Even as working from home (WFH) becomes relatively commonplace, a new form of remote work is emerging: working from anywhere (WFA), in which employees can live and work where they choose, typically within a specific country, but in some cases, anywhere in the world with a reliable internet connection.
The latest figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of people working remotely has grown steadily.
This trend seems set to continue. Remote working opportunities are being used widely by small and growing businesses. In an effort to optimise work space and reduce costs, remote working has become a standard and, as long as candidates are recruited on this basis, the benefits of working from anywhere can outweigh any downsides.
There are important considerations to bear in mind before offering remote working. For example, this way of working is not necessarily going to produce the best productivity outcome if the role involves collaboration, regular meetings or real-time interaction with teams.
Employers must also perform a risk assessment of workers’ home-based work stations and take steps to make sure they will be working in a safe and secure environment. If remote working involves working away from home and accessing company information via unsecured networks – for example, in coffee shops or other public places – security policies may need strengthening to meet data protection requirements.
Tech solutions already exist to protect employers and support compliance with GDPR and other regulations. For example, while use of Office 365 to store and share company information provides a degree of security, employers may need to introduce other specific security policies for remote workers, such as not working on confidential documents in public areas, restricting USB use and mandatory use of security screens. Training should also be provided to make sure all employees, including remote workers, are aware of the importance of data protection and how it relates to their specific role.
With more start-ups and growing businesses relying on remote working to get their businesses up and running, there is a possibility some could be cutting corners and taking risks which could undermine their stability. To avoid this, they should seek advice about how to use flexible working safely and securely.
In reality, few roles can be done from home all of the time. However, most jobs can include some remote working. Whenever considering remote working, employers should take a step back, to assess whether it would be a good fit for specific job roles or tasks. Consider if employees are clustered in one geographic area could they collaborate locally in sub offices? Consider how you would integrate new employees successfully?
By viewing remote working as a valuable option, employers can organise their businesses in a way that drives productivity, without exposing them to increased risk or undermining teamwork and innovation. The key is to act in a considered way, make sure that where remote working is offered, it is being done in the right way and getting the right result.
Employees value the option to work remotely. A 2017 study even found that the average worker was willing to accept 8% less pay for the option to work from home. This indicates that workers assign monetary value to the flexibility provided by a WFH policy. And with a work-from-anywhere policy, employers add even more value to employees by granting geographic flexibility.
It’s a significant difference: while a WFH employee can choose to pick the kids up from school or spend lunch hour walking the dog, a WFA employee can do all of those and also relocate closer to aging parents or to a location with a lower cost of living.
Managers often worry about remote employees working less, or multitasking, mixing personal responsibilities with work. There are also concerns that allowing employees to work from anywhere could decrease communication and collaboration among coworkers and might constrain the informal learning that typically happens in the office.
Granting employees the ability to work from anywhere could yield some career-extending benefits to both employees and the organisation, by encouraging valued senior employees to remain in the productive workforce longer.
What jobs in your company might be well suited to a WFA policy?