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British businesses are being urged by the conciliation service Acas to embrace remote working this summer to avoid scoring an own goal.

Employee absences due to sickness, which already cost UK companies almost £29bn a year, are set to spike as staff skip work to watch major sporting events such as Euro 2016, Wimbledon and the Olympics. But firms are also being warned to think about dealing with staff that turn up under the influence or hungover from the previous night’s antics.

Here are just a few statistics that are making employers understandably concerned:

  • 40% of UK employees admitted that they would miss work for a big game
  • Euro 2016 “sickies“ could cost the economy £269m in lost productivity
  • 73% of UK HR directors believe some staff will call in sick during the Euros

Can remote working help reduce staff absences?

To help minimise disruption, Acas has suggested employers that are keen to tackle the problem of absenteeism should consider allowing staff to work from home.

Speaking exclusively to The Inside Track, Acas Head of Information, Stewart Gee, said: “Euro 2016 could be a good opportunity to trial a variety of different flexible working arrangements, but employers should treat all their workers fairly to ensure that they do not discriminate against those who are not into football.

“Many businesses can benefit from offering remote working or homeworking to their staff irrespective of whether there’s a big sporting event on, but obviously there are a number of issues for employers to consider first.”

Remote worker homeNot surprisingly, remote working has become a popular choice amongst businesses with 91% of UK SMBs having at least one member of staff working from home. And despite reservations about how much work staff actually do when off site, research from YouGov suggests office workers are 30% more productive when working remotely.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 56% of employers that have introduced remote working have reported a drop in staff absences. This stat alone supports the idea that staff are willing to get their work done outside of office hours rather than simply calling in sick to watch an event.

But when it comes to remote working, some firms will naturally be sceptical of implementation due the associated risks. Acas went on to offer the following tips when considering whether to allow staff to work from home.

1. Decide if remote working is a good fit for your business

Not every type of job can actually be done from home, so it’s important to be sure it suits your organisation, or individuals within it.

2. Ensure staff have access to effective management

This would cover both the ability to check staff progress but also ensure that staff are not isolated by their remoteness.

3. Consider security and sensitive data

When working from home employers must consider security issues if working with sensitive data.

4. Have clear policy and procedures in place

Employers need to have policies and procedures in place for any sort of remote or homeworking. These should cover things like IT access, information security, health & safety and remote management.

The role of cloud computing and collaboration

Remote working isn’t just about having a laptop or a smartphone, businesses need to ensure that employees are fully equipped to get the job done without feeling distant from support.

With cloud computing now very much the norm, staff can easily collaborate with colleagues anywhere in the country, or indeed the world, at any time. Using software like Microsoft Office 365, employees have access to the same applications that they have in the office, such as the traditional Office suite (Word, Excel, etc.), business-grade email, diary management and document sharing.

Not only that, but face-to-face meetings and catch-up sessions can still take place using collaboration services such as instant messaging, Skype for Business or HD video conferencing. All of these services mean that the on site office environment can be quickly and easily replicated for the remote worker.

Just a few years ago all of this technology was considered expensive and limited to larger organisations, however it’s now readily available and affordable to the point where it would be almost wasteful for smaller businesses not to take advantage of the possibilities.

Some more tips…

Allowing workers to make up their hours from home is just one way employers can minimise staff absences during sporting events.

Some more helpful tips from Acas that you might want to consider include:

  • Streaming of live major events in the office
  • Increasing flexibility around staff use of social networks like Twitter to follow sporting action
  • Introduction of flexi-time – allowing staff to take time off to watch a certain event and then making the time up later
  • Adjusting rules around annual leave, even allowing staff to carry leave over from one year to the next to cover account sporting events
  • Allowing staff to trade shifts with colleagues where possible

It’s easy to see how the above tips can be useful, but for them to be successful, it’s important to have everything agreed and in place early on so that employees know the score even before an event begins.

You never know, it may turn out to be just what the physio ordered.

About Andrew Frost

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