lazy working at home - there are too many distractions, which some people just cannot resist.

I’ve heard it said there is a type of person who should not work from home. The big issue is children. A parent when off the corporate radar can be spending a lot of working hours in childcare and unfortunately a lot of them see this as their quid pro quo for homeworking, which saves their employer money.

Apparently, men are as bad as women on this failing. Nor can I tell you how to distinguish those who will take the mickey.

Chief benefits

What are the chief benefits for a business? As above, there are lots of money saving aspects to it.

First, you could reduce the size of your premises - potentially you could do away with them entirely. That’s again that goes straight to the bottom line.

Alternatively, in the process of reducing the size of your premises you could afford a better address, which in turn would help you win more valuable clients and recruit better staff. That, at least, is what the business estate agents claim.

As a minimum, you would have a nicer working environment and I bet you feel you deserve that.

Recruiting better staff is supposedly a key benefit for offering homeworking as an option. It should be the case, since such people have to be well organised self starters, two valued traits in employees.

You are the boss. What do you personally get out of this in addition to increased profitability? Let’s start with release from the feeling that you need to be in early and leave late. This, apparently, is commonplace among business managers. Like your staff, you can now organise your day to be present or absent.

Here’s where you get some of that work/life balance you’ve read about. You work your socks off; this gives you the freedom to decide when.

Happy staff are a major benefit to a business. If people only come into the office occasionally, or for half a day at a time, they are far likelier to be happier when there.

There is also the advantage that if your premises have a buzz, that will communicate itself to visiting clients, who will therefore be the likelier to visit you, rather than automatically expecting you to make the journey, and it’s always easier to sell on your home turf.

Homeworking dos and don’ts

  • Keep office hours. Your clients, colleagues and suppliers will still be working 9-5 and so should you.
  • Dress as you would in the office. Perhaps even smarter. Definitely do not spend all day in your pyjamas (this is a good reason for using a webcam).
  • Have a set of ground rules with family and friends, so that you’re actually working, not running your neighbour to the doctor (that’s what taxis are for).
  • Take proper breaks, especially at lunch. That should mean you get out of the house, ideally for the full hour. It helps recharge the batteries, especially if you take some healthy exercise, such as a good walk.
  • Ask your employer for what you need before you start, eg a proper desk and office chair (not the broken one in the basement), maybe some updated computer software and a phone with all the latest whistles and bells.
  • Work away from home occasionally, eg a pub or hotel that has wi-fi. This can provide the human company we all need.
  • Whatever distracts you when working in an office should be eliminated when working at home. You won’t have internal meetings to worry about. Let phone calls go to message. Respond to emails twice a day for as short a period as possible.
  • Talk to your boss every day. ‘I want to stay in the loop’ is a totally valid, indeed a positive, reason to call. Talk to colleagues, too.
  • Find out when clients and suppliers hit their desks, so you can potentially call them before the 9-5 hurly burly kicks off. In my experience, early starters are very positive to other early starters. That could well include calling them during their commute and it certainly means you’d be at the front of the queue.
  • If you’re not enjoying homeworking and if it’s not making you more productive, stop. Tell your boss you made a mistake and go back to the daily commute. People respect an admission like that.
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