At the beginning of March Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer called for an end to remote working, believing that getting employees back into the office will cultivate a culture of teamworking, where more ideas are generated as a result of impromptu conversations during the normal working day.
Alexandra Shulman, British Vogue editor, joined the debate, showing her support for Mayer’s decision. Her view is that while working from home can be useful, it should only be done very occasionally – an employee that is always absent cannot take part in the collective creativity of an office.
These comments have certainly caused a stir. And while both make valid points, they fail to take into consideration the need for flexibility, especially for entrepreneurs and start-ups where the costs of running an office are often unrealistic. So I was pleased to see Richard Branson wade into the conversation, championing the homeworking side of the argument.
With the advent of technology people are now able to work almost wherever and whenever they want – the 9-5 job no longer exists.
Setting up a new business is time-intensive and often requires long hours and the ability to juggle lots of different things at once. Visiting clients is essential and maximising down time such as travelling to and from appointments is crucial to keeping on top of the day-to-day running of things. Working remotely using virtual desktops and cloud computing can provide the flexibility a fixed office can’t.
However, it is important to note that while remote working has positive benefits for entrepreneurs and employees, certain things need to be taken into consideration to ensure it works for your customers too.
For example, having your mobile number may mean clients feel secure that they can contact you at any time. But if their calls always go through to voicemail or are left unanswered frustration may ensue. Equally, always holding meetings in the local café without any presentation facilities could lose you credibility.
It is therefore important to strike a balance. For bigger businesses this means recognising the benefits of allowing staff some flexibility – a recent study by the Institute of Leadership & Management showed that two thirds of respondents believe that flexible working increased commitment to an organisation, with 78 per cent stating it helped retain staff. Meanwhile for smaller start-ups and entrepreneurs it’s acknowledging that using services such as virtual offices and meeting facilities can ensure first impressions do not do your business a disservice.