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The pros and cons of flexible working - Commute Smart Week

It's once again Commute Smart Week, arranged by Work Wise UK. The initiative aims to raise the awareness of how remote working and smarter ways of commuting can benefit businesses and their employees in the winter months.

Working from home is now recognised as a credible alternative to being in the office in the winter. With bad UK winter weather costing the economy £1 billion annually, it's time businesses embraced flexible and remote working.

Flexible work schedules are the future

There's a growing awareness of implementing smarter ways of working for your people. Requests for flexible working are increasing and more people are working flexibly than ever before. Timewise research found 87% of the UK workforce works flexibly in some way already.

More employees want to have flexible working options, too. A huge 97% of workers want some form of flexible working in their jobs. You can give your people flexible working options in a number of ways including remote working or flexible hours.

A recent test carried out by Microsoft Japan involved changing employees' working days to a 4-day work week. The organisation found that productivity rose by a huge 40%, defying many expectations. This may be an unorthodox example, but it highlights that non-conventional methods can indeed increase employee efficiency.

Remote working - home office

How to ease commuting pains

Commuting during the winter can be a nightmare for employees and their employers. Extended commuting times can be frustrating and can affect a person's productivity. Employees may also spend less time working because they get into work late and have commitments outside of work.

Work Wise UK research found road accidents are a fifth more likely to happen during rush hour in winter, with most accidents happening between 4-6pm on Fridays. Not only are you helping your employees be more productive, you're keeping them safer.

How to have a better commute

Examples of different flexible working arrangements:

  • Remote working from a cafe, hotel or shared working space
  • Staff working from home
  • Mobile working (for example, when travelling)
  • Fully flexible hours, sometimes known as flexi-time or flextime
  • Compressed hours or shifted working patterns to reduce working days or commute times
  • Core hours with flexibility outside of those hours
  • Parental leave - fitting flexible working hours around 26 weeks of maternity or paternity leave
  • Job sharing

Flexible working in a cafe

Home workers are more productive

Despite the increase in home working, there is still a stigma attached to the practice around productivity. Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, the image of the slacking home worker persists.

All research into the productivity of homeworkers disproves this. A huge 90% of remote workers feel they are more productive and get more work done when working from home (TalentLMS). An Airtasker study found that remote workers experience a third fewer distractions at home than they do in the office. They also put in more hours, but still feel like their work-life balance is better.

Additionally, remote workers are 52% less likely to take sick days (CoSo Cloud). With sick days costing UK businesses £77.5 billion a year, we don't need to tell you that equates to money in the bank.

As we know, increased employee productivity contributes to a business' increased success. And, you've guessed it, there are stats to back that up, too. Vodafone found that 61% of businesses who have formal flexible working policies increase their profits.

How to support remote workers

It's clear that flexible working, incorporating remote working, is the way forward for most businesses. But organisations need a clear strategy and policy to ensure it works. You may need to consider your people's technology requirements; do they work with laptops, or do they have their own devices they can use? Will you give them an entire virtualised environment to log into so they see their work desktop everyday or give them cloud tools to work with - or a blend of both?

It's important that remote workers have access to a lot of the same services as office-based workers, such as your service desk and your core systems. They should also be able to easily communicate and collaborate with your office-based staff; loneliness and feeling cut off from their team are common issues cited by remote workers.

IT support for remote workers

Improving collaboration for flexible workers

One benefit to being in an office is you're surrounded by your team and other colleagues who you might work with on a daily basis. So remote working might feel like a challenge because of that.

But think of businesses which have multiple offices - sometimes all over the world. Those colleagues still need to collaborate, but may need to take into account different time zones and working patterns. They'll manage it through a number of channels including phone calls, emails and even additional tools dedicated to collaboration like Microsoft Teams.

With instant messaging, conference calls and video meetings available, Microsoft Teams is enabling teams dispersed all around the country and even the world to collaborate in real-time as if they were all in the same office together. What's more, in addition to enabling your remote workers to feel connected to office workers, it can also save you money if you do have multiple offices. You no longer need to spend as much on travel expenses thanks to the virtual meeting opportunities afforded by this online collaboration hub.

Working from home using Microsoft Teams

IT support for remote working

Sometimes, technology just doesn't work. Whether it's a permissions issue or your company-issued laptop isn't working, your remote workers need clear-cut access to your service desk. It doesn't matter if your service desk is internal or outsourced; your people need easy access.

For issues that don't render your people incapacitated, having a tool like Microsoft Teams means they can instant message your support team to seek help. Additionally, if it's an issue that doesn't stop them working, having the function to log a ticket via their desktop, like our innovative IT support tool SystemCare, means they can log it in a timely manner and then get on with their job.

For critical issues, phone access to support is essential. It's why our service desk operates 24/7 so our customers who opt for round-the-clock support can contact us at any time. A contingency plan is also important; if your employee's laptop is unusable, can they work from a personal PC, laptop or even tablet?

This is where cloud-based apps are important. If your employee is working on a critical tender in Microsoft Word, they can easily pick this back up on their iPad, for example, and use the Microsoft Teams app to work in collaboration with their colleagues.

Phone support for flexible working

How to implement flexible working

If your business has little to no flexible working policies in place already, this won't happen overnight. But it's been our job for over 15 years to work with organisations on their business strategy. We focus on your strategic goals, not technology.

Get in touch with our business experts today to understand how we can help you put flexible working policies in place that work for all of your people. You might have some people who can't work remotely, but we'll advise on how you can include them in your flexible working strategy. That might be giving them the option of condensed hours or flexible start and finish times.

Embrace the future of working - get in touch with TSG today.

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