A recipe for flexible working success (and why happy people are the secret ingredient)

Imagine if your morning commute only took as long as it takes to boot-up your laptop. That your office is anywhere you can get online. And that your working hours fit around your home life. How does that make you feel? In control? Liberated? Happy? Everyone in your business could feel like this, every day. This is the promise of working from home.

Powered by fast internet4G and the cloud, many small and medium businesses are already living the dream. Working from home and even home-based jobs are fast becoming the rule and not the exception. It looks like working from home is here to stay. Could your business be next?

Why is working from home a win-win for SME business owners and their people?

People who work from home have more control over the hours they work. Putting in the time when the business needs them but having the flexibility to strike a better work-life balance.

“My favourite thing about working remotely is I get to pick my own hours,” says Tom Chapman, a publishing specialist for Manchester-based CandidSky. “Case in point, I’ve just had a kid and I started work today at about five in the morning. This means I can catch up on sleep much earlier if I need to.”

With more time to spend with family and to indulge their interests, it’s no surprise that home working is making people happier.

And happy people are productive people, benefitting your business. Free from distractions, they can get more done. In a survey from Indeed, 57 per cent of people said they get more done when they work from home. While employers operating remote working policies felt their business was over 70 per cent more productive. And Stanford found people who went ‘out of office’ even needed less time off sick.

But to get the most out of flexible working, you can’t phone it in. You’ll need to make some changes to how you run your business. But the surge in how much your people get done can make it worthwhile. Here are our tips and thoughts on remote working tools that can help you get started and make it work.

Our tips and guidance

Trust pays dividends

Without trust, letting people work from home will not work. Fight any suspicion that your people will get distracted and do less.

“I had a manager who I could tell thought I was messing around [at home],” says Nick Bradley, a graphic designer in Newcastle. “I became preoccupied with answering emails to prove I was working, rather than doing my actual job.” In the end, the stress prompted Nick to change jobs.

In contrast, research shows that, when they know you trust them, remote workers feel more valued than office workers and they feel more motivated to do their best for the company they work for. 

Take a leap of faith. It can pay dividends.

Communication is king

“Whether the business is large or small, communication, openness and agreed ways of working are the key,” says Jeremy Kourdi, client director at Duke Corporate Education. Good and regular communication makes sure everyone knows what’s expected. And there’s no reason why you can’t keep homeworkers in the loop.

Put regular calls in the diary where everyone can get together for any updates and to chat through any immediate issues. And cloud-based teamwork project management tools like Trello and Basecamp let people see what they’re responsible for and when it’s due, wherever they are. Instantly updated, they’re also an easy way to let everyone know if a deadline changes or something needs prioritising.

Work wherever, together

You don’t need to be sat next to someone to bounce ideas around. This is where chat apps come in.

People like them because you can send a quick message and get an equally fast response. Helping to make quick decisions and keep everyone included.

Services like Slack and Microsoft Teams keep your business conversations in one place and help employees collaborate remotely. This makes it easier for everyone to talk together with group or private chats, with all key decisions on record for all to see.

“One of the great benefits of remote working is the ability to talk and connect with other people,” says Jeremy Kourdi, “without the distractions or noise of an office full of people doing the same thing.”

See eye to eye with video conferencing

When you’re negotiating a deal with a customer or discussing a sensitive issue with a colleague, you don’t want to lose any non-verbal cues. These could be anything from posture to facial expressions. And this is where video calls come in.

Google Hangouts and Skype for Business narrow the distance between everyone, so they can build rapport with each other and feel part of a team.

Keep your business open in unforeseen circumstances

Flexible working can support with SMEs continuing to operate through hardships, major travel disruptions or other unforeseen circumstances. Enabling your people to work from home efficiently will mean minimal disruption to overall productivity.

Attract top talent

Unrestricted by location you can cast your net far and wide to find top talent for so-called ‘telecommuting’ jobs.

“The internet and social media [have] really opened the labour market up,” says Ibrar Kahn from Runagood, an AI startup based in London, but with people working remotely in Essex, Lisbon, Milan and even Sydney. “Why do I need to limit myself to the UK, when I can hire someone of equal or better calibre who may be living in the US, Australia or Europe?”

In fact, flexible working is so attractive, 40 per cent of employees told Indeed they’d be willing to take a pay cut to work from home. Happy people are also less likely to leave, which can cut employee turnover in half.

But none of this works without reliable connectivity

Having happy homeworkers who can perform at their best is only possible if you have internet that you can trust. Whether that’s broadband, wi-fi, 4G or even a leased line.

So be sure to get a provider you can trust to keep you all connected, wherever you are.

Putting it together

It's time to put happy homeworkers at the heart of your business. Making the jump to embrace remote working might seem like a lot, but small and medium businesses are in a prime position.

Use it to hire the best people, treat them with respect, work more flexibly, and have the best connectivity to make it all possible. In return, your people will feel they have a stake in your business, so commit to making it a success.

Discover how we can support your shift to working from home and help your business stay productive.