Working from home: what are the pros and cons for your business?

With many employees now working from home as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, could remote working be implemented on a more permanent basis? Victoria Templeton of HR Solutions explains the advantages and disadvantage of home working for your business.

Working From Home UK

What are the benefits of home working to an employer?

Traditionally, working from home has brought into question trust. For many employers, there has been an unease in allowing employees to work from home simply because they are not present. While this does not mean employers would monitor their staff in the workplace, there is a perception gained from seeing a person at work.

However, with the lockdown, many employers are seeing advantages to staff working from home. Here’s just some of the benefits of home working:

  • More talent

From a recruitment perspective, you can broaden your selection pool if you allow working from home. Not only can you reach the best talent anywhere in the country, but you can also tap into certain groups of the population that you would not otherwise have been able to, such as working parents and those with caring responsibilities.

  • Improved staff retention

Home working can bring better work-life balance to your employees, which in turn can improve employee engagement and help to improve staff retention levels. In the absence of commuting, remote workers also have more time and they may even choose to start working earlier because of no commuting.

  • Less distractions

Working from home can also bring fewer distractions. There are naturally less interactions, less office chit-chat, quieter noise levels and either fewer meetings or more efficient ones.

  • Reduced costs

There is also the ability to save money, both for the employer and the employee. Cost savings could range from not having to pay for office space for those companies that can accommodate an entire remote operation, to money being saved on bulk orders of stationery and other facilities you offer.

  • Better for the environment

From a corporate social responsibility perspective, there is the positive impact on the environment that working from home can bring. We have seen improvements in carbon emissions as a result of worldwide lockdowns; and although these improvements have been temporary it has highlighted what is possible with less commuting.

What challenges does home working bring to the employer?

Like any way of operating a business, there are also disadvantages associated with staff working from home. Here’s just some of the challenges of home working:

  • Performance monitoring

For some, the ability to monitor staff performance can be a challenge. However, this does depend on the role, how that role can be measured and what processes are in place that enables the business to monitor and manage performance.

  • New starters

Working from home can be challenging when integrating a new employee into the business and in driving a culture of team working as there is naturally less physical interaction between the team. It will simply mean that more emphasis and thought needs to be given to how businesses run their company inductions and maintain team cohesion moving forward.

  • Security risks

With the strict General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) rules there could be more chance of information security risks, and so having effective systems in place and tools to mitigate this is going to be more important and perhaps costly in introducing.

  • Mental health

There is also the psychological impact that can be an issue for some. Working from home can create a feeling that you never leave work and can make it harder for some to switch off. One big difference in moving to remote working is the loss of social interaction that is part and parcel of the workplace. However, there are ways you can manage employee loneliness.

What are the practical considerations when allowing home working?

There are many practical things to consider when looking into implementing home working:

  • First and foremost, all the usual health and safety and employment legislation applies in the same way to employees who work from home as they do to office workers. An employer’s responsibility in regards to health and safety remains the same, which means there is a need to ensure the employee can do the work at home safely, that they have the right equipment in order to work safely, contact is regularly maintained to avoid isolation and where an employee has a disability, reasonable adjustments are put in place. A thorough risk assessment will be essential to working from home and must be reviewed as required once in place.
  • It is also important to be mindful of GDPR and data protection, as an employer’s obligations extends to when personal data is stored at an employee’s home.
  • It will be important to support employees to adjust to remote working as for those who have not previously worked in this way may find it a big change.
  • It is always recommended that working from home rules and arrangements are confirmed in writing so that both parties are clear on what is expected.
  • Consider how communication will take place, what form meetings will take when interacting with external customers or clients, and how will you approach and manage training. Consider what approach you wish to take with the reporting of absence, if it is to be any different to current practices and consider how you can ensure your employees still take their breaks and rest from working.

Will there be more home working in the UK?

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2019 there were 1.7 million people reported to be mainly working from home. In their latest analysis published in July (Coronavirus and Home Working in the UK in April), it confirms that 46.6 per cent of people in employment carried out some work from home and that of these 86 per cent did so because of coronavirus.

With the many benefits that home working brings, and the fact that employers have had a good amount of time to observe its effectiveness during the last four months, we would expect to see home working continue and, most importantly, believe that the historic issue around trust is becoming less and less of an issue.

About the author

Victoria Templeton is the HR Knowledge Manager at HR Solutions, an outsourced HR services firm offering employment related support and advice to businesses across the UK.

See also

How can you manage employee loneliness when working from home?

How will the workplace look after the lockdown?

Company profiles

Find out more

COVID-19: guidance for employees (GOV.UK)

Coronavirus and homeworking in the UK: April 2020 (ONS)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 27 July 2020

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.