Like it or not, trust is often a casualty of home working. When home workers are left to their own devices in the comfort of their own houses, there can be an understandable tendency for their office-based colleagues to jump to the conclusion they aren't really working. In fact many of their colleagues seem to imagine them still in bed, feet up and the TV on.
So why in this day and age, in which technology and communications endlessly boasts that we can work 'anywhere and everywhere', do home workers have to fight so hard to convince others they're actually delivering results?
One immediate reason is the sheer lack of physical contact - the old chestnut that 'seeing is believing'. As human beings, witnessing something in the flesh can be the most convincing tool of persuasion. And if office-based colleagues can't see their home-based employee engaged in some form of obvious activity, it's almost a natural instinct to assume they're just having a merry time at home alone.
So why are well over a third of homeworkers saying they are at their most productive and produce their best results when at home? The lure of home working, for at least some of the time, is becoming ever more attractive, offering a degree of flexibility that makes it much easier to achieve a successful work-life balance.
This is such an important factor that over half (54 per cent) of all workers believe getting this life balance is more important to them than a pay-rise! This perhaps explains why home workers are the most satisfied when compared against office, call-centre and mobile workers.
So with home workers happy to be at home, what's the answer for managers for whom it can often be a case of office workers vs. homeworkers in a battle of trust?
Communication and collaboration are absolutely vital. If regular face-to-face meetings with home workers aren't possible, utilise the phone or set up video calls by equipping staff with the most suitable headsets, telephones or laptops that support them in doing the job. Making sure they have a speedy Internet connection set up and access to a VPN from home is always handy, if available.
Many organisations are encouraging home-working to reduce pressure on office and even car-parking space, as well as providing workers with the prized work-life balance. In these cases it makes sense to create a home-working policy and make it a key component of your recruitment and retention programme.
By creating clear guidelines you can make sure that both home workers and their colleagues in the office understand what is expected of them, allowing them to work more productively together and build the trust that will be essential to the success of your flexible working policy.
And it's worth bearing in mind that all of this will require some form of education to produce the required culture change. Whether it's introducing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and educating yourself or your IT department on the variety of tools out there or working with HR to define a specific contract that supports homeworkers, it will help ensure everyone's able to get the work done.
The power of voice and the influence of face-to-face interactions between home and office workers can boost employee's satisfaction and morale incredibly, enabling you to make the most of the many benefits offered by flexible and home working.
Yet with the demand to work from home likely to increase, employers and employees do seem prepared to make the trade-off between distrust and the added convenience they get from working at home. Other studies have shown that three-quarters of senior decision makers surveyed felt that remote working was essential or important to their organisation, acknowledging the raft of benefits it can bring by reducing office costs and improving staff recruitment, retention, morale and productivity.
Our survey confirmed that practically everyone in today's workplace has some experience of remote working – either working at home or from another location or working with colleagues who are not in the office. This trend is set to increase in the future, making it vital that organisations tackle the cultural issues and overcome the challenges of this notion of 'sight unseen'.
As a result, managers should start to realise that lack of productivity from homeworking is just a myth, with tools such as headsets for laptops allowing homeworkers to transition from an email one minute to a phone call the next, efficiently and effortlessly. By understanding the way employees feel about home working, managers can guarantee homeworkers stay within a business' 'circle of trust', while effectively learning to keep staff happy by quashing the ever-growing stereotype that home workers are lazy, unproductive and even 'invisible'.