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A guide to remote working

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15th Jul 2009
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Josh Hall of simplybusiness.co.uk outlines the benefits and considerations for businesses when setting up employees to work from home.
 

The technology behind remote working has been around for a while but with faster, more accessible broadband and better home computers it is much more feasible now for the modern business. As more and more companies look for ways to cut costs during the recession, the opportunity to downsize office space should be seized with both hands.

Cutting costs through remote workers
Employers know that costs to maintain staff are high. Not only are there salaries to be paid, there is also the cost of office space, computer equipment and support, amenities and other expenditure that can be unexpected like provision of tea, coffee and milk.

Having all of your employees working on the office premises is expensive and as the business owner you would need to ask yourself whether the cost can be justified in the current climate? When looking for areas to cut costs, your staff is often the first port of call, with many companies considering redundancies.

However, redundancy isn’t always the answer. The cost of making staff redundant can often outweigh any benefits the company gains, so it makes sense to look at other ways to make cuts. Asking staff to work remotely can be of enormous benefit to a business’s bottom line, causing a significant reduction in outgoings.

With fewer staff on site you can downsize your office space considerably. Some companies simply keep a few ‘hotdesks’ for remote workers to use when they come to the office for meetings. With smaller office space, your rent and rates will reduce and your energy bills will be smaller. You may need to pay remote staff expenses for some of their own energy and broadband usage at home, but the cost of this is negligible in the bigger picture.

If you are keen to keep your office space until the economy has recovered and your business is out of the woods, you could consider sub-letting the space to other businesses. Sharing an office and amenities is an ideal way of saving money for lots of smaller businesses.

Setting up remote working

Having your staff work remotely requires a great deal of trust. You must have faith that your employees will be disciplined enough to carry on with their jobs and work to their usual standard - even with the lure of daytime TV in the background!

Some people are not suited to working from home, which is something to take into account if you decide to take this route. While some employees will thrive on the independence it offers, others won’t have the ability to settle down to work outside the restrictions of the office. Many people also work best with the stimulus of other employees in a social environment and would become unhappy working from home.

Setting up remote workers may require some infrastructural changes. You will need to provide a secure means by which your employees can log in to your company’s systems. Depending on your current arrangements, this might be difficult; many companies do not have remote access to their files and systems, but rather keep everything on an on-site network. You will probably need to provide remote access to this network.

This can be achieved relatively easily, either by installing your own servers or, potentially more cost-effectively, by storing all of your data on someone else’s servers. This has recently become very cheap with the growth of Cloud Computing; Amazon Web Services amongst others, offers cost-effective online storage distributed across The Cloud. The service is charged according to the amount of space and bandwidth used.

If security is a particular concern, and you do not like the idea of hosting your information on the internet, you may also consider installing a virtual private network (VPN). This allows home-based workers to interact more securely, using a series of virtual connections to enable remote access to an intranet or similar network. VPNs are generally more cost effective for larger organisations and you should consider seeking professional help with setting one up.

Small start-ups and freelancers can use virtual office services like mailboxes and receptionists in tandem with remote working techniques, to keep operating costs down. Cloud storage can make this a very cheap option. If, for example, you need to run some sort of customer relationship management software (CRM), you can easily find a powerful, free solution that can be installed in the cloud and which you can then access from any location.

As an employer, you must decide whether asking employees to work remotely is right for your business. However, although finding a balance between cost savings and productivity may take time and a little experimentation, you will ultimately be rewarded with staff who are motivated, efficient – and, most of all, cheap to maintain.
 


Josh Hall is business correspondent at business insurance comparator at simplybusiness.co.uk.
For more information on buying insurance for your business, visit www.simplybusiness.co.uk

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By ASBaird
16th Jul 2009 10:28

broadband internet connection at home a taxable benefit
anyone managed to reach an agreement with the revenue that this is not a taxable benefit as employees working from home require a braodband internet connection

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