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SMEs in the UK are divided when it comes to allowing their employees to work from home.

According to the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer, more than half of SMEs said that they had a flexible working policy that allowed staff to work from home, but two fifths said that they did not and a remaining 3 per cent were not sure.

For companies that offered flexible working options, increased efficiency was a key benefit. Nearly 70 per cent of these respondents said that it improves staff productivity and wellbeing.

However, larger businesses are more likely to be flexible, suggesting that this approach may be more challenging for some of the smallest compainies. At firms that employ over 250 people, 60 per cent said they can work from anywhere. In comparison, smaller enterprises with fewer than 10 members of staff were 14 per cent less likely to have this kind of policy.

The research revealed that resources have a significant impact on SMEs' decisions regarding flexible working. In companies that allow flexible working, one fifth of all decision makers said that staff regularly work from home because there is not enough office space available. This figure rises to 28 per cent for companies with between 11 and 60 employees.

Technology was also key, with capability separating businesses. While digital advancements have been positive for some SMEs, with 12 per cent of respondents saying that they allow staff to work from home because technological developments mean there is less need to be in the office, some businesses do not have this technology available. A quarter of businesses that do not let staff work from home said this was the reason.

Other businesses said employees could not work from home because their business needs dictate that staff must be on site to do their job.

David Thomson, CEO of Close Brothers Invoice Finance, commented:

“Digital advances have made it easier for companies to offer a flexible approach to work and SMEs should ensure they are investing in these systems.

“By allowing staff to be home based or change their hours, companies can create a positive culture which supports wellbeing and improves productivity. This can motivate employees, making it easier for companies to attract and retain an effective and diverse workforce.

“However, remote staff should not be disconnected staff. While there are undoubtedly many tasks that need to be undertaken in person, technology now means collaboration, teamwork and information sharing can happen quickly and securely, regardless of location.

“To make a ‘working from anywhere’ culture successful, businesses across the UK must ensure that they have the right infrastructure in place.”

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