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Working at home survey.

Business Practices and Attitudes Relating to Home Working

Ceridian is pleased to present the results of our recent survey relating to home workers. Freely available for downloading as a PDF document, the full report, entitled 'Business Practices and Attitudes Relating to Home Working - A Survey of Human Resource Professionals in UK Business', reveals that companies need to exercise greater control of their home workers. The main findings are summarised in the six press releases below.

Companies failing to exercise proper control of home workers

Companies need to exercise greater control of their home workers to extract maximum value from this growing sector of the employment market. In an in-depth survey of 100 businesses, 86 per cent did not attempt to measure the financial benefit to the business of home working. Four out of ten companies admitted it was not possible to measure the savings to a business of allowing home working with 31 per cent relying on the judgement of the relevant manager. Only eight per cent claimed they could measure savings accurately. Indeed, only 52 per cent seek to monitor the productivity of staff time spent at home.

"Surprisingly, 54 per cent of the companies were operating with no formal policy in place to protect them or their employees. While this may be due to the ad hoc development of home-based working, it still shows a clear lack of control, backed by the fact that only 10 per cent could state that company expectations with regard to cost savings had been largely or completely met at a time when cost savings have never been under greater scrutiny.

More surprising still is the absence of a formal policy when duty of care is at the top of the agenda in boardrooms throughout the country. Health and safety as an issue was identified as a key pitfall of home working."
Doug Sawers, Managing Director of Ceridian in the UK

Only 52 per cent of companies seek to monitor the productivity of staff working from home with 12 per cent claiming it is not possible to measure. A further 51 per cent relied on the judgement of the relevant manager, 69 per cent being an immediate line manager.

Of those companies formally monitoring productivity, 60 per cent of respondents reported that company expectations with regard to productivity were largely or completely met with a further 32 per cent reporting they were met to some extent.

"While home-based working continues to increase in popularity at a steady rate, considerable opportunity exists for companies to exercise greater control over these employees by introducing formal policies and measuring in greater detail the productivity and savings to be derived from home-based workers. Currently, many businesses would appear not to be exercising proper financial control while at the same time leaving themselves exposed to potential health and safety liabilities."
Doug Sawers

According to the Office for National Statistics Labour Force survey, a total of around 705,000 employees and self-employed people worked from home in 2003. In all, 2.2m people are involved in some form of flexible working. Interestingly, of the 397 companies originally contacted for the survey, three out of four did not permit home working.

Home working opportunity a key to recruitment and retention

Offering the opportunity to work from home part or full-time could be a key to staff recruitment and retention. 74 per cent of companies surveyed admitted that, where practical, the opportunity of home-based working is a necessary component to attract and retain the right people with 75 per cent advising that it gives them an advantage in the job market.

"The recruitment and retention of the right people is one of the key issues keeping HR directors awake at night. In a tight job market, any competitive advantage can play a significant part and the opportunity to work from home could be a deciding factor for certain employees. Our survey indicated that 57 per cent of employers felt that employees now expected this kind of flexibility.

When it comes to staff retention, employment flexibility could be as much a deciding factor as succession planning. However, from an employers' perspective, companies need to exercise proper control over home working to drive real business benefit. As our survey has revealed this is clearly not the case at the moment inside many businesses."
Doug Sawers

Home workers more difficult to manage

Only 3 per cent of businesses surveyed considered home workers easier to manage, with 64 per cent considering them to be more difficult to a greater or lesser degree.

"Since our survey revealed that 54 per cent of companies allowing home working had no formal policy in place covering home workers, and management of their productivity was usually down to their immediate line managers, it can come as no surprise to learn that home workers are perceived as more difficult to manage. This points to the need for the introduction of formal policies and measurement tools by HR departments to ensure that they derive the greatest benefit from their home workers in terms of productivity and cost savings.

On the other hand, 41 per cent state that home-based workers are easier to retain than office-based workers with only 21 per cent disagreeing.

Neither, in the majority of cases, does working from home seem to be harming employees' career prospects with 56 per cent of companies advising that their home workers are able to develop their careers at the same pace as office-based staff."
Doug Sawers, Managing Director of Ceridian in the UK

'Productivity' tops list of benefits of home working

Productivity is the principal benefit identified by companies for home working, although only 52 per cent seek to monitor the productivity of staff time spent at home.

"The companies surveyed offered up more benefits than pitfalls when discussing the advantages and disadvantages of home working. Although, not surprisingly, trust and the potential for abuse were the top pitfalls identified, the issue of health and safety was also very high up the agenda. For companies, with their duty of care responsibilities, this will be a prime concern. HR professionals have a crucial part to play in unlocking productivity and retention benefits while implementing controls to protect their businesses."
Doug Sawers

No home working 'revolution'

Over the past five years the demand and incidence of home working has continued to increase among those companies permitting the practice. However, the growth appears far less dramatic than may be sometimes portrayed and of the 397 companies originally contacted for the survey, three out of four did not permit home working.

"While increasingly popular, there is definitely no home working revolution in progress as 75% of companies contacted for this survey did not permit home working. Of those that did, only one company in six has indicated that the proportion of home workers will increase in the immediate future, although half are reasonably positive.

While four out of ten companies did not consider seniority to be an issue, only eight per cent suggested home working was appropriate for junior management. Essentially, there is an element of trust involved with home working so unsurprisingly over half considered it the domain of middle and senior management."
Doug Sawers

Adopting new technology aids home working

Of the 100 businesses surveyed, 94 per cent of companies have embraced new technology to allow home workers to work more effectively from home.

"Not surprisingly, technology has played a major part in the growth of home-based workers. The majority have laptops for greater mobility and most have internet access. Interestingly, 11 per cent of home-based employees even have web cams installed for better personal interaction. Nearly half of companies, at 43 per cent, recognised that the latest technology had improved productivity a great deal with a further 40 per cent acknowledging it had to some extent. The majority of employers, at 83 per cent, also had clear IT support in place for when things went wrong.

However, while companies clearly see efficiency gains from new technology only 14% attempted to measure the overall financial benefit to the business of home working. So on the one hand they are spending money on technology without measuring the final returns. Again, this has to be of concern and underlines the need for companies to exercise better overall control over home working."
Doug Sawers

About the Author: Ceridian provides HR, payroll, EAP and HR consultancy services to over 50% of the Financial Times Global 500 and more than 75% of the Fortune 500. In the UK, Ceridian serves 9,600 customers with a headcount of over 1.7m and processes 24m payslips a year. It is the largest payroll provider overall, and the second largest outsourced payroll processor in terms of revenue, with over 70 years' experience in payroll in the USA and 40 years in the UK.

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