Remote working option ‘helps retain staff’, say employers

An increasing number of small and medium business owners are recognising the benefits of allowing their staff to work remotely, according to a survey.

The poll, conducted by Dale Office Interiors, posed the question: ‘Do you think your company would benefit from giving employees the option to work remotely?’

Over two-thirds of businesses said there are major gains to be had from allowing employees to work remotely.

More than one in five bosses (22.6%) believes this flexible approach helps to ‘retain and attract’ talent, while a further 16.9% feel that ’fluid working’ increases productivity.

Some of the firms said their businesses already accommodate remote working.

Interestingly, 20% feel it saves money on office space, suggesting many sectors no longer require all employees to be in the office every day.

The findings echo recent figures, which show 4.2 million people regularly worked from home in 2015, with the majority working in the information, communication, construction and agriculture industries.

Remote working has become increasingly popular in recent years. The rise of the so-called ‘gig economy’ has seen millions of employees take short-term roles or work as ‘independent contractors’.

Recent figures published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy suggest roughly 2.8 million people worked in the gig economy in the last 12 months.

For those occupying these roles, ‘independence’ and ‘flexibility’ are cited as two key benefits to this style of working. Business leaders are now spending thousands in an attempt to predict how permanent the move towards a gig economy is and whether firms need to do more to accommodate these working practises.

Of the business owners who said remote working did not fit their business model, most (19%) cited the need for ‘all hands on deck’.

A further 7.1% were concerned team cohesion would be lost through remote working, while just under 5% didn’t trust that staff would be as productive when working from home.

Many businesses are now opting for a ‘third way’ — catering for permanent office-based staff while accommodating flexible working by creating discrete areas that can be used by visiting employees.

“Although remote working isn’t viable for every company, that doesn’t mean they can’t be flexible in their approach to how their employees work,” said Warren Bricknell, managing director at Dale Office Interiors.

“Agile working, whereby flexible workspaces, hot-desking and communal areas are incorporated into the office design, lends itself perfectly to businesses that require staff on-site at least some of the time. It allows them to create a comfortable, collaborative environment for current and prospective employees that looks nothing like the typical ‘office’ they might expect,” he added.

Warren went on to say: “Invariably, we have found that projects in recent years have all included some requirement of this nature. It’s not a phenomenon only found in the realms of fortune 500 companies. Bringing in freelance specialists or contractors is actually proven to be a great way to bring high-level skills into a not-so-large business, and the workspace can be designed to support this.”

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