5 ways to make WFH more affordable to SME

5 Ways To Make WFH More Affordable To SME

INDEX

Introduction

Part 1:

What is Work From Home?

WFH VS Traditional Office Work

 

Part 2:

The benefits of working from home

Benefits of working from home for employees

Benefit of working from home for employers

 

Part 3:

Problems with Working From Home

Problems associated with WFH for employees

Problems associated with WFH for employers

 

Part 4:

Is Work From Home Really That Expensive?

 

Part 5:

5 WAYS TO MAKE WFH MORE AFFORDABLE TO SME


Even before the global pandemic took over and forced everyone to work from home, people were already looking for a way out of their arduous daily commute. With remote working technology already existing, such as email, Skype, and Google Meet, it only further made sense further perpetuate the idea of a non-fixed, malleable workplace. However, recently, employers worldwide have embraced the idea of their employees working from home.

Work from home (WFH) isn’t a new, revolutionary idea that Working from home is still considered by many as a leisurely and fun activity. So Bosses assign tasks relentlessly because, “the guy’s home all day he can still complete this as well.” has just sprung up. However, the drastic situation of a global pandemic has certainly been single-handedly responsible for its perpetuation. Now that we are to maintain social distance, fearing the virus transmission, WFH has become the need of the hour.

Naturally, the idea of working from home is fairly popular among employees. However, many employers globally are still sceptical. Many still believe that WFH isn’t as affordable in the long run as the idea first seems. To combat this growing scepticism, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of reasons why small and medium enterprises (SME) should employ work from home and how to make WFH more affordable to SMEs.

 

What is Work From Home?

The term “WFH” stands for work from home or working from home. WFH refers to working away from a professional workplace or out of an enclosed office space premises. The idea is pretty simple: employees do what they used to do,  just now from the comfort of their homes. This trend is rapidly growing to deliver professional duties and completing a task implemented in SMEs and large-scale organizations across the globe.

Working from home has offered employers the flexibility they need.

WFH opens up a whole new series of possibilities for the way businesses can work and structure their internal organization. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak, working from home has offered most employers the flexibility they need to continue their business activities while prioritizing staff and customer health as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Much of the research has already attributed positive mental health effects to WFH. Employees worldwide have reported lower levels of stress and anxiety associated with their work when working from home. Even though it is essentially a product of the drastic situation caused by the pandemic, experts believe that WFH is here to stay even after the pandemic is long gone (if it ever does!)


WFH VS Traditional Office Work

As mentioned earlier, many employers around the globe aren’t entirely on board with the idea of working from home. Much of their criticism stems from their opinion that a monitored workplace is required to ensure maximum employee productivity. They believe that WFH is an inefficient and counterproductive measure that needs higher standards of regulation. To them, a monitored workplace is is the only way to ensure that employees aren’t slacking and that actual work is getting done.

Recent research studies have shown that WFH positively affects mental health.

While this theory holds some ground, it’s not an entirely accurate depiction of WFH. It does not have any research grounds to back its claims. Modern-day research has attributed work from home to an equal measure of productivity as working from an office, if not more. Moreover, recent research studies have also deduced that working from home positively affects mental health, many folds higher than working in a traditional office.

Moreover, research data also suggests that many employees who have shifted from the office routine to the WFH strategy have improved their productivity statistics simply because they feel at ease when working from the confines of their homes. The reason for this productivity might  be the relative absence of workplace-associated anxiety.  

While numerous scientific claims suggest that WFH is the way to go, this working mode certainly has its drawbacks. We’ve compiled some of the benefits and the problems associated with working from home below.


The benefits of working from home

We’ve already talked about some of the benefits of working from home. However, there’s more to the story. Researchers believe that working from home has positive effects on both your mental and physical health. Moreover, working in a comfortable environment like your home allows you to be more creative than you could ever be in a traditional office space.

However, it isn’t just the employees who benefit from the idea of working from home. Employers worldwide are growing increasingly in favor of working from home because it’s beneficial for the company. WFH has enabled a positive feedback loop where employees have reached an all-time high in performance and efficiency. Additionally, not having a dedicated workplace also saves many employers the cost of keeping such a facility running six days a week the entire year!

We’ve compiled some of the most high-yield benefits of working from home below, both for employees and employers:

5 ways to make WFH more affordable to SME

Benefits of working from home for employees

Flexible and agile workspace – WFH enables more agility and flexibility in terms of working arrangements. Employees find it easier to work from the comfort of their homes since it allows them to alter the schedule to fit their needs without disturbing the entire calendar. With employees no longer packed at an office, they are better positioned and willing to work flexible hours earlier or later in the day or even at weekends, at their convenience.

Increased productivity – Due to lesser interruptions, which might typically pop up in an office environment, working from home facilitates a quieter environment that can facilitate relatively focused work. You may also notice that employees will work for an extended period and utilize their time saved from commuting.

Saving money and spending more time with family increases overall productivity.

Extra savings – With the cost of the daily commute to the office abolished, employees can save a significant proportion of their monthly income than before. This increase in their monthly budget serves as an excellent trigger for better performance and mental and physical wellbeing.

More time with the family – Since all their breaks are now indoors, employees can spend more time with their families than before. Employees are never too far from their kids, no matter how tough the workday gets.


Benefit of working from home for employers

Improved employee retention - WFH can help retain employees because the flexibility of home working can assist them in meeting their childcare and family needs. A flexible routine and reduced travel expenses enable employees to adjust their working routine according to their personal life. Employees may also develop a better working momentum and increased levels of trust from their employer, contributing significantly to staff loyalty.

Improved health of staff - Working from home eliminates the need for a commute to work that can be hectic for your employees. Time-saving also enables staff to catch additional benefits like extra sleep hours, spare time with family, time for exercise, and preparing and eating healthy food.

Cost Saving measure – Significant savings on office space, office supplies, utility bills, and other facilities are a plus when employees work from home. These savings can then be utilized towards expanding the operations of the company.

Fewer holidays needed - Staff is more likely to feel happier and more enthusiastic working from home. Therefore, minimizing the chance of their immune system being negatively impacted by burnout. Moreover, since employees have no physical contact with others, there is less possibility of infections spreading, as would be the case within office premises. Working from home also creates a relaxed, more laid-back working environment, and, therefore, don’t feel the need to take days off as much as they used to before.


Problems with Working From Home

Although working from home carries numerous benefits for both employers and employees, it is has certain disadvantages. The experiences of physical and virtual presence differ.

For starters, when working from home, both the workforce and the management do not have the liberty to call up a meeting to discuss something important on the go. This lack of availability kills the potential for impromptu meetings and creative discussion in the board room. Moreover, social interactions suffer greatly when people don’t gather in a designated workplace.

Working from home has its own set of problems for both employees and employers.

5 ways to make WFH more affordable to SME

Problems associated with WFH for employees

Even though employees are always looking for opportunities to work from home, the WFH approach isn’t always a smooth ride. There are several problems associated with EFH for employees. Most of these problems have to do with the ergonomics or setting up the office for the user and the additional costs involved. These problems include:

The extra cost of hosting an office at home – Even though employees save money they don’t have to commute to work every day, WFH still finds a way to incur extra costs. For example, since employees won’t be heading to an office in the morning, they now must have a designated office area ready in their homes. Having an office set up at home invites extra costs such as furniture, fax machines and printers, other small office tools, and a fast and reliable internet connection.

Bad Ergonomics – Although most people have a fully functioning office inside their homes, the infamous home office isn’t for everybody. For instance, not everyone can manage the daily discipline of waking up and heading to the office area with the mindset of working since the office is a stroll away from your bedroom. The casual mood also doesn’t help when you have to work and attend meetings simultaneously. Additionally, lack of proper office furniture, such as a chair with good back support, and a lack of office environment contributes to what many know as a bad day at the “home office.”

Higher Electricity Costs? – The added energy demands that come with a home office, as well as all the new machines running at least 8 hours a day, mean extra zeros on your electricity bill every month. Running a performance computer, fax machines, and printers all day contributes significantly to your electricity bill.

Longer working hours – The idea of work from home was first propagated to lower employee burden and increase productivity. However, only one part of that premise has remained throughout the years. Employers have high expectations for employees working from home, but the same employees are required to work longer hours than they would in an office. This is because working from home is still considered by many as a leisurely and fun activity. Bosses throw work at staff relentlessly because, well, “the guy’s home all day he can still complete this as well.”

Problems associated with WFH for employers

It’s crystal clear that employers have been against work-from-home policies for a long time. Some employers have expressed reservations about WFH, stating that working from home isn't their preferred option. However, why do employers hate WFH so much, and why do they insist on employees working from a close monitored space i.e. an office? Here are a bunch of reasons why:

Work from home doesn’t allow close monitoring – The biggest problem, as already discussed, that employers have with WFH is the lack of constant monitoring. Employers like to closely inspect the quality of work their employees produce as they produce it. Most bosses believe that their staff works with extra care and effort when they are around. Similarly, managers think that employees work extra hard to get recognition from them when they are around. Working from home means that employers won’t be able to maintain that stronghold anymore. However, modern cloud-based solutions like ERPs provide reliable solutions to monitoring situations. Using ERP solutions, employers can access and monitor the progress made by the remote-working team

Although monitoring your WFH staff is near impossible, modern ERPs can help.

SMEs have to suffer extra expenses – Most companies, when shifting from a traditional office approach to a work from home modality, need to suffer additional costs. These expenses are necessary to provide their employees with the infrastructure required for working from home. These include laptops, internet connections, printers, fax machines, phone sets, office stationery and supply, and other essential metrics.

HR doesn’t particularly like the social distancing approach – Even more than the bosses themselves, HR seems to dislike WFH with all its might. Most of the critical functions that HR is supposed to deliver as an integral department of the company come to a stop when employees start working from home. Recruiting new able workers through online interviews becomes a drag. Evaluating employee performances, formulating new policies and communicating them to everyone involved, mitigating disputes, and conducting workshops online is nothing short of a nightmare for the HR department.

The security issue – Another vital negative aspect of work from home is the aspect of security. Precisely, the office supplies given to the employees and the office files and documents that employees now handle at their homes raise serious security concerns for the company.  Your hardware may suffer a great deal of damage if not handled with care by the employees. Sometimes, this concern costs SMEs a lot of money in insurance as well.


Is Work From Home Really That Expensive?

So far, we’ve delved into the benefits and problems associated with working from home for both employers and employees. Evidently, cost is a concern that both groups face. How much would it cost SMEs for employees to work from home? How much would it cost the employees themselves to work from home? The question of cost is essential, and the answer to this question will help us suggest ways to make WFH more affordable to SMEs.

WFH can be costly. The cost can be a deterrent for SMEs to adopt this way of working. Therefore, we must have a working system that enables SMEs to lower the costs associated with WFH and make it more affordable. But before we do that, we first have to identify these cost limitations.

Costs associated with WFH include the cost of:

- Setting up an office at home for the employee
- Equipping all employees with required hardware
- Ensuring a fast internet connection
- Enabling workforce productivity with cloud-based software solutions
- Extra insurance for office equipment used by employees at home
- Higher electricity costs suffered by the employee at home

As mentioned before, if these costs are not managed accordingly and in time, SMEs might suffer significant losses because of WFH. Luckily, we have devised a comprehensive guide that includes 5 ways to make WFH more affordable to SMEs.


5 WAYS TO MAKE WFH MORE AFFORDABLE TO SME

5 WAYS TO MAKE WFH MORE AFFORDABLE TO SME

Now that we know that cost is one of the most significant problems associated with WFH, we can devise new strategies to lower the cost associated with the working from the home strategy that both the employees and the employers have to bear. A simple method to do so is to devise operational strategies that cost low and deliver more. Strategies that increase employee productivity are bound to improve the overall profit margin for the company since the employee will be working harder and better than before.

Therefore, here are our recommendations to help SMEs lower the cost associated with WFH. These 5 ways to make WFH affordable to SMEs include positive operational changes that will allow significant employee productivity and efficiency growth.

1. Increase productivity and efficiency

Employers’ topmost concern with their staff working from home is that they can’t monitor the team in real-time. Employers believe that when the staff works from home, the lack of constant supervision encourages them to take frequent breaks. This concern is not without reason because several studies have attributed low productivity rates to frequent, unsolicited breaks when employees work from home. It makes sense that employers would be worried about these frequent breaks when they can’t monitor their employees like they used to before.

This decreased productivity and efficiency rate can prove detrimental to SMEs because they don’t have a vast profit margin. To solve this problem and make WFH more affordable for SMEs, employers should employ techniques to increase staff efficiency and productivity.

The use of online management solutions and real-time monitoring systems is an option. SMEs should constantly hunt for the latest technological solution that decreases the gap created by working from home. These solutions can include sophisticated video conferencing tools and file-sharing servers to help the staff collaborate on nearly the same scale as when working from the same office.

Some management tools provide the option to dispense daily tasks among employees and monitor their progress throughout the day. These solutions can help change the outlook of working from home drastically. A new schedule that accommodates several factors that come into play with working from home would also be helpful. If employees are drawn to taking more breaks when working from home, a schedule that allows frequent breaks over the span of a slightly longer working day could prove extremely useful in increasing productivity and efficiency. Since the staff would be working from their homes anyway, they might complete more tasks in a single working day than they used to before.

2. Cloud-based Operations & Hardware Management

Working from home means that the staff needs to be equipped with the latest technology to fulfil their daily tasks. However, this might prove too costly for SMEs if they aren’t careful. Preparing the staff with the right technology means providing them with laptops, reliable internet, and copies of frequently used software products to carry out the same type of work from home.

ERPs can provide a level of data cooperation similar to actually being in the office.

To make this operation manageable and more affordable, companies should look for in-house cloud-based management systems. These systems can enable employees to share files, work on new projects in collaboration, and edit documents on the fly. Arguably, a cloud-based solution provides a level of cooperation as achieved through actual social contact when working from an office.

Since companies need to provide hardware, such as computers and the internet, to their employees, it would make sense for them to enter into a contract with a local hardware solutions provider. For example, buying laptops from a local retailer on a discounted contract would be much more profitable than buying the same machines online.

SMEs can also look to rent these laptops and other such hardware needed for their daily work instead of buying them to reduce the cost of operations. However, it would make much more sense to buy these machines and expand on company property so that no future breach or lapse in contract halts the company’s progress.

3. Consider Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions

Since the main criticism for working from home comes from comes from the fact that it lacks a coherent and integrated solution for team collaboration, it only fits that SMEs should get solutions that minimize their cost and enhance team collaboration at the same time. In fact, multiple akready existing solutions make this combo possible.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a fancy term used for the collective integration of a business’s several operations. In simple words, ERP is a collection of solutions that help SMEs build a connected network of team collaboration without needing anyone to be physically present at all. This is possible because all the components of ERPs are connected via cloud networking that allows seamless collaboration between workers and employers in real-time.

Companies can employ remote software solutions such as Customer Relation Management (CRM) to execute tasks requiring a dedicated in-house team. Any leads, sales, or tasks generated through this remote software are then collectively available to the entire management through the central ERP system.

The quality of remote working can also be assured through Project Management Offices (PMOs), which can be both internal and external. By delegating work to an external PMO, SMEs can ensure high-quality standards on all remote tasks being completed by the workforce at home, saving SMEs tons of money in the process.

4. Revisit staff hierarchy

When working in an office, there are employee hierarchies set that need to be followed. These hierarchies often include middle management. The middle management is the upper-tier servicemen responsible for monitoring the lower tier and reporting back to the upper tier. This bridge between the hands-on employee and the CEO or the board of directors is extremely important to the normal functioning of a company. However, its usefulness has recently come into question after the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us all to work from home.

SMEs don’t need an entire class of employees just to keep checking on the main workforce when all the workforce is working from home since there is no real way to keep a 24/7 surveillance of your employees. However, technological advancements might have provided us with an answer to this problem.

One such solution is to make use of an online monitoring system. Since employers can’t have cameras installed in every employee’s house, life monitoring and feedback can be carried out via an online management system in real-time. SMEs can use cloud-based management solutions that hand out daily tasks and their deadlines so that workers know exactly what is expected from them during working hours. Moreover, the same cloud-based management system can also track the online status of an employee and their progress on a task in real-time.

This solution would decrease the uncertainty around the completion of any task. Moreover, when employees know that their work hours are being closely monitored, they are bound to go above and beyond during that time. Essentially, a cloud-based real-time monitoring system would help SMEs increase employee productivity and efficiency and thus make work from home much more affordable!

What this does is essentially eliminate an entire class of employees. Companies adopting the cloud-based management solution can actually get rid of on-floor managers since their expertise is no longer needed. Work from home also provides an excellent excuse for lowering the overall employee number since all the workforce can accomplish a slightly better productivity rate and efficiency when working from home.

5. Establish the minimum prerequisites for hiring employees

As we have already seen, WFH can be pretty expensive for a company if they haven’t made the necessary preparation beforehand. All the staff needs to be equipped with the right equipment. The company also has to ensure that everyone working from home has a fast and reliable internet connection. Moreover, the extra insurance for people working from home and the liability bills need an adjustment in the company budget.

However, these expenses are reducible if the company defines prerequisites for hiring people.  For example, instead of buying a new laptop for an employee when bringing them on board, SME can simply make it a requirement for new applicants to have already a working laptop that meets the minimum requirements for the job.

Similarly, requiring employees to have fast and reliable internet connections at home rather than providing it can also make WFH more affordable for SMEs. However, these steps can’t be taken overnight. Companies need to understand that for a smooth shift of operations, these changes need to be gradual.

For example, companies can initially provide hardware, such as laptops and internet connections to all their employees working from home. However, as time passes, companies can change their requirements so that new applicants meet the conditions before being considered for the job.


CONCLUSION

WFH is a blessing that employees around the globe cherish every single day. However, despite some fans, most employers are still sceptical of WFH as a productive working modality. The scepticism is fuelled further by some of the drawbacks that WFH brings, the most important being the cost of WFH.

SMEs can make WFH a more affordable working option.

The cost associated with WFH can be a problem for both the employer and the employee. If not dealt with timely, these high costs can cause SMEs to suffer huge losses. However, with the 5 ways listed above, SMEs can make WFH a more affordable working option that works for everyone!


FAQs

Q) What is the biggest problem with WFH for employers?

The biggest problem for employers is the lack of a collaborative environment. WFH means that the workforce can’t assemble at a minute’s notice as before. Many SMEs have invested considerable amounts in finding a solution for this lack of collaboration.

Q) What makes remote working an ideal cost-saving measure for SMEs?

Remote working relieves SMEs from having a dedicated physical space for the workforce to assemble. As a result, SMEs save huge amounts of money on rent, property taxes, and energy bills.

Q) How is quality assured with a remote working team?

ERPs or Enterprise Resource Planning solutions help SMEs achieve an acceptable quality of work through live monitoring in real-time. These cloud solutions make an entire workforce and their contributions easily accessible to the senior management at the touch of a button.



1 Replies to "5 ways to make WFH more affordable to SME"

  1. I do not see WFH going anywhere in the near future.

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