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Despite evidence to the contrary, there is still a perception that homeworkers are skivers. How can we address this, asks Sally Crimes from Uci2i.com.
Despite the fact that our workforce is increasingly penetrated with digital natives and young talent who are used to collaborative technologies which enable remote working, people who work from their own homes are still often viewed as being at a higher risk of distraction and procrastination than their office-working counterparts.
A recent study of 1,000 UK workers by video communications company UCi2i found that one in four believe those who work from home ‘cheat the system’, with 84% saying they are uncomfortable with their colleagues not working physically alongside them.
The facts as we know them
Despite people's perceptions, research shows only 5% of homeworkers do cheat the system. The study shows that, on average, homeworking employees work an extra four hours a week than their contracted hours. That's two days per month, and 24 days per year! For all businesses, this extra productivity can be utterly transformative to their profitability, retention and financial health.
Happier cows make more milk
Preconceptions aside, what we actually know is that by working from home, people can create their own perfect working environments where they’re most productive. They can therefore save time commuting, of which a large chunk actually gets recycled back into their working day. Lastly, they improve their work / life balance making them happier with greater job satisfaction.
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So how do we remove these preconceptions about homeworkers cheating the system? How do we make them more accountable, productive and integrated with their colleagues?
The simple answer is to make them more visible. This can be done in a number of ways, including through video communications, which makes workers a great deal more accountable. In the study, as many as 94% of UK office workers said they’d work better working from home, despite stating they were not equipped with the appropriate technology to communicate with fellow colleagues (85%). Video communications allows any employee, whether at work, in the office, or on the move, to collaborate face-to-face with one another instantly, removing the physical barriers between office worker and home worker.
Marissa Mayer banned homeworking from Yahoo!, stating that 'some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions'. However, video communications can be on-demand and impromptu ‘hallway’ style conversations can happen instantly. When a team needs to get together quickly, it's far easier to get everyone into a virtual meeting room from the convenience of wherever they are, than physically try and get them all into the same room. Speed, efficiency, immediacy, collaboration and getting to know each other face-to-face, regardless of location – that’s what the business world needs.
Tightening the belt
Employers and employees will save money – on travel expenses, office space, electricity bills and unscheduled staff absences. Personal needs, such as a sick child, an emergency dentist appointment, or the boiler man coming round can all increase staff absences, but by working from home, workers can fit these little life necessities amongst their working day and get more done.
If your role allows, and you have the means to work from home, even if it’s just one or two days a week, it can make a far more significant difference to your company and your personal work / life balance than you realise. So let’s change attitudes and judgements and get businesses moving.
*Sally Crimes is Head of Marketing at UCi2i.