The benefits of home and remote working are clear enough: improved work-life balance for employees, increased productivity, reduced stress on environmental resources, and lower overhead business costs.
Figure1 highlights the business and IT benefits of home and remote working, so why haven’t more organisations moved to embrace remote-working solutions? Despite substantial advances in the technology needed to support remote working, along with recent developments in statutory home working eligibility, the truth is that home and remote working still represents a significant challenge for many organisations and their employees.
Management of Remote Workers
Although the advantages of remote working have received a lot of buzz, many organisations are still hesitant to embrace this model because they feel they are not up to the challenges of managing remote workers. Are all workers capable of handling the freedom of working outside the traditional office environment? Will corporate identity diminish with employees scattered off-site? What about business and individual performance metrics? These are questions that organisations must wrestle with when considering remote-working solutions. Loss of face-to-face contact means that remote workers may suffer feelings of isolation and develop a lower morale, possibly leading to early burnout. Another major issue associated with remote workers is the question of productivity. Despite evidence showing that remote workers are often more productive than their in-office counterparts, certain perceptions of remote workers persist, such as the notion that this segment is more likely to be idle during working hours. Other challenges include the development of specific business and individual performance metrics, and adapting these to home and remote workers.
Fig 2: Still some barriers to surmount around homeworking
Data Protection and Security
The security of data and IT assets is a major concern for organisations considering remote-working solutions. Even if remote workers are no less vigilant than their on-site counterparts, security remains a major technical issue for organisations using remote workers. Remote workers are more likely to use their computer for non-work related activities, which may expose them to unsafe applications, viruses, and other security threats. Organisations must ensure that their security policies are up-to-date and cover remote working.
Lack of Tech
Lack of tech is still a major challenge for many organisations. Even if organisations whole-heartedly embrace home and remote work models, research indicates that many businesses, especially SMEs, still lack the technology to enable workers to do their jobs effectively in remote work environments. Organisations that offer employees the opportunity to work remotely may find that some employees may be hesitant to embrace remote-working solutions because of lack of tech. In order to sustain a successful remote work programme, workers must be able to access documents, colleagues, and networks with the same ease as their on-site counterparts. The uptake of Cloud Services are helping SME's address these issues to enable remote working
IT Concerns and Challenges
Even organisations that are actively working to develop effective remote-working solutions must reckon with a collection of ongoing IT concerns and challenges. Major IT concerns include data security, managing the use of multiple work devices, and responding to unified user identity needs, latency fears, asynchronous renewal cycles, and user support. Portable devices are ubiquitous in remote working, and these now represent a specific set of challenges for IT, including loss and damage of devices, deciding which devices to use for which groups, and the need for faster refresh cycles. The lack of an on-hand IT support team may also mean that workers are left to their own devices when faced with tech concerns, unless organisations include remote workstations in their programmes of support.
Despite the concerns many organisations have, there are numerous technologies that exist to enable remote and home working with the potential to provide significant benefits to employers and staff alike. Whilst in some cases business and management obstacles remain, many businesses that have gone down this route have shown it to make a lot of sense.