In June the Office of National Statistics published data for home working showing that 4.2m people currently are classed as home workers, which is nearly 14% of the workforce. In addition of that 4.2m, 2.7m use their home as a base to then go out from work other locations. Flexible Working is sometimes being used as an interchangeable term with Smarter Working – however is more entwined with your employees rights to request flexible working hours as-well-as some degree of home working.
A lot of businesses are branding their flexible working efforts as Smarter Working, where employees are being encouraged to work from different spaces – particularly prominent in the media and creative industries. One has to really consider that if you’re re-branding the name of an employee right to something slightly different, then are you really trying to blur the lines a bit!
I’ve personally been confused when I hear statistics of rising employment. However, walking around cities like Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow they are awash with to-let signs for both city centre and business park offices. Either everyone is sat at home on a zero hours contract or the reason you see every Starbucks full is due to people pitching up to work.
Us IT types have been working from remote locations for years – we’ve already received most of the ridicule by those who think Working from Home (WFH) means not working at all. Back in the day, through my background in the construction industry, who are technological laggards – even mentioning the words ‘Working from Home’ ended up with snorts from collegues.
These days things are changing, even in construction. We all need to do so much administration and require mobility of our IT systems to the point of addiction. I’ve noticed more and more of our customers demanding that they have ability to use telephony, screen sharing and network access from anywhere. Whether this be in a site portakabin in the deepest darkest rural areas or from Starbucks in a city centre.
Businesses realise that these days, if you’re employing smart people – you can’t continue to treat them like idiots. Most of your best people take work home with them and if you want to get even more out of them, why not enable them to use the dead time whilst travelling on a train, waiting in an airport or even waiting at home before a doctors appointment to connect to the office systems, carry out conference calls and hold a web-presentation?
Home working, for me is something that is quickly becoming irreverent. When I personally have worked from home, I personally can’t find anything more dull – the interaction with people is something we require – sometimes for our own sanity. Being at home is always fun at first but you do need a bit of office banter and water cooler moments.
The home workers have been the trailblazers for us really, so let’s not leave them out – they enabled many technologies to become mainstream, like Virtual Private Networks and Voice over IP. Improvements in these now allow much greater flexibility and you don’t need to be sat at home with a dedicated connection to connect back to the office. Pretty much any decent 3G connection or WiFi will allow the same quality of connectivity these days as many home workers have.
As we move to a more mature view of work looking more at outcomes rather than time spent, we can allow people the flexibility to find the space that they work best – this may be the office, it may be home – or it even may be an art gallery or coffee shop.
The most important thing for your organisation is to have the underlying technologies to enable this and capture the best talent your business possibly can – your competition probably already operate these schemes. What’s it going to cost I hear you say? Probably a lot less than the office space you could free up!
Why not speak to Unleashed and find out more about what you could do to enable Smarter Working in your business.