Most bosses 'untrained' in dealing with homeworkers

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The vast majority (80%) of small business managers have no formal training on managing home workers. That's according to BT Business, which is launching a Remote Manager's Toolkit designed to provide practical advice to small businesses.

Three quarters (74%) of the UK¡¦s small and medium sized businesses are already operating some form of home working. Yet findings from BT Business¡¦ IT Skills for Flexible Working report reveals that around half of managers (47%) struggle to know how remote or home workers are performing. Eighty eight per cent of managers have also never received formal training on managing home workers.

In response, BT Business has convened an expert panel of business and management experts chaired by Dr Frank Shaw, foresight director at the Centre for Future Studies, to publish the first Remote Manager¡¦s Toolkit for the UK¡¦s small and medium sized enterprises.

The expert panel includes Phil Flaxton, chief executive, Work Wise UK; Bill Murphy, managing director, BT Business; Peter Thomson, director of the Future Work Forum, Henley Management College; Nick Isles, director of advocacy, The Work Foundation; dr John Gundry, Knowledge Ability, a remote working consultancy and Caroline Waters, head of people, HR & policy, BT Group.

Bill Murphy, Managing Director, BT Business and BT¡¦s flexible working champion said:

¡§There is a worrying lack of both management and IT skills for 21st century flexible working despite the growth in home working amongst small businesses.

"BT has always been at the forefront of flexible working. We have thousands of people working from home and our advances in Unified Communications for small businesses is transforming the way employees can interact and work together.

"The launch of the Remote Manager¡¦s Toolkit will ensure that small businesses don¡¦t miss the boat when it comes to the full benefits of remote working, including a happier and more productive workforce.¡¨

Initial findings of the panel:

* 20th Century management styles, skills and culture are impeding the adoption of remote working and in particular newer trends such as ¡¥home shoring¡¦ƒT and ¡¥crowd sourcing¡¦ƒU
Some managers can feel that out of office workers pose a threat to their job remit or status.

* IT and communications solutions for flexible working such as unified communications and conferencing are no longer the preserve of big corporates and make remote working more effective and viable.

* Remote managers need to be better managers and better communicators than face-to-face managers.

* So-called ¡¥presenteeism¡¦ and lack of trust in homeworkers is hampering the uptake of remote working

* Managers need to measure business outputs (results) rather than inputs (hours spent in the office/at their desk).

* Government and business organisations need to do more to support remote workers and employee rights to flexible working.

* Businesses need to learn from and adapt to the younger ¡¥mySpace generation¡¦ who are increasingly comfortable with virtual interactions and come to expect it in the workplace.

* The green agenda will be a key driver for the uptake of remote working

* Small businesses need to be convinced of the financial benefits of remote working, and many are fearful of risking change

The BT Business Remote Manager¡¦s Toolkit will be published later this year. It will contain practical advice and examples of remote working good practice and will aim to help small businesses address the main management challenges of remote working.

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