New research from collaboration firm oneDrum says that many workers find themselves unable to work from home despite the fact that they are willing to do so. The survey quizzed 606 employees and 610 employers in November 2009 and was conducted in the United Kingdom on businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
Based on statistics obtained from the study, 61 percent of employees never work from home, even though 72 percent of SMBs allow it.
According to the report on CBR Online:
Over 80% of respondents said that they felt they could be more productive when working from home, mainly because of fewer distractions. One-third of workers said that they could do all or most of their work from home.
One key reasons cited for the low take-up rate was that work documents were not accessible outside of the office. This particular issue caught my interest because the underlying issue is a familiar one: Not having the necessary technology to support remote work is the most common barrier for SMBs.
In a way, the findings are not surprising, especially if you consider that 55 percent of the employers surveyed say they fail to see how such work flexibility translates into greater productivity. With benefits hard to quantify, it follows that CIOs and IT managers are hesitant to pour money into technologies to facilitate telecommuting.
On the other hand, the response from employees is near unanimous where productivity is concerned: Staffers feel they can get more done at home. Laying aside the inevitable debates over actual productivity, the truth is that our perception does play a vital role in shaping our job satisfaction.
Moving forward, my suggestion for SMBs is simple: Do a gradual move toward teleworking. This can be achieved by evaluating new technologies with an eye toward facilitating it.
For example, I recently wrote about how I switched to a hosted Exchange provider. While I don't use it on a daily basis, the superior OWA (Outlook Web Interface) found in Exchange 2010 worked very well. In a pinch, I know I can access my e-mail from any Internet browser with little effect on my productivity. Similarly, users who opt to use SugarSync's file-synchronization service as a backup solution are automatically empowered to remotely access the most updated copies of their files from home.
For sure, I'm not advocating that companies rip up their entire IT infrastructure -- the evidence points to the contrary -- but to enforce a deliberate policy of selecting technologies and services that facilitate or support being able to work from home. As aging and obsolete equipment give way to their telework-friendly counterparts, SMBs eventually will be able to narrow and close this technology rift.