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Business Services  •  Small Business

How to get the best from home-working arrangements

By RJP LLP on 3 July, 2017

Want to improve the productivity of your employees? You are not alone; it is one of the most frequently cited issues of business owners in the UK and has spawned a huge industry focused on helping firms to get more from their staff by boosting engagement levels.

According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, the solution is much more straightforward than we might think; just let them work from home. In a study by one HBR writer, an online travel business, Ctrip, allowed its call centre staff to work from home for a nine month period in order to save on office overheads. They found that their employees actually worked much harder and were putting in an extra day’s worth of work each week. So whilst the financial saving per staff member over the period was in excess of £1,000, the real gains were significantly higher.

Home working also enables a business to widen its talent pool and attract a broader range of employees who would otherwise not be within daily commuting distance. These people may be willing to commit to a long commute for one or two days a week if they can balance it with home-working for the remaining days. But working from home is not ideal for all employees; it best suits those who are highly motivated and those whose work can easily be measured. For others, offering a mix of office and home-based working can be the best option. But how do you get the most from home-working arrangements?


Document home-working rules and expectations

Before employees start working from home it’s important to set expectations with a formal home-working contract. This should include details of where the employee will be based, responsibilities for company equipment and any change to original employment terms if relevant.


Hold meetings on the same days each week

Have compulsory ‘in the office’ days when everyone is expected to be present. This ensures team meetings can take place and helps to remind people about the expected company culture and to maintain close working relationships with peers. Research has shown that home-working is most effective when workers spend at least some time in the office, to avoid any feelings of isolation and ensure they still function as part of a cohesive team.


Rotate the days people can work at home

By alternating the days that any individual person can work from home ensures that there are always people in the office, but the number is reduced, which will cut down the cost of office overheads.


Give managers extra support if needed

Having to manage remote workers is a difficult task and this needs to be acknowledged. Managers may not have the skills they need to get the best from home-workers and might require extra training to appreciate the different dynamics of a new workplace and to put in place strategies to deal with this.


Ensure home-workers are not overlooked

One of the biggest drawbacks of home-working is a reduced presence in the workplace and the potential for those individuals to be overlooked when there are opportunities for promotion. Given that all the research suggests that people working from home are more productive, this can lead to huge resentment and cause good employees to look elsewhere for new jobs as a consequence.


Maintain boundaries between home and work lives

Given all the flexibility than can come with home-working, it is easy for individuals to forget to maintain a distinction between their work and home life. This can lead to employees feeling they can never switch off and their performance, and their personal lives may suffer. This can be a tricky dynamic to manage so having working arrangements and expectations clearly documented from the outset will help avoid such problems.


Overall, home-working requires good levels of trust from management that workers are getting on with the job and are performing well. If the right foundations are in place however, it’s a very powerful motivator and can help to reduce overheads.


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