Over recent years, remote working has become increasingly popular, as technology has reduced the need for a physical office space for some industries. Many employers and HR professionals also advocate this way of working as an approach to enhance the work-life balance of employees.
As many businesses continue to have staff work remotely in line with government advice, what have they learnt so far? Research conducted with SME business owners by Hitachi Capital Invoice Financereveals new perceptions on the remote working of staff across different industries.
When the government first advised companies to work from home, just over half (52%) of UK business owners in all industries, and 68 per cent in logistics, felt positive about employees carrying out their work remotely.
Now several weeks later, three quarters (75%) of business owners feel positive towards staff working from home. From the research conducted by HCIF, the highest percentage of any industry to feel positive was the logistics industry, with 86 per cent appreciating the transition to remote working, and less than three per cent having any negative feelings towards this.
Despite the research from Hitachi Capital showing that many SME business owners view remote working positively now, many had concerns about this working approach before Covid-19 changed the way that they needed to operate. The top three concerns from logistics business owners were the cost of setting up the business remotely (13%), business logistics (8%), and maintaining customer service(5%).
In other industries, performance of staff was the biggest worry for recruitment businesses and the business services sector, and punctuality of staff was the biggest concern for the manufacturing industry.
Nearly half (47%) of businesses in the logistics industry had to create a work from home policy for the first time to react to the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently of the SME businesses in the logistics sector still trading in the UK, 49 per cent of their workforce are operating from home.
An overwhelming 81 per cent of business owners in logistics agree that working from home during this period would help their business to become more successful in the future. Furthermore, 96 per cent plan to implement some form of work from home policy following the lockdown period.
The remote working study also revealed that the top positive outcomes for SME businesses in the logistics sector during this experience is that it will enable the business to become more resilient and also that it has pushed investment in new technology.
“Generally speaking, SME businesses in the UK have been cautious to implement a work from home policy up until now. Our study shows a new response to remote working which hints at what the future of the workplace might look like post-Covid-19,” comments Andy Dodd, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance.
“Of course, the benefits of remote working provide employees with a better work-life balance, the positive impact for both employee and employer through greater trust and empowerment cannot be understated. Business owners now have greater confidence that employees can perform successfully from their own home and have the technology they need to operate remotely. This demonstrates that the UK SME market who have adapted during this period, can seek to build more resilient businesses in the future.”
To keep their business running successfully away from the office, SME business owners in the logistics sector are keen to keep employee engagement high and to do so they are keeping employees communicating as often as possible through channels such as Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams (48%).
Additionally, business owners themselves are trying to keep the office culture alive with social events such as virtual yoga and team lunches (47%) and becoming more hands on with projects day-to-day (41%). Business owners also considered it important to make sure that staff are not burning out or over working during this time (38%).