Working from home

Working from home

Cost vs benefits

There is definitely increasing pressure these days for employers to offer telecommuting. The pressure may come from a number of sources – from employees demanding more flexible work practices, from employers who find changes in their business mean more flexible hours are required, and even pressure in terms of facilities and space to meet the demands of their customers. Overall, it is not as popular as we had expected it would become by now.

However, there is no doubt that the trend is increasing, and more employers are building these practices into their infrastructures although there are issues to consider that perhaps were not evident earlier. There are advantages and disadvantages for both parties – for instance, in the case of employees the advantages are fairly obvious – creating a life/work balance and dictating your own hours of work are the main pluses.

The disadvantages are perhaps more subtle, and have become clearer over time. Not all employees actually respond well to working at home – they miss the motivation and team ethos of an office based job. This isolation can have a really detrimental effect if there is a significant creative element in the role, or currency with other projects. Another problem is that they may end up working longer actual hours and finally, training or “picking things up” from colleagues and mentoring are taken for granted – and missed when working remotely

There are also a number of advantages for employers. Pressure on space and facilities has increased – the cost of housing an employee can be prohibitive and working from home is one way past this problem. Other issues include accommodating mothers returning to work – as we all know childcare is expensive and it can be difficult for some mothers to justify returning to work given the cost of care. By offering telecommuting, employers can retain the knowledge and intellectual property held by these employees and utilise their talent productively, increasing loyalty and reducing staff turnover.

Disadvantages can be the cost of set up may be prohibitive – not everyone has a PC at home that is of sufficient “grunt” to do the work required so the employer may need to invest in equipment. Does the employer want that equipment off the premises? If the employee is sick or on leave it is redundant and cannot be used by another employee. How would documents be printed? There are also fairly major security issues to consider if network access is needed. Although firewalling is becoming more sophisticated all the time, such protection is needed at every point of entry into a network to truly guard against computer fraud – and that level of security is not cheap to implement.

Considering the emphasis on company culture these days, the less tangible disadvantage is that companies rely on employees to drive and impart the culture of the operation and this is potentially lost when an employee is off site.

These issues can be overcome – it is a case of making sure all the bases are covered and developing the best solution for your particular requirements. So to wrap up, the major issues that need to be considered by employers before implementing this kind of structure are:

  • Pick the tasks carefully - more analytical and or repetitive tasks such as financial analysis and document preparation or manipulation.
  • Pick the people carefully - Go for those individuals you know will be able to be self sufficient and who manage themselves well
  • Try to evaluate all the risks and measure them up against the benefits – trial it as a pilot with one or two employees before you get the whole company involved!

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