Working from Home Best Practice
Advantages and disadvantages of employees working at home
With increasing numbers of employees working at home - or using home as a working base for at least part of the week - it's clear there are a number of benefits for business, such as:
- improved retention of employees, eg, home working can help retain working parents with child-care responsibilities
- a wider pool of applicants from which to recruit, eg, disabled people who may prefer to work from home
- possible productivity gains through staff having fewer interruptions and less commuting time
- increased staff motivation with reduced stress and sickness levels
- savings on office space and other facilities
- possible location of sales staff near clients rather than being based in your premises
However, there are a number of potential drawbacks:
- difficulty of managing home workers and monitoring performance
- possible deterioration in employees' skills and work quality
- initial costs of training and providing suitable equipment, including adaptations to meet health and safety standards and the needs of disabled employees
- difficulty of maintaining staff development and upgrading skills
- risk of information-security problems
- increased telecommunications costs
- risk of communication problems and a sense of isolation among home workers
- can be harder to maintain team spirit
- working from home is unsuitable for certain types of jobs
A shift towards home working doesn't mean employees have to work only at home. Often splitting time between home and the workplace is the most productive solution and you may want the home worker to attend meetings to keep them fully involved and informed.
How to keep on top of your office administration!
Running a small business can be a very rewarding experience, and with record numbers of start-ups recorded by the DTI last year, the urge to go it alone is as strong as ever. On the other hand, starting up can bring with it a number of stresses which the permanent employee is blissfully unaware of. One potential area of stress can arise when your administration has been left to the last minute, or seems out of control. Here are some tips for keeping on top of your small business administration.
1. Tidy up - Simple as that. There's nothing worse than trying to run a business from an untidy room or office. Mess brings stress and should be sorted out as your first priority. Ensure that all work surfaces and desks are as clutter free as is possible, and if you are working from home, try to keep an area of your home dedicated purely to running your business.
2. Paperwork - Choose a filing system that suits you and organise chunks of paperwork into logical piles. An ever-growing pile of unrelated paperwork gets harder to sort out each day, and chances are, somewhere near the bottom of the pile will be a request for payment or something else which would have been dealt with already if systems were in place.
3. Accountancy - From our own experience, the one area of admin which you really must ensure gets your full attention is accounting-related. More than anything else, you should keep accurate and up-to-date records of all your income and expenditure on a spreadsheet or using accountancy software. Ensure you are never late posting VAT returns, completing your annual return, or submitting liability payments to Revenue. If you have a decent accountant, they should be able to help a great deal with this.
4. Email - Given that the internet is playing a greater part in the lives of all small business people, email communication has replaced more old-fashioned forms of communication to a great degree. We'd recommend trying to respond to emails within 48 hours. Sometimes this isn't always possible of course, but potential clients don't like having to wait for a reply. We aim to answer all emails before lunch each day. This means we can concentrate on other areas of the business without worrying about getting back to a potential advertiser who may well have emailed several other sites at the same time and will look more favorably on those who replied in the timeliest manner.
5. Systems - Everyone will have a different way of organising their time and tasks. Find out what areas of administration cause you stress and create a system to get around the problem. For example, if you receive a high volume of email enquiries of a similar nature, simply create a template response and copy and paste the reply. If you can't find the self-assessment form you should have completed by now, chances are it's buried somewhere in a pile of household bills, takeaway menus and marketing proposals!
Whatever works for you is the best solution. From my own experience, when I'm organised I get twice as much work done, which is better for my own feeling of satisfaction, and better for business.
Manage Employees Who Work From Home
New technology makes teleworking increasingly viable for many small businesses. Employees who work from home are often less stressed, more productive and more motivated. But you need to manage them carefully
Have you considered allowing some of your staff to work from home? Many employers are discovering how teleworking can benefit their businesses and meet employees' demands for more flexible working practices.
The advantages are clear. Offering greater flexibility will help you to attract and retain the right people in an increasingly competitive job market. Well-managed teleworkers are likely to be less stressed and more motivated, which could mean an increase in productivity and a fall in sick leave. And you will also free up expensive office space.
But teleworking can be lonely and demotivating. Is your staff cut out for it? Teleworkers need drive and initiative, good time management and IT skills, and the ability to separate their working and personal lives effectively. And remember that working from home is particularly suited to certain types of jobs - including writing, editing and research, sales and marketing, customer service and computer programming.
If you decide to introduce teleworking, plan how it will work in advance. You may need to prepare a modified contract of employment. Provide any IT or time management training required. Always maintain close contact with teleworkers. Phone regularly to check on progress and provide encouragement. You might want to write a short agenda to help you keep to the point. Face-to-face meetings are also a good idea, particularly as part of an appraisal process.
Agree on how you are going to monitor performance. This will depend on the ability and seniority of the people involved. You could ask for timesheets to record the time spent on tasks - but it may be better to request weekly reports on the progress of specific projects, allowing you to focus on output rather than hours worked.
Harnessing IT to Your Advantage
Advancements in technology in the past five years have made working from home a much easier option for those who work for themselves as well employees. Many of these solutions are free, meaning that there is even more reason for you to harness such offerings and claw back your work:life balance.
- Remote computer access - This is an amazing piece of software, you no longer need to take your laptop with you on business. Just sign up and it's as if you are working from your home office www.gotomypc.com
- Alterative telephone Voice over IP (VoIP) - free calls to any Skype user, with the option to buy a Skype phone number and make extremely cheap worldwide calls www.skype.com
- Teleconferencing via webcams - www.skype.com or Microsoft Instant Messenger and most other ISP email provider
- Virtual Secretarial Services - Busy Lizzie (of course) www.busylizzie.ie
- Website-based text messages - most mobile providers will provide you with a certain amount of free texts/month to send via their websites.
- YouTube - a great resource to upload informative videos about you and your business for free.
- All in one mobile - look at a PDA, O2 do a great range called the XDA. There is the BlackBerry option also, in the past they have not been as multifunctional as the existing PDAs, but this has changed with their new product line.
About Busy Lizzie
Busy Lizzie has been providing social and corporate assistance throughout Ireland, America, UK and mainland Europe since 2004.
With offices in Galway, Dublin, Wicklow, Limerick and Cork, their team provides unparalleled outsourcing packages to SMEs, such as web and print design, secretarial support, emarketing, book keeping, office decluttering, project and event management.
Awards and Accolades
BPW Innovative Business Woman of the Year 2005
Finalist in Midlands and West of Ireland Regional LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2005
Finalist in JCI Galway Entrepreneur Award 2006
Listed in Top 40 Irish Female Entrepreneurs: Image Business 2006
Double Finalist Network Galway Business Women of the Year Award 2006
Listed in Top 100 Women in Business by Entrepreneur Magazine 2006 & 2007
Finalist in The Image Magazine Young Businesswoman of the Year 2008
Phone: 091 865 353
Tuesday 11th May 2010, 3:19 pm
By Tara Dalrymple