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Before the COVID-19 crisis upended the concept of business-as-usual for organizations all over the world, managers were divided into two broad camps when it came to remote working: those who embraced the benefits of remote work, and those who were unsure about letting their team members work from home.
Now, due to social isolation rules, remote working has been forced upon even the most reluctant managers. For many, this circumstance may feel chaotic and inconvenient. Still, the reality is that remote working (when done correctly) can increase productivity, supercharge engagement, and give access to a broader pool of talent.
In this article, we explore 13 benefits of remote work for companies and employees.
What is remote working, and how prevalent is it?
Let’s start with a brief definition. Remote working (also known as telecommuting, teleworking, working from home, mobile work, or flexible workplace) is an arrangement, which means employees are not required to travel to a central place of work.
- Under normal conditions, remote working means employees can work from anywhere; the home, their local café, a public library, local park, or swinging from a hammock by a beach at a holiday destination. So long as the work is being done, where it’s done is irrelevant.
- During the COVID-19 crisis, the place of work has been dramatically restricted to one area: the home. This brings with it a set of unique challenges, such as sharing a workspace with children.
Before COVID-19, data from the U.S. revealed that about 3.6 percent of the workforce worked from home for at least half their time (not including the self-employed). The working-from-home trend grew by 173 percent between 2005 and 2018.
As of March 2020, remote working has seen a dramatic and unprecedented jump. Experts estimate that 29 percent to 43 percent of the workforce have jobs that can be undertaken remotely. It is essential to keep in mind that remote working is not a privilege available to everyone.
Remote working is an entirely new concept for the many managers and their teams who have suddenly found themselves installed in a home office. Understandably, some may be nervous, but there are two key points to keep in mind:
- Remote working has been around for a long time now, so there’s plenty of authoritative research proving the benefits of doing so.
- Technology has kept pace, with a proliferation of tools to support and enhance every aspect of remote working, from team collaboration platforms to remote training.
Benefits of remote work for companies
Two-thirds of managers say that their employees are more productive working from home, while nearly 9 out of 10 employees say their productivity increases when they work alone. Factors driving productivity include:
- Fewer distractions such as inefficient meetings, chatting with co-workers, and other typical interruptions in the office. Nearly one-quarter of office workers say their boss distracts them from getting work done, while only 15 percent of remote workers are distracted by their boss.
- Remote workers tend to work more hours per day and work 1.4 more days per month (16.8 more days per year) than office workers.
- Remote workers are more likely to take advantage of online task management and productivity tools.
- Remote workers are much less likely to take sick days, with a 31 percent reduction in absenteeism.
2. Focus on output rather than time-at-desk
Remote working is driving a significant shift in how productivity is measured. While office workers’ productivity has historically been judged by how much time they spend at their desks, remote workers are by necessity measured on output, delivery, and results. A focus on output means that when, where, and how the work is done becomes irrelevant. Unfortunately, the existence of digital tools for monitoring remote workers’ keystrokes and mouse movements shows that some managers are still focusing on time-spent-at-desk.
3. Cost savings
The growing popularity of remote working means companies can save in terms of real-estate costs by reducing office space, along with a reduction of the expenses such as furnishing offices with PC monitors and ergonomic chairs. Given that 36 percent of people would choose remote working over a pay raise, it can also help keep salary overheads down.
Encouraging remote working is one way a company can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve its sustainability program. Removing the need to commute reduces fuel usage and traffic jams, and takes the pressure off public transport systems. It also reduces wastage of office materials such as printer paper, along with energy usage (although some of this usage will be shifted to households).
5. Higher engagement and morale
Remote workers are happier and more productive due to increased flexibility, self-determination, better work environments, and fewer interruptions. Think of the set up of an in-person team meeting vs a video conference call - screen sharing is more convenient for each individual than crowding around a single screen or squinting at a projector. Technology helps companies keep remote workers connected and collaborative, while remote workers are not as exposed to the toxic elements of workplaces such as office politics or gossip.
6. Reduced turnover
Employee turnover – a significant cost for organizations – decreases by 50 percent when employees can work from home. Lower attrition means lower costs in terms of recruiting and training new employees.
7. Attract new talent
Offering remote working widens the talent pool. Companies will no longer be limited geographically when searching for talent and can hire top workers anywhere in the country (or even overseas). It’s also more inclusive: working from home is ideal for people with disabilities or family commitments who would otherwise be unable to come into an office every day. Virtual recruiting makes it possible to attract, interview, hire, onboard, and train new employees remotely.
Benefits of remote work for employees
69 percent of workers surveyed by FlexJobs believe flexible work options are one of the most important factors when looking for a new role. In comparison, 30 percent of workers have left a job in the past because their employers failed to offer flexible work options.
2. No more commuting
One in four employees has quit a job because the commute was too long. For many office workers, the twice-daily commute can be the most stressful time of the day. Overcrowded or delayed public transport, traffic jams, early starts and late finishes all mean the workday is bookended by an unpleasant experience. Full-time remote workers in the U.S. save an average of $4,000 per year in commuting costs, and “gain back” the equivalent of 11 workdays each year.
3. Better work-life balance
Work-life balance means something different for every employee. For some, it’s about spending more time with their family, while for others, it means having a healthier lifestyle. Better work-life balance has been found to boost morale by 90 percent and job satisfaction by 73 percent.
4. Lower stress
86 percent of employees believe remote working reduces stress. This may be due to removing the daily (stressful) commute, getting away from office politics or a high-stress office environment, having more control in terms of time-management, or having more time to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
5. Health and wellbeing
Working in a full-time office job is often seen as a barrier to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Remote workers can use the time saved by not commuting to spend on exercise, meditation, or other activities to improve their physical and mental health.
Working from home encourages employee self-direction and independence. Focusing on productivity rather than presenteeism means employees will feel empowered to manage their own time rather than waiting to be told what to do by their managers.
Over to you
Although remote work is currently seen as a temporary measure during the ongoing pandemic, it may become a mainstay after the crisis ends due to the benefits to businesses and individuals.
When done correctly, remote work empowers employees, cuts costs for businesses, attracts global talent, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Whether remote work is temporary for your company or not, it’s crucial to provide ample support to your team. Support can come in many forms, one of which is training and development.
The GoSkills LMS is the ideal solution to train your remote team. You can upload custom courses, use classroom courses to track attendance to virtual lessons and live streams, and the GoSkills award-winning course library is an optional add-on.
It’s free to sign up and add unlimited learners to the GoSkills LMS, so you can provide your team with the essential skills and information they need while working from home.