Remote working

Businesses and their employees have much to gain from operating flexible working options.

Businesses and their employees have much to gain from operating flexible working options.

Businesses and their employees have much to gain from operating flexible working options.

Software developer ChangeBase has operated a remote working scheme since it started up six years ago.
‘We decided we wouldn’t be an office-centric company so we needed to create the technical infrastructure and the working patterns to make that possible,’ managing director John Tate says.

The business mainly employs people with a technical background and Tate explains that having a remote working policy means it can hire from all over the UK. ‘We look for talented individuals and we don’t want to be restricted,’ he adds.

Tate admits that investing in the right equipment to enable mobile and remote working has not been ‘straightforward’. Every employee has a laptop and access to the email system and offline copies of documents. But when the company’s network started crashing frequently, Tate made the decision to switch service providers.
‘We’ve had to spend a surprising amount of money on improving the quality of our infrastructure to make sure that it works. We spend a five-figure sum a year on hosting support. If you want to be serious about remote working, you do have to invest in it,’ he says.

Attracting talent

Pam Calvert, managing director of marketing consultancy Communications Management, believes that if companies want to hire and retain talent, they should provide flexible working options.

‘A few years ago there were some skills shortages in the PR industry. As a management team, we recognised that flexibility and remote working would make us attractive as an employer,’ she explains.

As a result, all of the company’s employees are equipped to be able to work from home. Calvert says that its investment in the technology to support its policy has been ‘relatively limited’, and believes that small businesses are in a good position to adopt a flexible or remote working scheme. ‘It is a great opportunity for small businesses to differentiate themselves,’ she concludes.

Employee needs

Shirley Borrett, development director at the Teleworks Association, explains that 2003 saw the introduction of a government policy offering parents of children under the age of six the right to request flexible working as part of the Employment Act.

‘That gave flexible/home-based working more visibility,’ she says, but adds that it should not be confused with maternity and paternity leave.

Borrett explains that a remote working policy encourages loyalty and productivity among staff, which benefits the employer. However, in order to reap those benefits, she believes organisations need to understand their employees’ communication and social needs.

She adds, ‘Working from home often suits people who have been in the workforce a while, know what their job is and are good at self-management.’

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