For obvious reasons, remote and home working became the norm for many in 2020, and we suspect that situation will continue for some time yet.
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, many employees say they prefer working from home. Doing so can save them money – particularly those who commute into the office by car or public transport.
We at MoneyMagpie are no strangers to working from home, in fact it’s been our primary way of working since we began back in 2007 (we don’t want to boast, but we were definitely ahead of the curve!) so it’s been interesting to see so many other companies embrace remote working.
It’s a concept that divides small and medium-sized business owners, who know that they can make cost savings by closing offices and commercial premises but wonder if their employees are fully productive, particularly in industries where an individual’s output is not always tangible or measurable.
Ultimately, that is a question of trust, and only you can really come to a decision when you’ve weighed everything up. However, there are many advantages to your business of your employees working from home.
Keeping costs down
The I.T. firm Sun Microsystems has claimed that home working will save it $68m a year in related costs. While that company operates on a macro scale, your small and medium-sized business can also enjoy considerable savings.
Depending on your lease agreement, you might save money on the rental costs for your office or commercial space and the associated utility bills. Some landlords may even let you take a ‘rent holiday’ until your workforce returns to the premises.
There are related savings too, in that you can stand down your cleaning and food contractors if relevant to your firm, and there could also be costs cut on taxation.
It’s also worth bearing insurance in mind. You could make savings by letting your buildings insurance policies lapse. Don’t forget that workers’ compensation insurance is also not a factor when staff are home working. But make sure your cover is back in place when employees return to the workplace. Forgetting to do that could be expensive if a staff member is injured at work.
You must have the necessary insurance documentation, so make sure you get your certificate of insurance online where appropriate.
Health and happiness
There are some employees – we all know who they are in our organizations – who perhaps take a few liberties with sick days when they succumb to a sniffle or a sore throat.
Home working helps to minimize the number of days lost to illness, as staff are far more inclined to continue working through the pain barrier when they are in their own comfortable surroundings (we can personally attest to this!)
In these unprecedented COVID times, you can minimise absenteeism where individuals may have to self-isolate or experience symptoms of the virus. They will be working from home anyway, and so can continue working without interruption.
And let’s consider the happiness of your staff. It’s no secret that some SMEs used home working as a ‘perk’ to sell their company to prospective employees. That in itself confirms that most workers are happier in their home environment than in their office or commercial workspace.
In stats recorded before the pandemic, it was found that remote workers are, on average, some 22% happier than those who commute to the office every day – and you can only surmise that percentage is even higher now given the concerns of many about potentially contracting the virus on the tube or in the workplace.
Home working leads to happier staff, and that, in turn, leads to higher employee retention. It really is a win-win situation.
But what about productivity?
In some cases, you will have no choice but to ask your staff to work from home, and that can lead to some trust issues.
How do you know they are working hard rather than indulging in their favorite home hobbies?
A study reported by the BBC shows that home workers’ productivity can be 13% higher than when in the office, possibly due to being distracted less by office chit-chat and background noise. A more heightened sense of concentration leads to more work that is, typically, of a higher quality and devoid of basic errors.
There are some caveats to that, and those are often technological – has all of your workforce got a home internet connection that is quick, reliable, and secure? Those are considerations; however, quality broadband is so affordable and readily available these days. Other technology, including VoIP video calls and remote meeting software like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, are becoming increasingly familiar and are used by many businesses.
So, as we have learned, there are numerous benefits to working from home for your employees and your small business. There’s always something of a risk, but if you can effectively utilise those cost savings, it really could make a difference to your firm’s long-term profitability.