More companies are starting to see the huge benefits of applying a working from home policy or having roles that are predominantly home based. There are multiple benefits from both a business and employee perspective. The employee will have greater flexibility and it will save commuting time and travel costs. If they have to drop the children off at school, they can be back online and working ten minutes later. So, companies who want to attract high calibre employees and keep them happy can offer this flexibility.
It is estimated that 70% of UK businesses will have adopted flexible working by 2020.
From the business costs side, having employees working from home means lower operational costs such as facilities maintenance. So whether you have a full team of people permanently working from home, or the average employee that works from home 12 days a year, there will be savings.
However, there are some downsides to remote working. Trust is a very important aspect of home working, as some people abuse the system and ‘working from home’ may mean logging on and then going back to sleep for an hour! So some companies are not all in favour from this point of view.
Another aspect that comes into play is communication and engagement. If the employee isn’t working alongside other employees, they can feel detached from the company, so the business has to introduce ways of working that maintain a good level of communication and enhance engagement.
Internal communications teams have big part to play in this. From ensuring that key messages are shared via the intranet to ensuring these employees are not left out of engagement activities. It can be very challenging to do this, but with the technology we now have access to, there are a lot more possibilities. For instance, web conferencing for team updates where part or all of the team works from home or in separate offices.
Video is also becoming a channel that IC teams are using in order to help engage remote workers. A study by Meetoo reported that only 13% of employees participate in their intranet on a daily basis.
If we can use a more engaging channel like video to communicate with employees, we are more likely to get buy-in. Of course, uploading those videos onto an intranet won’t be effective if only 13% of them are visiting the platform, so work needs to go into how the video is provided to make it appealing to remote workers.
Now, you might be wondering how you get started with using video for internal communications. Virgin Trains has set up branded video libraries that have been very popular with their remote employees. Because the content is fun and engaging, compared to the more text based traditional intranet communications, they have seen some great results through using video. It also means that employees can view the video at any time, so if you have employees working over different time zones or shift patterns, there is one consistent message for all.
Setting up and maintaining a video library is going to take up a lot of resource, but the Meetoo survey results showed that productivity improves by 20-25% with connected employees. So if you are still in the decision phase, you will want to analyse costs to ensure any expenditure on video will be justified.
When you are working at home on your own, receiving a communication by email does not have the same impact as seeing the person delivering the communication. If a CEO is providing an update, being able to see their body language and facial detail will help the recipient of the message to engage better with the content.
It looks like flexible working will be here for the foreseeable future, so as IC professionals, we will need all of the technological help we can get!