Companies around the world are telling employees to work from home to protect themselves from catching coronavirus and to stop it spreading.

Business continuity is not the only reason for employees to work from home – remote working increases productivity, results in a happier and healthier workforce, and encourages employees to remain in the business for longer.

The outbreak of coronavirus may change or influence working patterns from now on, with more companies willing to accept the request for remote working.

More than 1.54 million people now work from home for their main job – an increase from 884,000 ten years ago (ONS Labour Force Survey 2018). The Office of National Statistics believes that 50 percent of the UK’s employees will be working remotely by next year and a total of 90 percent of staff will request to work remotely at least part-time.

The workplace has and will continue to change beyond recognition with new technology enabling employees to work remotely and collaborate more effectively.

The younger demographic has turned the traditional office and working practices upside down, with requests that are radically different to previous generations. Coupled with the existing and increasing digital skills gap, companies need to transform themselves and invest in attracting and retaining talent by vanquishing traditional mindsets and processes.

The now and future employees

The European workplace now encompasses 160 million millennials and naturally this is set to increase to 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. Companies need to shift from ‘this is how we have always worked’ to ‘how can we make changes to attract and retain the younger demographic?’

The desires of millennials and younger generations are very different to previous ones, where the expectation was to be shackled to the same desk every day from nine-to-five and there was very little flexibility on any level. They only want to work for businesses that believe in work-life balance, bringing them flexibility and the ability to work remotely.

A positive work-life balance reduces workplace stress, resulting in a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

Widen your recruitment pool

By implementing remote working  you can widen your recruitment pool and attract and retain top talent from further afield and even overseas.

You can also work with freelancers, opening up the ‘gig economy’ that now includes approximately 4.8 million people with freelancers comprising 42 percent of that population, and six percent of the UK workforce as a whole (as measured by the Association of Independent Professionals).

Technology the enabler

Companies need to provide employees with the correct technology to enable remote and flexible working.

Cloud based conferencing and collaboration solutions such as Mitel’s MiCollab and Avaya’s Spaces empowers employees to hold audio and video conference calls together over their desktop or via a mobile.

Send instant messages, and share and work on documents and presentations together; it is important to use intuitive technology that is easy to use, set up, and to keep your documents secure to protect data and privacy.

Seeing things differently

Employees need to be trusted from the outset and given autonomy to do their jobs wherever they are.

Trust should be given and not earned. Naturally, this may be more difficult for the baby boomer managers because they are used to traditional methods of working, such as being seen in the office working late at night. Providing them with remote and flexible working that fits into their personal life demonstrates that you trust them to do the job, no matter where they are.

Employees require clear direction of what needs to be done and key performance indicators can be put in place to ensure that employees are achieving. Software such as workforce management tools and collaboration software ensures you can access project progress and knowledge bases.

Time to step up the productivity

Remote working increases productivity because you are enabling your employees to fit work in with their personal lives. Your employee will feel happier, therefore will be willing to work harder and go the extra mile if required.

Airtasker recently issued some research stating that remote workers work an extra 1.4 days a month, which equates to 16.8 days a year more than people work in an office.

Healthier and happier workforce

ConnectSolutions’ survey states that 52 percent were less likely to take time off ill when remote working; 45 percent of remote workers sleep better; 35 percent exercise more; and 42 percent have healthier diets. Mental health is protected, with 53 percent claiming they suffer from less stress.

Implementing remote and flexible working clearly results in healthier and happier employees who will take less time off ill and ultimately be more productive.

Connecting people together

It is important to provide remote and home workers with the correct tools to communicate with so they still feel connected to the team and maintain a social bond with their colleagues. Buffer stated that 19 percent of remote workers get lonely and 17 percent struggle with communication and collaboration.

Conferencing and collaboration tools help combat this, enabling you to conduct phone and video conference calls, share documents, and send instant messages. Some companies schedule virtual coffee breaks into their agendas so they can socialise over video chat or IM.

Downing tools

Home workers will usually worker longer and harder, and are less distracted in the day so it is vital that you set guidelines on switching off from work so they can separate their home and work life.

Suggest no emails after working hours and no working on holidays; this will ensure that your productive remote workers remain happy and healthy and are more likely to stay with you if clear expectations are set.

Future-proof with flexibility

Remote working is much bigger than business continuity issues such as protecting employees from illnesses.

Future-proof your workforce by providing them with the flexibility, trust and autonomy to work at home or remotely within flexible hours if required. Set your employees free and you will have a healthier, happier, more dedicated, productive, and efficient workforce, along with the ability to attract and retain the top talent that you need.

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