The rise of remote working: Is flexibility the next frontier for offices?
There was a time when the idea of working from home - or indeed from a city, country or continent away from a workplace’s main offices - was met with suspicion and often rejection. These days, however, remote working is an expectation for many. Within the UK, 68% of workers want to work flexibly in a way that is not currently available, with three-quarters of people saying they’d favour a job that offered flexible work conditions. Demand is particularly high among younger workers and women, who actively look for roles that promote work-life balance when they are job hunting. But what does this mean for employers? Should all businesses offer remote working, and what conditions should apply? Read more about remote working vs office-based roles to find out which is best for your business.
Meet demand to engage the best talent
Perhaps the most important consideration when evaluation the benefits of remote and flexible working is the sheer demand for it. Within the technology sector - the most digitised of all industries - 84% of employees are offered flexible working, and the vast majority of these workers utilise it in some way. What’s more, 85% of tech workers think they can be more productive if they spend time working outside the office, with nearly the same proportion saying remote working can help them to think more creatively or be more motivated. It’s clear that to engage with this technology talent and attract them away from competitors, employers must be looking at their own remote and flexible work offerings.
For many in the modern world, and particularly millennials, work is viewed as a thing, not a place. Technology has allowed many functions of office-based roles to be able to be performed anywhere in the world, provided there’s a strong enough internet connection. Despite this and the overwhelming demand for remote working opportunities, employers have been slow to respond and many are still reluctant to offer workers options to be away from their desk. This can’t last, however, as one in four workers would change jobs for more remote working options. Those employers who aren’t actively promoting the ability to work from home - or anywhere else - are likely to be left behind when it comes to securing the market’s top talent.
The business benefits of flexibility
Outside of satisfying demand and attracting and retaining the best candidates, offering more flexible work conditions can have a significant impact on your business. Remote working can help to promote diversity and inclusion, one of the most important considerations for business leaders the world over in 2020. It can allow parents - particularly mothers - to pursue and further their careers, provide carers with the chance to balance their responsibilities with work and ensure people with disabilities feel empowered to work in a way that suits their needs. This not only provides a wider pool of candidates to choose from, but also ensures a more diverse workforce, which has been proven to be more commercially successful than teams without diversity.
Meanwhile, the importance of work-life balance cannot be understated in the increasingly-busy, always-connected 21st century. The CIPD has found that stress, overworking and poor work-life balance are undermining efforts to improve job quality across the nation, with two in three workers experiencing a work-related health issue, such as anxiety or sleep problems, in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, research by the Smarter Working Initiative shows that technology workers - who have higher than average levels of flexible working - enjoy the best work-life balance across UK industries. The links between flexible and remote working, work-life balance and productivity and creativity are strong, providing business leaders with plenty of food for thought when it comes to the remote working vs office based argument.
When physical presence matters
While the evidence supporting remote working is strong, there remains the requirement for office-based workers in many situations. One of the most obvious is for client-facing workers for whom in-person contact is essential, at least on a weekly or monthly basis. Another common problem is around resources - just because a worker has a computer and internet connection doesn’t mean they have the right programmes, tools and even environment to produce the same level of work they would in the office.
Although home working can be beneficial for solo projects, it is hard to replicate the collaboration and teamwork that can be achieved when physically working with peers in an office. For example, engineers, developers, designers and project managers working on a new software project may find they achieve more in a 30 minute in-person meeting than they do during a day’s back-and-forth over Slack. This camaraderie element cannot be overlooked, either. Research shows that remote working can lead to isolation, which is a common concern for those professionals who do work away from the office, along with feeling cut off from the opportunities that being around other people can present. Resource, development and opportunity isolation are all issues within the remote working community, and should be factored into any flexible work situation.
If you are considering implementing remote working in your organisation, it’s important to equip your team members with the technologies and training to empower them to do so successfully. You may need to invest in new software and will also need to evaluate how to effectively manage someone who is not physically in the office. It may be beneficial to have mandatory in-office days so that team members can interact and you can monitor their performance, or ensure there are regular clear lines of communication with any team member working offsite.
Find the perfect balance with Search Technology
The extent to which you encourage remote working in your organisation is up to you - but regardless of what you decide, you’ll need the best people on your team to push your business forward. The right recruitment partner will help you to find the best balance for your business, whether that’s a fully remote workforce or a blend of office-based and flexible professionals. Talk to us about how we can find the best people for you.