In recent times, there has been an increasing trend of employees slowly moving away from the traditional confides of the office and being given more flexibility and choice over their working environment. Employees sought on their availability to work in a particular region, with specific contracted working hours, in a costly office environment is no longer the only option available to employers. Working from home, flexi-working hours, and increased holiday time are becoming commonplace within innovative companies. This has been seen everywhere from cost conscious start-ups to international organisations such as Virgin who recently publicised a new increased holiday policy for their staff.
Such options sound incredibly appealing for employees, in particular. Office working can prove unnecessarily challenging of the work-life balance of staff. With pressures and expectations to work longer hours, have reduced lunch breaks, limit when holiday can be taken as well as the added pressure of additional delegation of tasks from other members of the team, it can be difficult for employees to be productive, not to mention content in their work. With the Virtual Assistant market growing rapidly, and more companies offering work from home options, the benefits of virtual working are now being widely recognised.
From the employee's perspective, there is an opportunity to cut down their own costs with the rising expense of travel to commute and daily expenses such as lunch and coffees. It also provides the opportunity to learn a wealth of skills by taking on a wider variety of tasks, to live anywhere in the country, and to be able to work for exciting companies producing work in a comfortable environment, without the anxieties and politics of the office. Home workers can vary the amount of work they are willing to take on, often working for a handful of companies and rarely ever within the traditional 9-5. Stay-at-home parents are able to juggle earning money and looking after children while cutting costs on childcare and not being fully reliant on their partners income, if they have one, which can be a huge strain in today's financial climate. Virtual workers have more flexibility to schedule exercise during the day, and less temptation to buy unhealthy fast foods which can be a repercussion of stress or boredom as they are not normally available in the home.
For employers, virtual workers provide huge monetary benefits for their budgets and the productivity benefits from the increased quality of work they receive. Small start-ups can cut down on office space costs and hire efficient and experienced workers for fewer hours to achieve the work they need. Although this seems to be a disadvantage to the virtual assistant, the culture of working for more companies is increasing, building on skills and learning from other professionals which creates an enriching experience. Providing the option for their employees to work from home enables companies to keep their trusted, experienced and valued employees even if they relocate, allowing for a company location to be flexible and adaptable. With the cost of living, renting, and buying property in London rising rapidly, employees are able to leave the pressures and anxieties of London living and move to the greener and cheaper areas of the country while keeping their jobs and still feeling valued by their companies.
It is estimated that home workers make up a substantial 13.9% of the UK workforce with around 4.2 million workers taking advantage of this as an option in the first 3 months of 2014. It goes without saying that employers place a huge amount of trust in their home workers, allowing them freedom to achieve without a boss or supervisor there to 'keep an eye on them' and there is, of course, a huge amount of discipline involved. The social aspect of the office is taken away by home working, which means that some virtual workers never physically meet with their teams or employers. However, home workers do see increased productivity. This is because of quieter environments with less distractions, statistically less sick days, and employees working longer hours as a result of there being no need for them to commute.
With such a wealth of benefits for both parties, home working can be an incredibly attractive option for some companies. Is snow affecting the transport today? Not a problem for some who will be grabbing their laptop and working from their living room.