Today’s harsh economic climate presents a challenge for companies who are trying to motivate and reward their employees when the budget for pay rises is non-existent, writes Andy Bull, MD of Mitel South Africa.

Of course employees are motivated by pay, let’s face it who isn’t, but it is important to realise that pay is not the only way to motivate or reward employees, and it often isn’t enough. Flexibility and work/life balance are the current buzzwords that will be around for a long time to come. People are now working longer and harder hours, particularly in the recession, so why not motivate and reward your employees and save your company money by offering them the opportunity to work from home.
 
Cost savings
Teleworking means employees can take an IP phone home, plug it into their existing broadband connection and use the device as if they were at their office desk. This simple ‘plug and work’ solution enables companies to not only save money but also real estate costs.
Interestingly, if you take into account nights, weekends and public holidays some buildings are only occupied 30% of the time. With teleworking, organisations can drastically reduce overheads and avoid a costly move to larger premises if needed.  
Travel expenses can also be reduced and your employees will thank you for the reduction in their commuting costs.
 
Increase in productivity

Research by Mitel in 2007 shows that employees based from home are often 41% more productive than office based workers and put in longer hours, and this figure can only have increased. With flexible working there is also a reduced level of sick leave and stress related absenteeism as workers are often happier in their role.
 
Attract and retain top talent
Teleworking gives you the capacity to attract top recruits, widening your pool of resource to outside the geographical area. It also enables you to retain talented employees that may have left work due to a relocation or returning to work from having a child. Lack of flexibility in work schedules is often one of the biggest drivers of attrition; teleworking can help combat this.
 
Work/life balance
Employees based at home increase their work/life balance, which eases the pressure particularly for working parents having the flexibility to collect their children from childcare or school without the fear that they will be late back from a meeting and stuck in traffic.
Also, they have the option of then spending quality time with the children before they go to bed and have the flexibility to return to work to finish off in the early evening.
Teleworking improves job satisfaction and balances quality of life issues.
 
Increase green credentials
Changing the way people work helps not only your business but also the environment. By reducing corporate travel and employees commuting you can reduce your carbon footprint.
 
Demands of the younger generation
You will probably find that the new graduate recruits will expect to be able to work from home. It is a generation that is use to communicating whenever and wherever they want, so restricting their communication and ability to work solely from a desk will appear completely illogical to them.
 
Business continuity
In a time of terrorist attacks and increasing pandemics such as swine flu protect your business by introducing home working so when a disaster occurs business does not need to grind to a halt.
 
Improve customer service
Extend your customer service by offering ‘out of hours’ service and setting up call centre agents from home. Equip your mobile workforce with a teleworking solution to reduce dead travel time of them having to commute to an office between meetings giving them the ability to work from home.
 
A management mind shift
The benefits for teleworking are clear and compelling, but a change in culture needs to happen in South Africa before it is fully embraced by businesses. Mitel research found that managers are still fearful to let employees work from home.
Psychologist and employee productivity expert, Dr David Lewis, says: “Managers must understand that every individual has a different style of working, so by allowing your staff to work how they feel best able to achieve results can only benefit their wellbeing and most importantly increase their productivity and ultimately customer service. It comes down to a matter of trust. If you trust and respect your employees to get the job done, they will trust and respect you in return and do the best they possibly can, regardless of whether they are in the office or not.
"Mitel is seeing a huge increase in the growth of teleworking. Companies are realising the benefits to the business and the employees and the compelling proposition is too good to ignore. With high-speed broadband readily available in homes, IP solutions can be deployed easily with seamless connections to the office giving employees the same features and functionality that they have in the office.
"Presence, conferencing and collaboration tools enable remote employees to function as a team member as if they were office based. Organisations that are not considering remote and mobile working will be left behind and it will be detriment to their customer service and bottom line.”