work from home

The reason why so few people work from home

In the connected, cloud-powered world that is the year 2014, workforces have been enabled and empowered to work from home, reducing business costs, improving morale and job satisfaction, enabling a flexible generation and making sure that businesses make use of technology in the most effective way.

Except that’s clearly not true.

The truth is that only 7% of office workers are allowed to work remotely on a regular basis.   Virgin and YouGov recently conducted research into flexible working and the results were shocking.   Reading through the article, I found some of the stats really worrying:

  • 76% of office workers don’t work remotely as often as they’d like
  • 42% of office workers never work from home
  • 82% of workers think that it will be twenty years before the office as we know it today dies out

In my mind there must be a reason why businesses are choosing higher business rates, electricity costs, larger premises and ignoring the benefits to moral over using the technology at their fingertips to create a modern flexible remote workforce.   I’m not saying that everyone should work remotely all the time – for most businesses that’s simply not feasible – but why are only 7% of workers regularly doing their job remotely?

I believe the answer is this: businesses aren’t thinking about collaboration.  

Of course, cloud technologies have enabled remote access to become more readily available – most businesses access emails and files from anywhere so they can keep up to date while away from the desk.  It’s functional but not flexible, it does the job but doesn’t encourage efficiency. And this is precisely why in many businesses the odd afternoon working from home is ok but more regular flexible working patterns are not.   You can carry out your job to the minimum required standard but it’s just not quite as good as the office environment.

Let’s think about what people do in the traditional office environment.   Most of the time it’s heads-down, fingers tapping away but there’s clearly value and benefit from the conversations happening between team members.   Real time access to colleagues is important – it keeps information flowing and enables collaborative effort.   A huge amount of collaboration takes place while waiting for the kettle to boil, and relationships between co-workers are absolutely vital to a healthy happy business.   The issue with flexible working is that many businesses believe that this is all lost when people work remotely, because all they know is remote email and remote access to files.

I believe that if businesses knew more about the opportunity for using collaborative technology then the 7% statistic above would soon grow.   These technologies are readily available, yet mainly ignored by all but the most forward thinking of enterprises, and most cost very little, especially compared to savings a business could make by enabling flexible working practices.   Microsoft have SharePoint, Lync and Yammer in their arsenal, then you have the brilliant Huddle which is currently used by over 100,000 businesses worldwide. Even networking giant Cisco are in on the action.  These products beautifully complement the traditional cloud technologies like hosted email and VoIP telephony.

So with a world full of collaboration platforms, businesses are stuck using the bare minimum of cloud technology, ignoring the many benefits of empowering their workforce through flexible working practices.   Perhaps the blame is with the CIOs/IT Directors/IT Support companies for not introducing businesses to the possibilities, or perhaps it’s down to business leaders not thinking creatively.   Whatever the issue is, I’m determined to help my own clients to embrace collaboration through technology. Any questions? Give us a shout. 

 

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