Known as the ability to work from anywhere, anytime, remote work was a full-on global work movement even before the coronavirus pandemic forced many to work from their homes.
According to an estimate in Forbes, in 2018, 50 percent of the U.S. workforce was projected to be remote; across the pond, Europe’s remote workers have grown from 7.7 percent to 9.8 percent in the past decade. Providing employees with the flexibility to work where and when they want cuts across all industries and company sizes. In fact, many of today’s top companies offer full, half, or partial remote work. Working remotely doesn’t always mean “from home,” either; it can apply anytime an employee works off-site—whether that’s at a coffee shop or a flexible workspace.
Ultimately, working remotely allows for increased flexibility and autonomy for employees. According to Inc., nine out of 10 workers who currently work remotely plan to do so for the rest of their careers. Technology such as videoconferencing software, collaboration platforms, and cloud services keep people connected and allow them to have meetings and complete projects from anywhere, anytime. But it’s not just employees who benefit: Employers are starting to view remote work as an important part of hiring and retaining top talent, staying competitive in their field, and even saving on business costs.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of remote work for both employees and employers.
1. Working remotely allows for better work-life balance
For many businesses, even a couple of decades ago, working remotely would have been nearly impossible. Without the right technology, an employee had to go to the office to get their work done. The downside to these technological advances? Blurred lines between work and home life. So maintaining a healthy work-life balance is top of mind for so many employees. The ability to balance these two worlds has become the key to feeling happier and more productive while at work. Saving time that would otherwise be spent on a long commute allows employees to have better work-life balance and adds hours back into their days.
2. Remote employees have more freedom
It’s clear that the advantages of remote work help keep employees happy, engaged, and fulfilled. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, “The optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend [around] three to four days working off-site.” Need to take a trip across the country to visit family? Or be home in the afternoon to attend a child’s soccer game? A traditional employee would need to request time off in order to do so. But a remote employee can still clock in from home or a regional headquarters at their destination, as well as check in, as needed. From working from home to traveling abroad to being in the office one day a week or three, employees enjoy the freedom of remote work.
3. Being a remote employee promotes employee well-being
With no commute, no lunch rush, and no long hours in the office away from family or friends, working remotely can improve the health and wellness of employees by reducing stress—and limiting exposure to potentially sick coworkers. But employers shouldn’t skip a wellness plan in the remote workplace; inclusion in company wellness programs, such as access to the gym, is just as important for those with a flexible work schedule.
4. Remote work equals an increase in productivity
Employers today are grappling with an existential question for the ages: “If I don’t see my employees working, are they?” The ability for employers to trust their teams, even when they work out of the office, could be key to driving more productivity than ever before. Data shows that when employees are able to skip the extra coffee breaks, a long commute, and any other distractions to focus on their work, productivity reigns supreme. For example, in Stanford University’s two-year remote work productivity study, the researchers followed 500 employees after dividing them into “remote” and “traditional” working groups. The remote working group results not only showed a work productivity boost equal to a full day’s work, but also fewer sick days and a 50 percent decrease in employee attrition.
5. Working remotely saves companies money
Having fewer employees in the office also reduces costs for a business. How? Imagine a traditional office space. Do you see a thriving, energetic work center, or are you imagining some of the desks sitting empty, waiting to be filled with next year’s hires? That ghost town effect is real—and could be costing your company thousands in wasted spending. With fewer people in the office, companies can condense their real estate footprint, allowing for more efficient workspace usage. That same Stanford study of remote workers allowed the participating company to save nearly $2,000 per employee on its office space rent, simply by using the space more efficiently.
6. Offering remote work makes businesses more competitive
Regardless of product, mission, or business goals, it’s the people who drive business success. Who, other than your employees, will shape the products of the future, drive the efficiency of your teams, and see through the growth and health of your business plan? Because of that, the ability to attract and retain top talent is a key differentiator in today’s competitive business world. Remote work can play a positive role in this arena, offering a sense of personal recognition between employer and employee. In fact, 35 percent of employees would change jobs if it meant the ability to work off-site full-time, according to Gallup. Companies that offer a flexible working arrangement, such as full, half, or partial remote work, could make the difference for a candidate selecting their next career move.
What to consider before embracing remote work
By now you’ve seen that remote work offers increased flexibility and autonomy for employees, as well as increased worker productivity and cost savings for employers. But, before venturing into the world of remote work, businesses must take a look at their current office culture, team sizes, and business goals.
- What work expectations will managers set with their remote teams?
- Are there workplace measures in place, such as technology to conduct videoconferences, to facilitate seamless remote work?
- Have programs been created that engage remote employees in the company culture and make them feel included in the day-to-day business?
These are important questions for a business to consider before changing its current employment structure.
On the other hand, before accepting a role that includes remote work or asking their managers to allow them to work remotely, employees should consider their own work-life boundaries. Employees may want to ask themselves, “Can I thrive as a remote worker? Will I be able to structure my days efficiently? Is my company technologically enabled to support my working remotely?”