20 November 2014

Are Your Employees Cut Out To Work Remotely?


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Employee engagement Leadership and management Technology


In an age where there’s an app for everything and telecommuting should be easy, why do workers still not feel it’s beneficial? It begs the question “are your employees cut out to work remotely?”.

In a survey of business owners by Virgin Media Business, it was predicted that 60% of office-based employees will regularly work from home by 2022. A separate survey by Office Angels found a third of employees think commuting will be unheard of by 2036. By comparison, large companies such as Yahoo are bucking this predicted trend by announcing all of its staff are required to work from the office.

working from home

In another survey, conducted by Ricoh UK, only 25% of respondents felt productive when working from home. With an abundance of communication, collaborative and cloud storage apps and solutions available to businesses and individuals alike, could it be factors other than the tools available to employees that are affecting this view?

Do we put too much emphasis on whether the tools businesses use allow employees to be effective outside of the office? Maybe it’s employees themselves who prevent telecommuting from being a viable option.


telecommuting-cultureUntil recently, working from home wasn’t the norm in most businesses. Technological restrictions meant that quite often employees simply weren’t as productive working from home, regardless of their intentions.

In a mobile world, we carry our office with us. Business leaders are embracing this shift in culture and fuelling research and investment into the industry. As ever more clever technology is developed, employees and brands benefit from faster and more productive ways of disparate working.

The problem is that technology, especially mobile, is moving so fast it’s difficult for users to keep up with it and know how to utilise it effectively. As such, someone working from home may have the tools needed to be productive, but may not have the user knowledge and training to achieve maximum productivity.

Leaders have a responsibility, not only to introduce these tools into their businesses, but also to ensure that employees have the required training and support when using it.

There is always a culture of resistance against new technology, especially from an ageing workforce. Proving the benefits to the business and the individual employee should go some way to achieving a level of acceptance.


working from homeWorking from home suits some, but not others. Depending on the home environment, it may be the case that there’s so many distractions it’s impossible to be productive for any length of time.

In many stock images of ‘remote workers’ they will be portrayed as sitting on a sofa, relaxing and tapping away on a laptop. In reality no-one can truly work like this, due to environmental distractions.
We all need to be able to concentrate to produce our best work, in many cases this means having a dedicated environment in which to do so. A home office is such an environment where anyone entering can see that it’s a place to create and be productive. This doesn’t work for other rooms in the house, like the kitchen or living room.

The TV, home phone, door bell, post, housework and cooking lunch are all distractions that don’t exist in the office environment, we simply deal with them once we’ve finished our day’s work.

A room dedicated to work automatically broadcasts that it’s an environment in which certain behaviour is expected. Working in your kitchen or lounge won’t have the same effect on those around you.


morning cummuteCertain employees may see the option of telecommuting as a free pass to add entitlement to their holiday. No-one to monitor them, no manager present and no tools to track internet usage, all add up to an attractive proposition for some to ‘take it easy’ for a day, rather than put the time in at the office.

The thought of commuting to London, squeezing onto an over-packed underground train and standing for most, if not all, of your journey is hardly appealing. Simply not putting yourself through such a journey’s a persuasive argument for telecommuting alone, and many probably wouldn’t consider much further than this when deciding to work from home.

Although this mentality should, and usually is, very rare within a workforce, it’s worth considering prior to rolling out any ‘work from home’ policy within the business.

If your entire employee base is ‘working from home’ every Monday and Friday, it may be the case that certain employees are taking advantage of the policy to extend their weekend. If productivity falls for these individuals then action may be required to ensure this behaviour is not repeated.

A comprehensive, clear and fair telecommuting policy can help to avoid this situation so make sure to include this when allowing employees to work away from the office.

Telecommuting can be and should be a brilliant way of allowing existing employees the flexibility to work efficiently from wherever they are. It should also provide a compelling reason for new talent to want to work for your brand.

It’s important to remember, however, that in order to be effective it’s not all about the tools made available to employees, it’s also about the employees themselves.