With training budgets slashed, team sizes smaller, and expectations higher – three typical results of a tough economic climate – business leaders are faced with an impossible challenge. How do I get more from my staff when they're already working so hard?
One surprising solution – and one which Yahoo received great media attention for banning – is adopting a working from home policy. It seems contradictory to expect more from your workforce when they are not being supervised and are separated from their colleagues, but working from home has been proven to make staff more productive. A recent piece of research by UCi2i, a video conferencing vendor, found that those that work from home end up doing so much overtime that it equates to an extra month of work per year, or an extra 150 hours. If you had a team of 12 working like this, you would effectively have the output of another full time member of staff with no extra salary cost.
Why does working from home lead to greater productivity and output from staff? Those that work from home say they are more comfortable, less distracted and their travelling time becomes working time. Everybody wins.
Of course, working from home does bring its challenges. If staff aren't in the office every day and aren't able to communicate effectively, divisions may occur, staff could become disengaged, and deadlines and projects involving teams might get delayed.
The telephone can only get you so far and it's impossible to experience a painless audio conference call. The awkward pauses and the talking over each other make decision making or relationship-building tricky and with 90 per cent of what we say coming from our gestures and facial expressions, nothing beats face-to-face interaction.
Working from home can create a barrier to effective communication. The solution is video communication.
By establishing a video conferencing system that can be deployed across all employee devices, face-to-face meetings can still take place regardless of where their participants may be. Of course, it is an investment. Not only is there an implementation cost and monthly maintenance charges, but staff will also need some training in order to use the new service effectively.