The term ‘flexible working’ is broad, encompassing remote working, job sharing, part-time hours and temporary contracts
One of the most commonly-made requests is for homeworking. With the appropriate set-up, homeworking can be advantageous for both employee and employer: this post will take you through the legislation, potential benefits and practicalities of implementing it, to help you understand whether it could work for you.
Your working rights and obligations
On 30th June 2014, every employee in the UK gained the statutory right to request flexible working arrangements after 6 months’ service. You can read up on the details of the legislation here, but the key points to remember are as follows:
- Requests must be made in writing.
- Employers must consider any requests and make a decision within three months’ of receiving the written request.
- Employers must have a sound business justification for rejecting a request.
- Employees can only make one request in any 12 month period.
What’s in it for you?
Handled in the right way, remote or homeworking can have a positive effect on everyone concerned. The immediate benefits for the employee may seem obvious at first – less time and money spent on the daily commute, a better work/life balance, reduced stress – but those that have initiated such arrangements are seeing longer-term improvements too.
Without regular, daily travel time to factor in, remote workers have more time for exercise, sport and other hobbies. They tend to eat more healthily and spend more time with friends and family – all of which stimulates a greater enthusiasm for their work. Successful remote workers also report that they are able to focus better away from the distractions and interruptions of the office environment, so projects are completed faster and with greater accuracy.
Businesses that already offer this kind of flexible working to their staff confirm that home-based employees are more productive, motivated and engaged. Absence and staff turnover is often reduced and without a fixed geographical location they are able to hire and retain the best candidates, no matter where they live. If this means that physical office space can be minimised, direct savings on overheads like rent, rates and utilities are added into the mix too.
The shift towards flexible and remote working would not have been possible without recent advances in communications technology. In order for employees to perform effectively outside the traditional office environment, they need a mobile toolset that allows them to remain connected and reachable wherever they are – and herein lies a key consideration for employers.
As a minimum, remote or homeworkers require a mobile phone, a computer, a reliable internet connection, access to emails and a suitable workspace with the correct furniture. Ideally, their equipment should also enable them to remain as productive and as responsive as they would normally be at the office; this might mean they need access to the company phone system.
Installing phone lines and hardware at every remote worker’s home is not feasible, even for the largest companies, but a cloud phone system that delivers free voice calling, voicemail, instant messaging and conferencing services over the internet has the same (if not greater) capability to link everyone together in a virtual office environment. With VoIP technology and a smartphone, PC, laptop or tablet any location becomes an extension of head office, so employees can stay connected and work productively wherever they are. For organisations seriously considering remote working as part-and-parcel of the way they do business, VoIP is difficult to ignore.
The move to flexible working shows no sign of slowing: if businesses want to stay ahead of the curve, remain competitive and be viewed as an employer of choice, a remote working strategy should be high on their list of priorities.
Telappliant was one of the first companies to launch VoIP solutions for remote working into the UK SME market and we now provide a secure, reliable cloud-based telephony service to more than 5,000 businesses.