Office for National Statistics reveals high number of workers are not located in the workplace.
Alternative ways of working, other than attending the office during the traditional working hours of Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, have been increasing significantly since the use of technology has allowed almost seamless real-time working from alternative locations.
Ten years ago, the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) review of employment data found that 884,000 people were working from home. In 2019, this figure has increased to more than 1.54 million people. This rise has been contributed to by an increasing number of self-employed and flexible workers, with many employees using their statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ service to change their work location to their own home.
Many organisations are recognising the benefits of home working, whether this is on a full-time basis or for specified times within the working week, and the positive impact this has on employees’ work-life balance. With employees being given greater freedom to structure their time in and outside of the office, they can ensure their personal commitments or interests are given a similar priority to their work commitments. With certain organisations offering the freedom to work flexibly from day one of employment, this becomes a factor which attracts and retains employees. Additionally, factors such as avoiding commuting time and reducing travel costs can also have a positive effect on employee wellbeing.
There are even certain organisations in the UK who are moving away from having a central office; instead, all members of staff work remotely and use instant and video messaging services to enable workers in different locations to communicate. It is recognised that face-to-face communication can be necessary, and catch ups are an important part of forming good collaboration and team work. Therefore, one such organisation, Automattic which has 90 remote staff, pays the travel costs for employees to meet up periodically.
Alongside the benefits of home working, organisations do need to recognise the potential downfalls and seek to manage these. One such negative implication is increased feelings of isolation and segregation felt by those working away from the organisation or their team. Managers also need to ensure their home workers are clear on their responsibilities and work objectives as they will work more independently than those who are located in the workplace, and flexible workers will require timely management if they are failing to perform at the required standard to prevent poor performance spiralling into a greater issue.