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Business leaders rally behind homeworking

When the internet firm Yahoo recently told its homeworking staff that they had to come back to the office, the response from business leaders largely seemed to range from surprise to disapproval. But why were most so keen to rally behind this form of flexible working?

There's no doubt that Yahoo is bucking a trend by stopping its staff from remote working. Remote working and homeworking have become increasingly popular in recent years. In 2009, 12.8 per cent of the working population (3.7million people) were working remotely, but estimates now put that figure at between 15 and 20 per cent.

In the current economic climate, employers appreciate the savings that can be made when homeworking staff free up office space and reduce overheads. They also welcome the possibility of being able to recruit and retain a more diverse and talented workforce by making their selection pool nationwide rather than just around their locality.

Evidence points that employers can also benefit from markedly increased productivity from homeworkers. Some 87 per cent of managers reported a rise in productivity of between 5 and 25 per cent when employees work from home, according to some US research. Contrary to the myth of the homeworking 'skiver', the same research revealed that 25 hours spent working at home was the productive equivalent of 40 hours spent in the office.

From the employees' point of view, being able to work at their own pace at times best suited to them can help them with family or other commitments, radically improving work-life balance. Knock-on benefits include increased motivation, morale and sense of engagement. Homeworking staff are less likely to be off sick and can also save themselves the cost and strain of the daily commute.

On the downside, being away from the office can be isolating, and may affect chances of promotion. The often intense relationship with work without the physical boundaries between work and home can make it hard to switch off.

Acas can help your organisation find the best Work/life balance and offers extensive advice in the Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance . Acas also runs practical training courses on Flexible working, including comprehensive overviews of everything you need to know about family-related policies.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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