Home is where the work is

Flexibility in the workplace can create happier staff who get more done.

Мarissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo, sparked quite a row with her recent ban on working from home.

One Irish businessman who would disagree with her diktat is Barry Rice of ShutterCo, a household shutter designer. The family business, set up in 2006, employs 10 people. Half of them work on the factory floor; the other half can, more or less, work from wherever they like. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without the help of software such as Wandera and many more being available to businesses. Software like this enables employees to work from different locations, while still sharing the same programs and documents, and also avoiding cyberattacks. Online security is one of the crucial elements to working from home, and having all employees connected to a secure VPN system is the only way to do this.

“Production staff have to be onsite, obviously, and we like to have one or two in the office overseeing things during the day, but other than that people can work from home, on the road, wherever,” said Rice. Many people are redesigning the idea of working from home. People are no longer sitting at their kitchen tables getting a bad back. Many people have office sheds in their garden (see office sheds for sale for more information), some people even work on the road and never work in one space. This is the new way to work, not one home office is the same.

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He tries to do as much as he can from home, including research and development, accounts and business development. Technology makes home working not only possible but also highly efficient, he says. “For example, prospective customers can send their details to us via our website using Google Docs. I can pick these up at home, contact the customers and, using Google Calendar, see what appointments our sales people have free for a home visit.” By using the right VPN service, and you can check out the Avast Secureline VPN Review for some advice, workers can enjoy fast and protected internet services from the comfort of their own home. Appointments, documents and information can all be shared online with no worries about protection and efficiency.

The firm uses Dropbox, a cloud-based way of sharing files, so it does not even need its computers to be networked. There are also many tools available that allow for real-time communication between employees like the kind you can see here. The company’s sales reps do not even have desks in the office.

The business has been profitable since 2010 and revenues grew 20% in the past 12 months. It will soon need to take on more staff.

Rice reckons the opportunity to work from home will be an important part of the benefits package he can offer when recruiting. “All that matters to me is that they are getting results,” he said. “After that, I don’t mind if I never see them.”

Dermot Rice, Barry’s uncle, is managing director of Priority Management, a company that provides training for businesses looking to work “smarter”. He also believes in the value of home working.

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He sees Mayer’s move as a step backwards. “Our experience is that people who have the flexibility to work from home do more work, not less, yet still manage to benefit from having a better work-life balance.”

Work-life balance is not such a hot topic as it was before the downturn but is still hugely important to both employees and employers, he has found. If anything, the recession makes it more important. “Employers have no money to give pay rises, so flexibility in relation to working from home has become an important way to keep staff, and a way of giving them recognition.” Certain rules of thumb apply. “It can’t be done for everybody, it can’t be done 40 hours a week, and it can’t be done on an ad hoc basis. To protect yourself and your employees, a written policy is vital.”

Employers reluctant to formalise the practice should bear in mind that technology has probably made many of their “loss of control” fears obsolete already.

For Cathal Divilly, managing director of Great Place to Work, which assesses corporate environments from an employee perspective, home working should be a relatively straightforward issue. “Basically it comes down to whether or not [managers] trust the people working for them,” he said. “If that trust is there, we see more and more people working from home.”