Until quite recently, if you told your boss you wanted to work from home for a few days you would more than likely receive a sarcastic response. Something along the lines of "Not got much to do, then?" or even "Planning a few rounds of golf are we?"
But things have changed rather dramatically. A new BT Business Insight poll found that 48% of employers now let staff work at home permanently, and 44% occasionally. Only 8% don't allow it at all.
That's good news, both for employees and businesses.
For staff, the benefits are clear. By being allowed to work from home, they can claw back lost minutes (or hours, for some) spent travelling back and to from work. Assuming they can motivate themselves, they’ll remain productive whilst feeling happier as a result of their improved work-life balance.
For employers, a motivated, productive work force is often the main benefit of allowing home working. That’s not considering the financial savings on things like office space, electricity and any travel expenses.
So why the shift towards home working?
More than anything, it has been driven by the rise in technology – primarily faster home broadband connections and the proliferation of (smarter) mobile phones. Thanks to these advances in technology, there's no reason you can can't be just as productive at home as you are in an office.
You can send and receive email securely from anywhere from your phone. To connect to your corproate network, just set up a VPN on your laptop or tablet. From there you can access corporate data and applications just as if you were in the office. And if your company uses IP telephony you could turn your home phone into your office phone extension, allowing free calls to and from the office, over your home broadband connection.
It's not all rosy, though. There's a couple of potential downsides to consider, when deciding on a remote working policy.
Obviously, working from home does mean that you won't be able to attend meetings in person. (Of course, you may see that as a bonus!) But collaboration tools like conferencing are all you need to set up or attend meetings with colleagues from your home office desk - or even your kitchen table.
Your employees might also miss out on the human contact of an office environment. Whilst some employees will thrive on the freedom to work from anywhere, others work best around their team mates and will feel more “in the loop”. That’s especially true of new starters who'll be able to get up to speed far quicker by having help quickly at hand, and even by overhearing the conversations going on around them.
It’s important, then, that even if you do allow home working - your employees will be happiest if you allow them the choice between home or an office.
Are you one of the 92% who work from home at least some of the time? Do you find that you’re more productive? Leave a comment below and let us know.