A few months ago, Yahoo sparked a heated debate between businesses on a much-debated question: can remote working really work? The online giants sent an email to all employees banning remote working from June 2013, which caused anger amongst some.
The email, which was leaked, said the reason for the ban was: “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallways and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
Likewise, Google have expressed a dislike towards telecommuting, with the chief financial officer for the company, Patrick Pichette, claiming that they like to keep numbers of employees working remotely “as few as possible.”
He explained: “There is something magical about spending time together, about noodling on ideas, about asking at the computer ‘What do you think of this?’”
Richard Branson, however, responded to the leaked memo by saying that the decision was a “backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.”
More popular than ever
As remote working tools have become more advanced, the cyber commute to work is more popular than ever. Business owners and employees alike are taking advantage of this new and improved way of working from home.
In just five years, figures have risen from 13 per cent to 59 per cent of employers offering remote working to their employees, according to a CBI survey. Likewise, 24 per cent of the US workforce report working from home for at least some hours of their work week, as reported by the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
However, despite more businesses offering remote working, only 2.4 per cent of employed people (not including the self-employed) consider their home to be their main location for work.
This may be due to a social fear of remote working. Many suspect that not being seen within the office environment will reduce their chance of a promotion or pay rise. Those working from home will wish to ensure their employers know they’re not “slacking off”, and so experience higher levels of stress and significantly longer working hours.
What does this mean for SMEs?
While big businesses are battling it out about the pros and cons of remote working, what are the implications of telecommuting to small businesses? International communications experts Powwownow weighed into the argument, saying: “To hear that Yahoo is not allowing their staff to work remotely comes across as a backwards move.
“There need to be an element that works both ways – trust that your employees or colleagues will do they work they are tasked with and they won’t let you down.”
This may be a particular incentive for SMEs as employers are likely to trust their staff that they know more personally than those who work in a larger business. This trust ensures that the employer is sure the work will be completed, while the employee can be certain that their hard work will still be appreciated.
Another huge bonus for SMEs comes from the savings which can be made. While purchasing the soft or hardware for remote working may incur an initial cost, the premise space can be reduced as fewer employees are needed within the office on a daily basis, meaning long term savings.
The carbon footprint of the business as a whole will be reduced, as not only will the office itself emit fewer greenhouse gases, the volume of employees commuting will be reduced as well.
The biggest benefit of remote working, however, is the increase in work quality and productivity. It has been proven that staff work better when they have a work/life balance, and remote working can help increase this.
Jacqui Keep is a marketing Executive at Powwownow.
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