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Why Aren’t We All Remote Workers?

The Office for National Statistics has found that around 87% of the UK’s workforce still operates primarily from a central office-type location – despite advances in technology making remote working and telecommutes much more feasible.

According to research conducted by Stanford University, those who work from home are 13% more productive. Not only this, they also get pleasure from a quieter work space and take fewer sick days than their colleagues who travel into the office. Other research also suggests that by 2036 the commute to the office will be unheard of, while by 2022 60% of those who work from the office will also regularly work from home.

With this kind of developed tech available, and plenty of statistics proving the benefits of working remotely, why aren’t we all mobile or remote workers, tapping away on our keyboards from various different locations?

The professional view

Speaking to The Guardian in 2014, Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School said that one of the core problems currently is that managers do not trust their workforce to work from home. This could account for the slow take-up of the practise, despite the many benefits for businesses.

Cooper said, “They’ll never say that, but that’s what it’s about. Managers want people in the office because they want to see their little empires there in front of them … It’s totally about trust, and the incompetence of managers who don’t know how to manage people remotely.”

The tech issue

The technology enabling employees to work from home has been around for years. The proliferation of with tools such as Facetime and Skype along with the advent of cloud storage resources such as OneDrive has facilitated this progression, allowing remote workers to access shared files and drives. Tools like IQ:timecard have made it easy to track workers on-the-go, as well as integrating with payroll systems to ensure accurate payment for hours worked.

Despite the technology being readily available to implement a remote workforce, some employers are hesitant to take the leap and introduce an out-of-office team to their workforce.

The benefits of remote working

While some bosses baulk at the investment in new technologies, the reality is that with a remote workforce, other costs may be reduced. Less office space is required for example, meaning smaller or no overheads for a physical space. Greater productivity means the costs of operation also dip, with greater volumes of work generated for the same payroll costs.

Staff morale is also shown to increase when employees are permitted to work flexibly, which in turn improves staff retention rates. By cutting out recruitment costs and improving continuity, profitability increases and expenditure decreases.

The flipside

On the other hand, not all jobs can be done through a remote workforce. Customer related roles and roles in emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance are jobs that can only be done on a face-to-face basis.

Some teams may also benefit more from being in an office together. For graphic designers, marketers and project managers to name a few, nothing beats immediate feedback, true thoughts and initial reactions of the team around them. Personality of the employee will play a key role in determining whether he or she works remotely but the support structure and availability of specialist tools will also play a role – no-one can thrive when they don’t have the correct tools or set-up to do their job.

The conclusion

There will always be jobs that require a face-to-face element, or a centralised office set-up. But with the technology now readily available, and more people than ever before are asking for the option to work remotely, we could be on the brink of seeing more remote workers in the UK than ever before.