In 2023, working from home looks set to stay. This news report from last year found 47% of UK workers would quit work if forced to work from an office full-time and for the first time ever in the UK, employees will soon be able to request a flexible working arrangement as soon as they start a job.
It’s a move that may not come as a surprise to many. Working from home has become ‘the norm’ for many in the UK and signals a long-term trend towards remote workforces and working practices.
Regardless of whether there’s a flexible working arrangement or a full-time remote office, working from home offers both challenges and opportunities to businesses and employees alike. With the right processes, tech, and culture in place, embracing working from home best practices can benefit finances, communication, work-life balance, productivity and even customer service.
Our extensive guide to working from home offers all the tips and practical advice both businesses and workers need, including potential tools, strategies, and up-to-date information on the tax relief available to home workers.
Advantages of Working from home
Benefits for Employees
Unsurprisingly, working from home, at least part-time, is increasingly popular as it allows you the freedom to choose how and where you work. However, the benefits of working from home for employees, freelancers and self-employed workers don’t stop there.
1. New financial benefits
Employees who work from home may be eligible for certain tax benefits. According to the UK Government, you can apply for tax relief if your job requires you to live far away from your office or your employer doesn’t have an office you’re able to work for.
Of course, there are other potential savings you can make. According to a 2021 study, working from home saves an average of £300 in costs associated with commuting. However, anyone considering working from home this winter should factor in increases in household costs, such as energy bills, which are likely to be higher when you work from home.
2. Better worklife balance
We all know that effectively combining our work and personal life is important for our health, happiness and productivity at work. A 2022 survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that over 78% of those who worked from home said that this way of working gave them an improved work-life balance.
It’s not just the cost of commuting that most of us want to avoid, it’s also how much time travelling to the office takes. The average commute in the UK is around 59 minutes per day, but it can be significantly higher for many. Naturally, working from home offers more freedom for workers to plan their own time in a way that suits them, as well as the opportunity to do more of the things they love, whether it’s going to the gym, enjoying extra time in bed, or with the family.
3. More independence
Many people who work from home find that they are given more autonomy and independence to work in the way that suits them. Obviously, this can vary depending on your personal situation, however many find that away from the office there may be more space to think, fewer distractions and more enjoyment at work.
To find more of the ways working from home can benefit employees, read our full guide.
Benefits for Businesses
It’s not just the employees that can see the benefits of working from home, with the right preparation, culture and tech in place, a working from home policy can benefit your business. Here are a few of the upsides to a remote working policy.
1. Improved employee retention
We’ve already seen how workers can benefit from working from home and how this is increasingly popular. However, though studies show 87% of people want to work flexibly, only 11% of jobs are advertised as being flexible. For the 11% of businesses that do embrace this way of working and provide the facilities and support to employees to properly implement remote working. Research by the OECD highlighted the link between working remotely (away from an office), worker satisfaction, and efficiency due to less commuting or fewer distractions.
2. Increased worker productivity
A 2020 study by Stanford University of 16,000 workers found that working from home increased productivity by 13%. Though challenging for many workers, the study found that working from home ultimately led to higher productivity due to more calls per minute attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment and found that employees were working more minutes per shift because of fewer breaks and reduced worker absenteeism.
3. Better customer service
We’ve heard how embracing working from home can help your employees, but it may also indirectly improve customer service. As we’ve previously mentioned, if employees have the tools, flexibility and support to work away from the office they will, on the whole, be happier. It stands to reason that happier employees will deliver a more effective customer service.
Challenges of working from home
There are several disadvantages of working from home if employees and businesses are not equipped with what they need to succeed.
A 2021 survey found that more than a third of workers under 34 had found it harder to develop and maintain relationships with colleagues since working from home. If employees don’t have the communications tools in place, working from home can lead to a feeling of isolation
Finally, a lack of equipment will make working from home harder. Businesses should provide employees with the essential tools needed to work comfortably, this may include a laptop or relevant computing equipment, a monitor, specialised communication tools such as a cloud phone system, and other requirements such as an office chair and stationary.
Challenges for Employees
Regardless of your situation, there’ll always be challenges to the way you work. If you’re committed and would like to work from home permanently or even part-time, you should do everything you can to prepare.
1. Create a dedicated home office
If possible, try to work from a dedicated, physical workspace in your home away from distractions such as televisions. Even if this isn’t possible, you can create a space that mirrors an office workspace and ensure all equipment necessary for work is kept there.
Working in a substandard spot will not only impact your work but could also be detrimental to your health. Try and pick a space with plenty of natural life and make sure your chair is comfortable and supports your back.
2. Use time management
A consistent routine is essential for both productivity and a worklife balance. Making time for breaks will help manage stress, and likewise keeping regular working hours will help regulate your sleeping patterns and the consistency of your work. If you’re struggling to manage your time whilst working, there are a number of time management tools available that can help you.
3. Stay connected with colleagues
Human interaction is so important at work as well as in our personal lives, but it can be difficult to maintain or build relationships remotely. Make sure you schedule daily or at least regularbwith colleagues to maintain that personal connection. If working from home still feels isolating, talk to colleagues or line managers and discuss potential alternatives such as hybrid working.
4. Prioritise your wellbeing
It can be tempting to skip breaks and even lunch hours when you’re busy and have deadlines to meet, and this is made easier when there are no colleagues or line managers around to suggest otherwise. Prioritising your wellbeing by taking breaks and not routinely overworking is vital for your own health, which is the most important thing.
Advice for Businesses
Managing a work from home policy is a fine balancing act for businesses and decision-makers, however, with preparation it is no block to having a business that will thrive.
1. Have clear guidelines in place
Businesses need clear guidelines in place when it comes to remote working. For example, ensuring all cameras are turned on for internal meetings, that there are set ‘in office’ hours and that employees know what’s expected of them during working hours.
2. Set the correct culture
Company culture is of course a big concern for leaders, and when colleagues don’t share a physical space that can seem even harder to implement. However, this doesn’t have to be the case as long as businesses are clear that their priorities are the same regardless of where employees are based.
3. Invest in communication tools
Team collaboration tools are hugely valuable to ensure employees, partners and customers stay connected. Whether it’s embracing video conferencing, online meetings or phone calls, with the correct tech in place your business can improve the way you communicate.
4. Meet cyber-security challenges
Cyber-security threats are a huge challenge to businesses and the more reliant on online tech we have become, the more importance we need to put on defending our businesses from this challenge. Investing in anti-virus software, fully training staff on best practices, and using two-factor authentication practices will make your business more resistant to hackers.
Originally published Feb 21, 2023, updated Feb 28, 2023