June 26, 2019

There’s No Place Like Home: The Pros and Cons of Employees Working from Home

There are 374,000 more employees working from home than there were ten years ago according to new research by the TUC.

I’m sure I don’t need to list the reasons why employees are increasingly opting to work from home. With gridlock on our roads, overcrowded trains and diminishing bus routes, the daily commute is a nightmare for many workers. Often adding two or three hours to the working day, it’s no wonder people want roles that free up more “me” time. Research suggests commute times of more than two hours have increased by over a third in five years. Almost four million workers now commute for more than two hours daily.

With unemployment at its lowest level for fifty years, it probably won’t surprise you that half the UK workforce is currently seeking a new job. Opportunities are plentiful and pay rises are outstripping inflation.

But the reasons so many people are searching for a new job isn’t simply for more money or a more challenging role. A better work-life balance, flexible working, a less stressful working environment and more enjoyable work all feature highly on the typical job seeker’s wish list.

Working from home increases by more than a quarter in last decade

A recent TUC report identifies that homeworking is up by almost 400,000 over the last ten years. Close on two million people now work from home. That’s a 27.7% increase in a decade. It’s not the only form of flexible working but it’s clearly the most popular option.

More surprisingly, this research also identifies that twice as many men as women are homeworkers. People who own their own home are more likely to participate than those that rent. Older workers, and particularly managers, work from home where younger workers don’t. And there’s even a regional dimension. For instance, one in twelve employees work from home in the south-west but only one in thirty-two do so in Northern Ireland.

Virtually every employee now has the statutory right to ask for (but not necessarily be given) flexible working. The rise in technology means that many roles can be undertaken remotely. Offering flexible working options opens up your recruitment catchment to a wider and more diverse group of candidates. Key staff can now work effectively hundreds of miles from their office. And who wouldn’t want to work in their own home instead of facing that gruelling daily commute?

Why should you consider offering flexible working opportunities such as working from home?

Lots of evidence exists but key considerations include:

  • Flexible workers tend to be more motivated and engaged
  • Research suggests they generate over 40% more revenue with 20% higher levels of performance
  • Absence reduces. Disability, health conditions and caring responsibilities are more readily managed
  • Offering flexible working gives access to a wider and more diverse talent pool
  • Staff travel time and expense reduces significantly, contributing to better work-life balance
  • Staff turnover reduces by up to 80%

What are the disadvantages of employees working from home?

Before you rush online to place that flexible job advert, don’t forget that there can be down sides. Remote working isn’t for everyone. For instance:

  • For some individuals social isolation actually contributes to stress and depression
  • It’s easy to lose contact with colleagues and be overlooked by office-based staff and managers
  • Reduced participation in workplace activity can inhibit career progression
  • Handling difficult situations without immediate support can be problematic
  • Some staff just can’t “switch off” and find it difficult to separate their home and work life
  • Others may switch off when they should be switched on!

And certainly there are important strategic issues to determine before authorising home working. For example:

  • You still retain responsibility for staff health and safety at work. Issues range widely – from the adequacy of their desk and chair to physical risks when meeting clients at home
  • The security of your business communications – particularly if you allow staff to use their own IT equipment
  • The risks to confidentiality if other family members can see what they are doing
  • A covenant in their lease or mortgage may prevent business activity in their home
  • Your employer liability and professional negligence insurance may not cover homeworking. Is your equipment covered by their home insurance?
  • How will you monitor work activity and effect supervision?

There are undoubtedly attractions in offering flexible working opportunities. Constant innovations in workplace technology make opportunities increasingly possible. However, adopting more flexible working practices still demands careful planning and – where the solution includes home working – thorough risk assessments.

Next steps

Moorepay customers who would like any specific advice on flexible working policies should contact the Advice Line on 0345 073 0240.

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About the author

Mike Fitzsimmons

Mike is a Senior HR Consultant within the Moorepay Policy Team. He is responsible for the developing of employment documentation and is an Employment law advisor. With over 30 years of senior management and HR experience, Mike has managed teams of between 30 and 100 employees and is familiar with all the issues that employing people brings. He has also served as a non-executive director on the Boards of several social enterprises and undertook a five year tour of duty as Executive Chair of a £30+ million annual turnover Government agency.