The digital age has brought about substantial shifts in the way we work. Typical 8 to 5 office jobs are being disrupted in favour of more flexible telecommute roles and remote positions. While some employers might think that this is a dangerous practice to follow – because there is a deep-seated fear that flexibility equals less control - it is not only appreciated by employees, but actually helps boost levels of productivity. It’s a bold statement to make, but statistical data backs it up time and again.
Does Working From Home Work? A Study Reveals Some Answers
A study conducted on a sample of employees in a 16,000 strong workforce at a NASDAQ-listed Chinese company tested the benefits of working from home. This study was further developed by members of Stanford University, based on the data provided by the Chinese company. The Stanford study looked at whether or not working from home actually has a positive impact, and the results were quite enlightening.
A selection of call centre agents within the company were assigned “work-from-home” positions and were measured against a control group that remained in the office. Broadly speaking, the work-from-home opportunity revealed the following:
- There was a 13% increase in performance"
a) This was partly due to the employees working longer shifts due to fewer breaks being taken. The convenience of having food, drinks and the toilet at their personal disposal made it easier for them to focus.
b) This was also partly due to their state of health being more optimal with less sick days being taken. Being in the comfort of their homes, they had access to appropriate clothing for the weather, plus they weren’t exposed to illnesses that are easily spread in the workplace.
c) Performance also increased due to more calls being taken per minute. There were less distractions and more opportunity to focus on the work at hand.
- Employees reported improved work satisfaction
- The employee attrition rate was reduced by 50%
So why isn’t this work model being used more frequently? Employers are afraid that shirking responsibilities will become more prevalent if employees are given too much leeway. There will always those employees that will take advantage of the work situation, that’s human nature. This leads to the suggestion that perhaps it’s something that should be earned through seniority, tenure or a trial process.
How Do Employees Benefit From Flexible Working Arrangements
Aside from the obvious work satisfaction offered through flexible working arrangements, employees have a lot more to gain.
- No long commutes into work. This not only saves on fuel costs, but is a more practical use of their time.
- Work-life balance can equalise. Many families require both parents to work in order to cover the rising costs of living. Working from home allows parents to manage their work hours in a way that also complements their family’s needs.
- Less stress and better health. By being offered flexibility, employees are naturally happier in their jobs through a sense of gratitude. This lessens the stress placed on them and leaves them healthier due to less exposure to germs.
What Is Required For Flexible Positions To Succeed?
The need for proper infrastructure is one of the most important aspects of being able to successfully implement a more flexible working situation.
- Employees must have access to the right technology (laptops make it easier to move around)
- The correct network access permissions must be set up, which is easier to manage if the business runs on cloud-based systems
- They will need broadband access from wherever they work
- Their working environment will need to be conducive to productivity
If a business is built with flexibility in mind, the transition will be a simple and almost effortless procedure, but it’s important to find the balance that works for your business.
Still not convinced? We’ll leave you with this quote from another separate study conducted over 12 months using the IT department at a Fortune 500 company. Among the changes that were implemented in the pilot group of this controlled study were working from home more, interacting via instant messaging systems and less via face-to-face meetings, as well as training in work-life balance and how to support this. The control group carried on with business as usual.
The results? According to Phyllis Moen, one of the two-strong team who conducted the research, it was quite conclusive:
"Our research demonstrates that workers who are allowed to have a voice in the hours and location of their work not only feel better about their jobs, but also less conflicted about their work-to-family balance. Crucially, these workers are also more efficient and more productive on the job. In other words, workplace flexibility is beneficial—not detrimental—to organisations."
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