We all know someone who works from home and wish we were one of them! For many organisations and their employees, working from home has given them options that they wouldn’t have if they were to work in the office with no flexibility in their hours. For example, many stay at home parents would be excluded from their employee pool and great talent could be missed out because of their geographical location.

It has been reported that IBM Australia has sent a notice out to their workforce informing them that their working arrangements will be reviewed on a case by case basis as they would like more of them to be spending more time in the office instead of working remotely. IBM Australia wants their people to be able to achieve their best results and believe the best way to do this is to “operate as an integrated set of teams.” For an organisation to have championed and enabled their employees to work from home for over a decade, it was unsurprising to many in business circles that IBM Australia has decided to take this step.

Some industry leaders have predicted that it won’t be long before many other organisations restrict their employees from the same arrangements because for some organisations, its imply does not work.

Why does it not work?

For many organisations, the reason why it does not work is because they don’t have the proper systems set up for this arrangement to work. They have no systems to monitor their employees’ work, they have no measures in place to observe the quality of the output, and they have no management experience in managing employees working remotely. It is crucial that the systems, processes, measures and the management team is equipped with the right skills and tools for the arrangement to succeed. Experience is not necessarily crucial as working from home arrangements for many businesses is a fairly new concept and not much is known about the true effects of working from home and the true data about employee behvaiours, productivity and retention rates.

Benefits of working remotely in Australia

  1. No 2-hour-a-day public transport commute – which saves time and brain drain. Believe it or not that hour spent on public transport takes a lot out of one’s energy and can really put a damper on a worker’s productivity for the day.
  2. Increased productivity in most cases – those who have reported an increase in productivity have a system in place that enables them to track the output of their employees. The increase in productivity can be attributed to less meetings, idle time spent chatting with others in the workplace and less noise generated from those around them (especially in an open plan office environment).
  3. Fewer sick days as employees – whilst this statistic might be true, we believe many are just continuing to work even when they are sick and as they are not in the office and no one is telling them to go home, they simply just work away.
  4. Increased talent pool to source the right person from – you can hire someone halfway across the world with the right qualities, values and experience instead of relying on the talent pool within close proximity to your organisation.
  5. More time for staff to spend with their families – without the commute, that time can be spent with their own families which is what most parents are looking for – that work/life balance

Disadvantages of working remotely

  1. Little to no team environment and bonding – this can be quite isolating for many
  2. Some companies are not properly equipped to monitor or measure their employee’s work – including the quality and efficiency of their work
  3. Poor communication issues may arise – without a proper communication channel developed for workers working from home, communication can be a major problem for many organisations
  4. Managing workers remotely can be a challenge for today’s leadership teams as many are not equipped to be able to do so effectively
  5. Security concerns, especially for companies with a high level of secrecy surrounding their operations or organisations who deal with a lot of sensitive data

What can be done to make it work?

Every organisation will have different needs and requirements which means that not all organisations will find offering their employees the option to work from home beneficial or valuable in any way. First, an organisation needs to assess what their goals are and how their workforce can help them achieve it. Once that is tabled and there is a clear picture and path on how to achieve their goals, they can then workout what types of employees are needed and whether it is suitable to have the employees work from home. If an employee is needed to work on the in-house servers and maintain them, realistically they will not be able to work from home as the hardware cannot be moved and they have to be in the office. If an employee is writing up marketing copies or working on the organisation’s website, there might be an opportunity there for the organisation to enable the employee in this role to work from home. This is why ability to analyse and view a situation or a business case from various angles is important in every decision-making process.