Working from Home: Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?

In my previous blog I concluded that using careful office design to create an agile working environment can benefit employee well-being, the environment and your profits. One element of agile working is the ability for employees to work from home, which on the surface seems to be a win-win – The employer gains cost-savings from requiring a smaller office space and the employee can achieve a greater work life balance, especially if they have young children to look after. This blog looks at some other important considerations both employees and employers need to take into account before adopting flexible working patterns.

Working from Home Could Jeopardise your Health- or Improve it

Working from home could potentially have a detrimental impact to those with depression and anxiety. The lack of supervision could lead to anxiety for the employee as they feel they must prove their time is being spent in a productive way, remaining contactable and applying pressure on themselves to appear busy throughout the day.  Remote working can also exacerbate the symptoms of adverse mental health due to the lack of the sense of community and culture often observed in an office setting, which is especially troubling as research indicates that engaging in activities outside the house and exposing yourself to situations you may fear can help in overcoming some mental health issues.  Its not all bad however, as the mental health charity Mind propose that the fewer social interactions, the limited need to travel and a quieter environment can benefit those with certain anxiety disorders.

Another aspect to consider is whether you have the correct equipment at home, such as an ergonomic chair, suitable lighting and a height adjustable computer monitor. These are all items we take for granted in modern office design, however each one plays an important role in minimising health risks such as vision, headaches, poor posture among a myriad of other potential problems.

 Employee hunched over desk

Is Productivity at Risk?

Working from home may be a productivity killer as a home office may lack the suitable equipment found in a commercial office fit out. Resources such as printers, scanners, fast internet connection and access to protected to company servers are not always accessible to remote workers and subsequently important tasks may have to be delayed until an employee is back in the office. Collaboration could also be a problem; a well thought out office design will incorporate many spaces to facilitate collaboration however at home you are at the mercy of colleagues answering your calls as well as the reliability of the internet.

These drawbacks could potentially be overlooked as the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that allowing employees to work remotely boosted productivity by 13.5% for one company, which is likely due to the lack of a morning commute and the shorter breaks and lunches taken by the remote worker. HBR suggest a middle ground where businesses can achieve improved productivity by allowing the employee one or two days a week at home. The Association for Project Management also state that flexible working can improve motivation and productivity, whilst reducing overheads for employers as company’ will only require a smaller office as fewer seats are required. Workplaces can also provide many distractions such as ringing phones and chatter which can reduce productivity, however many of these problems could be overcome through specialist office design which incorporates quiet working areas.

Although a commercial office space can provide many distractions such as talking, phones ringing etc, It is worth noting that your home may not always be as quiet as the office, especially if you have pets, children and significant others running around!

 

Your Data may be at Risk!

Remote working poses a unique challenge to confidential company data. The National Cyber Security Centre say that this risk is increased as portable devices such as laptops and mobile phones are taken outside the secure company infrastructure. An optimal office design will incorporate several areas where colleagues can communicate, such as a breakout area, a traditional meeting area or even a bar! Furthermore, office-based networks are often secure and monitored by IT specialists who can prevent any authorised access, however working remotely removes much of this face to face contact meaning workers must communicate via the internet, which may not always be secure.

Working over unsecured public WIFI hotspots, or even a compromised home network can potentially result in unwanted cyber criminals collecting your company’s sensitive data such as logins and confidential files. An employee losing a laptop may also result in the loss of important data which could then be prone to misuse by opportunistic criminals.

According to Comparitech there are several ways businesses can protect their data, such as through creating clear remote working policies, enforcing data encryption on all devices, utilising two-factor authentication and securing web traffic via a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

 

 Dayinsure Breakout Space

Reduces Employee Churn

Remote working is one way in which a company can reduce employee churn, in their study the HBR found that staff turnover decreased to half the rate of office-based employees by simply allowing employees to work from home. Flexible working is now considered a top priority by many employees, even being considered more important than other benefits such as private healthcare and gym memberships. Many employees feel that flexible working- such as being able to work from home- greatly improves quality of life, often removing the need to battle rush hour traffic meanwhile enabling single parents to look after their children.

For many young professionals the office provides an important part of their social lives, therefore remote working may not be appropriate for graduates looking to establish a network of contacts. It is therefore important that your office design includes areas where your employees can socialise, compete and collaborate, such as in a well-designed breakout area.

Closing Thoughts

There are many arguments in favour of allowing employees to work from home, such as the improved employee retention and the reduced employee turnover, however the potential negative impact on employee health and productivity as well as company security are worth considering. The solution may be to allow employees to work from home one to two days per week and allow the employee to decide if remote working Is right for them. This would enable cost savings in regard to office design as less space is needed meanwhile allowing single parents the flexibility to balance their work/life commitments whilst also improving morale across your workforce.

As your office design partner, Officeinsight places employee wellbeing, productivity and retention at the forefront of your design, delivering spaces your employees and clients will love!

Contact us today to hear about the services we can provide to your business – send us an email to sales@officeinsight.co.uk or call us on 0161 233 0030.