The debate surrounding flexible working has intensified, gaining heightened attention and sparking fervent discussions. Amidst the ongoing debate, which often features headlines highlighting the return to office-centric policies by major corporations or critiques questioning the impact of remote working on the economy, Damon Anderson, UK Managing Director at Employment Hero, offers a perspective. In the ever-evolving landscape of work dynamics, his insights shed light on the diverse advantages of remote working across various workplaces.
A recent survey conducted by our team at Employment Hero involving 540 UK SME leaders revealed that nearly a third are hesitant or outright unwilling to hire candidates who prefer working remotely for part of the week. 22% of SME leaders would be less inclined to hire someone expressing a preference for two days of remote work, with an additional 7% stating they wouldn’t hire them at all.
This is a concerning finding considering the massive advantages of flexibility.
Why Embracing Remote Work is Beneficial for SMEs
Beyond the obvious cost savings from reduced office space, lower utilities and maintenance, decreased office supplies and equipment expenses, reduced insurance premiums, and minimised onsite technology infrastructure, embracing remote work offers a wealth of advantages for SMEs:
Expanding Your Talent Pool
A stroll through London on a Friday lunchtime illustrates a clear shift; tourists easily outnumber office workers. This observation is backed by TfL data, showing weekday tube travel down by 25% compared to 2019 levels. These are skilled high-demand professionals who continue to work remotely for part of the week. By limiting the option of remote work, SMEs inadvertently narrow their talent pool.
At Employment Hero, we’ve embraced a full remote working model, allowing us to recruit top talent from anywhere with a stable internet connection. This approach isn’t just about geographic diversity; it’s about not limiting your talent pool to your immediate vicinity. Since transitioning to a remote model in mid-2019, Employment Hero has seen its revenue increase 7x and its valuation soar, proving that remote work can be a cornerstone of business success.
With our entire 1000+ workforce remote-first, we’ve experienced firsthand the advantages of this model.
Retaining Valuable Employees
Flexibility isn’t just about hiring; it’s also crucial for retention. Remote working options can be a lifeline for young parents or those who need to relocate due to personal circumstances. By offering flexibility, you’re not just accommodating your employees’ current needs but also future-proofing your workforce.
Our team members enjoy benefits such as no commuting costs and the flexibility to live outside of expensive city centres. This approach has not only been life-changing for our workforce but has also helped them navigate through the cost-of-living crisis.
As a father of two young children myself, our remote-first policy allows me to manage my professional responsibilities whilst ensuring I don’t miss seeing my children grow up. Thanks to not having to commute, and managing my own hours, I can pop out to attend the school play, sport’s day, clubs and even help with their homework.
Addressing the Challenges of Remote Work
While remote work offers numerous benefits, it’s not without its challenges. Maintaining a cohesive company culture and ensuring productivity can be more complex when teams are dispersed.
SMEs can implement various strategies to address these challenges:
- Regular happiness surveys and KPI assessments help maintain a pulse on team morale and performance.
- Daily video calls foster a sense of connection and open lines of communication for those ‘water cooler’ conversations.
- For larger, geographically dispersed teams, occasional in-person events or meet-ups can significantly boost motivation and foster team cohesion.
WFH-Inspired Innovations for Non-Remote Businesses
Remote work isn’t feasible for all businesses, particularly in sectors like the trades where physical presence is essential. However, incorporating lessons from the work-from-home (WFH) culture into businesses requiring physical presence can enhance efficiency but also create a more adaptable and employee-centric work culture.
Embracing digital tools, a staple in remote settings, can revolutionise communication and project management in trades and similar sectors. Imagine project management software enhancing workflow efficiency or communication platforms fostering better team coordination.
Beyond the tools, the ethos of flexibility and well-being that underpins remote work can also be transformative. Trades businesses can explore flexible scheduling options, such as varied shifts or four-day workweeks, to boost employee satisfaction and work-life balance. Additionally, investing in employee well-being, through wellness programs or mental health initiatives, mirrors the positive aspects of the remote work environment.
Finally, the precision in communication and data-driven decision-making championed in remote work can be invaluable. Clear communication practices reduce errors and misunderstandings, while data and analytics can refine job costing and resource allocation.
The shift towards remote work isn’t a temporary trend; it’s an evolution of the modern employment landscape that offers significant benefits for both employers and employees. For those industries that can adapt, embracing remote work can be a strategic move towards a more diverse, resilient, and successful future.
SMEs should consider the potential benefits of flexible working arrangements, not just as a response to the current landscape, but as a proactive approach to shaping their future.
By Damon Anderson, UK MD at Employment Hero