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Mick Hegarty

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Celebrating National Work from Home Day

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To coincide with National Work from Home Day, Mick Hegarty discusses new research on remote working and highlights why home working is helping both employees and UK businesses.

On National Work from Home Day, it is safe to say that the uptake of remote working practices has rocketed over recent times. In the last year, a growing number of businesses have offered staff the opportunity to work from home as they seek to reduce overhead costs and increase productivity. Today nearly one in eight of the population, that’s 3.5 million people work from home.
 
Businesses have supported this change in working patterns with nearly three quarters (72%) of the UK’s small and medium sized businesses already operating some form of home working, and 2.5 million businesses that operate completely out of home – a 16% increase on the figure a year earlier. The growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits that remote working bring to employees and employers can’t be ignored, especially in the current climate.
 
Almost a third (31%) of respondents estimated that they can save around £250 per year as they no longer need to buy as many work clothes.
BT Business research, launched this week, sought to understand the role that remote working is playing in the current climate. It revealed that over half of employees (55%) are working from home more often than prior to the downturn. Taking a closer look into the reasons behind this shift, the majority (88%) of respondents pointed to the need to save money as being the main motivator for staying away from the office.
 
The research revealed that the cost of travelling to, and working in, the office really can add up. For example, almost a third (31%) of respondents estimated that they can save around £250 per year as they no longer need to buy as many work clothes. Meanwhile, travel is a significant outlay for almost every UK household, especially as we have seen petrol and train ticket prices climb even higher in recent years. It is no surprise then that nearly half of respondents believe they can save £10-£20 per day by not travelling to work.
 
Clearly, anything employers can do to help staff morale in the current climate will be appreciated and offering staff the chance to save money via flexible working is becoming a powerful incentive. In fact, according to BT research, one in three UK workers would choose flexible working options ahead of a pay rise.
 
Remote working benefits
 
The benefits of remote working flow both ways as businesses stand to gain too. I already mentioned how it will ensure a business is more likely to retain key skilled staff. It will also help the bottom line and support businesses in their environmental commitments.
 
At BT, we manage a workforce with 63,000 people on some form of flexible working and over 12,000 others working at home. Over £220 million has been saved in the last 10 years from real estate costs alone. While travel costs have been reduced by £9.7 million per annum and 1,800 person years of travel time is saved each year. Another benefit has been the ability to attract talent, while reducing employee turnover. There is no question that recessions, like the one we are currently experiencing, is putting the purses of employers under significant strain. But, on the flip side, it is also giving birth to smarter, more streamlined and effective working strategies – and flexible working is emerging on top.
 
At BT, we manage a workforce with 63,000 people on some form of flexible working and over 12,000 others working at home. Over £220 million has been saved in the last 10 years from real estate costs alone.
And what’s good for business can also be good for the environment. Using conferencing technology to support virtual meetings that remove the need for staff to travel and associated costs also reduces carbon emissions. BT Business has found that just one audio conference meeting can save up to an average of 40kg, enough CO2 for a return journey from London to Oxford. Just imagine if every small business in the UK replaced 10 meetings with audio conferences, small businesses could collectively save more than 1.7m tonnes of CO2. This could be critical in helping businesses to reduce their carbon emissions in line with targets set by the Government.
 
Celebrating remote working and spotlighting best practice is an important part of managing this cultural shift in working patterns in the UK. And, we’re encouraging businesses across the UK to enter this year’s BT Business Home Business Award category in the Remote Workers Award.
 
National Work from Home Day today is the perfect opportunity for employers and employees to learn more about the benefits of home working. However, having experienced the benefits firsthand, I hope that remote working becomes an accepted and widespread practice so the need for a day such as this becomes redundant in years to come.
 
Mick Hegarty is strategy and commercial director at BT Business.  
 
If you would like to enter the Remote Workers Award, please click on the following link and visit the awards section www.remoteworkersaward.com
 
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