Small businesses are loath to embrace home working, missing out on productivity rises. That's according to a survey from Citrix that found that just 40 percent of SMBs allow employees to work from home, compared to three quarters of large companies, even though employees that work from home are said to be healthier, suffer from less stress and are more productive.
Furthermore, large enterprises are also far more likely to allow employees to adjust start and finish time, and four times more likely to operate job sharing schemes. Flexible working is easy to enjoy if you work for a large business.
Citrix claims the survey suggests companies as a whole are simply paying lip-service to the flexible working concept and failing to provide adequate technological support for home working, such as that provided by Citrix such as GoToMyPC.
The survey results showed that of those companies that do provide technological support, a laptop is the most popular choice, cited by 70 percent of respondents, followed by mobile phones which were offered by 35 percent of companies. Only a quarter of UK employers offer remote access to internal systems so that employees can work from home as if they were in the office.
Citrix Online's MD, Simon Presswell, said: “Perhaps the most surprising finding of this research is that SMBs, who often have greater operational flexibility than their corporate competitors, are failing to seize the opportunity offered by flexible working.”
He added: "Given the importance of flexible working practices in attracting and retaining the best talent, SMBs are in danger of missing out on the most-skilled professionals, many of whom are parents and are increasingly demanding work-life balance. The tide is changing in favour of flexible working, with increasing parliamentary support for flexible rules to be extended to all parents with children under the age of 18. ... Flexible working is being driven by those employers who recognise the need to create a healthy, stress-free and productive work-force.”
Citrix Online is a provider of applications for remote desktop access, Web conferencing and collaboration. Other surveys have highlighted the costs to business of supporting teleworkers but still say teleworking is a good thing.
Work Wise UK, a five-year initiative to encourage the widespread adoption of flexible working practices, thinks that SMBs should embrace home working for their own benefit and that of the economy as a whole.
David Lennan, its chairman, said: "Having smaller workforces, SMBs tend to think that any changes they make in working practices will not have a significant impact on the economy as a whole. But of the 1.1 million enterprises in the UK, 99 percent are SMBs, so there is most certainly potential for the sector to make a major contribution."
It's not clear that SMB employment practice changes will be much affected by an SMB's considerations of the impact on the economy as a whole. That's not how SMB's work; they are driven more by the interests of their own business.
Lennan appears to recognise this and said: "Perhaps SMBs should consider instead the considerable benefits smarter working has upon their own staff and employees in terms of well being, work-life balance and health, all paid for by the significant resulting increases in productivity. The wider benefits to the economy will certainly follow as more-and-more SMBs make the move towards more progressive working practices."
What the survey shows, contrary to Citrix' claims, is surely that most SMBs still believe that their staff are more productive in the office or on the road visiting clients than at home where, the fear is, they will probably be skiving off. Until that belief is confronted and changed teleworking will probably remain a minority phenomenon in smaller businesses.