Technology is often a driving force for radical change. In decades past, workers had no other option but to commute to a physical location in order to earn a living. And, when employers needed to hire someone, they had to look for that talent locally.
Thanks to various on-demand services, we’ve grown accustomed to being able to get almost anything in the world delivered to our door and in no time at all. Many of us live in smart homes (with smart plugs, lights, etc.), we shop online, we get our groceries and fast food delivered, and we talk to friends and family through video calls. As a result, we’ve all become more citizens of the world rather than just our little corner of it. So, if we’re adding in all this convenience to our everyday lives, why wouldn’t people do the same with their work?
With the advent of the Internet, smartphones, high-speed communications, and affordable laptops/tablets, being able to work from home is now an option for all kinds of workers. Remote Work, for some jobs, began a few years ago. Companies started experimenting with the idea of letting their employees work from home a couple of days a week. Tests like these were usually steeped in a lack of trust – The company thought that if they couldn’t see the worker, then the work wouldn’t get done. What many companies found, however, is that workers didn’t do less work – they did more.
Read on to discover the advantages that remote work has to organizations and employees alike.
Advantages of Remote Work for Employers
Some larger, more traditional companies struggle with allowing employees to work remotely simply because they don’t trust that employees will do the work without a manager looming over their shoulder from 9-5. This mindset presents a couple of problems to the traditional brick-and-mortar organization:
- Overhead costs: Offices are not eco-friendly. Not only do companies have to pay the rent and keep the lights on, but there are also supply costs (equipment, paper, printer cartridges, office supplies).
- Lack of productivity: While traditional office workers report for an eight-hour shift (typically from 9-5), that doesn’t mean that they do eight hours of work. Between meetings, watercooler conversations, lunch, and other company activities, many employees don’t do more than four hours of actual work in a given day.
- Worker dissatisfaction: Traditional workers can get easily burned out. Just the commute alone can be exhausting. If workers are worn out, they tend to be less satisfied with their work. This dissatisfaction could manifest itself in a lack of loyalty or by causing the worker to leave the position entirely.
While traditional workers spend at least eight hours in the office, that doesn’t mean that they do eight hours of work. Between meetings, chats with coworkers, and other office distractions, most traditional workers are lucky to get four hours of actual work done in a day.
Increased productivity is the main reason that organizations employ a remote workforce. Studies show that remote workers accomplish more in a workday than traditional workers, not less. If each worker can get two more hours of work done each day simply by telecommuting, that equates to money in an organization’s coffers.
According to one study, remote workers are happier. Happy workers tend to be more engaged (increased productivity), which leads to reduced absenteeism and attrition. Remote work can empower employees by allowing them the flexibility to plan and structure their day so that it maximizes their work and life potential.
Some organizations with an “old school” mentality may think that remote workers will be less loyal than traditional workers. In reality, the opposite is true. Remote workers appreciate the ability to plan their days and schedule their lives. They show that appreciation through increased productivity and longer retention, which leads to lower costs.
Deeper Talent Pool
By not limiting themselves to local talent to fill skilled positions, organizations who allow remote working can hire talent, regardless of geographic location. This is especially valuable if the skill set you require is highly specialized or highly sought after. By casting a bigger net, the likelihood of finding the right candidate for your position increases dramatically. By being able to hire the right people for the job, rather than being forced to hire the best local candidate, it helps ensure that your organization won’t have to spend additional money to hire and train another candidate.
Advantages of Remote Work for Employees
For employees, the ability to work remotely may be the difference between keeping the job they have (and sometimes don’t love) and looking for other work with better opportunities and a more flexible work environment. Many employees are attracted to the idea of working remotely and for good reasons. Employees understand that work-life balance doesn’t have to mean working eight hours straight sitting at a desk in a cube farm.
Some jobs are geared more for remote work. Employees who work in software development, web development, project management usually only need a computer and broadband internet and they can work from anywhere. Tools like Hangouts, Skype, Jira and Slack connect remote teams by allowing for personal interaction and an open line of communication.
Work-life balance is something that organizations have been touting for their employees for years. The organizations know it’s important, but it’s unclear if they really understand what it means to the employee. Often, the attitude of the organization is that work-life balance exists for employees because the employer allows them to telecommute a few days a week. What some organizations fail to understand is that even though that employee is working remotely, they’re still being managed as if they were sitting at their desk on-site. Herein lies the problem.
Remote work allows employees to achieve that balance. By working remotely, there is no commute, which for some people, could save them a couple of hours daily. The employee can also take breaks when needed, rather than when dictated. They can adjust their work schedule (within reason) to fit better with their daily routine.
Remote workers tend to be healthier. By working from home, remote workers can take breaks when they need to. They often get more exercise, as a midday walk can help break up the monotony of staring at a screen, and they eat better because they can prepare their own meals.
When workers are healthier, they tend to take less sick time and they’re able to work more. For example, if a health condition prevents a worker from frequently not coming to work, that same worker may still be able to contribute if able to work remotely.
Remote Workers Get to Keep More of Their Money
Just by reducing the need to get in a car, train, or bus to commute to work means that remote workers get to keep more of their pay. If you’re a driver, think about all the gas money you’ll save, not to mention the wear and tear on your vehicle.
While some traditional workers pack a sandwich for lunch, many of them spend money on coffee and going out for meals in order to break up the day. By working remotely, workers can make all their own meals and all the coffee they can drink. If we take a conservative estimate, let’s say that the traditional worker spends $5/day on coffee and snacks. That equates to $100/month (and likely more) in savings for the remote worker.
Remote Work is Good for Everyone
If enacted properly, remote work can be positive for an organization and its workers. The biggest reason to enable virtual work environments is money and productivity. Companies can save money by reducing the need for physical office locations, hiring the right people for the job (regardless of location), and increased productivity.
Employees benefit from remote work by being able to strike a better work-life balance. These employees have more freedom to structure both their work and non-work time, which leads to increased happiness and employer satisfaction. And we all know that happy workers mean more productivity and retention, both of which can save organizations a significant amount of money.
In short, virtual work environments will continue to increase and understanding their benefit, as well as the benefit to a remote workforce is essential to the future success of organizations.