With the improvement of old technologies and the introduction of new ones, working remotely is now easier than ever. And this reality is impacting more than just a few creative freelancers.
A study by Global Workplace Analytics reported that the amount of Americans telecommuting and working remotely increased 115% in the ten years between 2007 and 2017.
But even as technical hurdles fade away, strategic questions will still weigh on managers’ minds. Most notably: What are the benefits of remote work — for everyone involved?
Remote Work Advantage # 1: More Productivity
A recent poll of over 2,000 workers showed that the average person puts in a middling 2 hours and 53 minutes of work in the average day at the office. But when asked about how they feel about their work performance while working outside the office, 91% of people said that they were more productive.
While this could be a statement on how many modern workplaces are structured (looking at you, open floor plans), or the level of comfort people have in their offices, the data is clear. Productivity increases when employees are allowed to work from home.
Study after study shows that a healthier work-life balance results in increased productivity at work. But we also understand this intuitively. Employees are people, not machines. And treating them with trust makes them more productive and more likely to stay with the company.
These days, hiring for productivity means hiring people who are able to get their work done without lots of overhead and supervision. As a manager, leading a remote team entails being proactive in hiring these independent individuals. When you have a team of hard-working, capable people, your time as a manager is freed up to do more useful and productive things than micromanagement.
Remote Work Advantage #2: A Deeper Talent Pool
The talent pool in your backyard might seem deep, but it’s a puddle compared to the global marketplace. New technologies that foster remote work can also allow you to recruit from anywhere the internet exists (which is essentially, everywhere).
Companies headquartered in smaller cities can have a notoriously hard time attracting and recruiting great workers, even when they offer competitive benefits. Instead of being limited to a very small talent pool of people within commuting distance, they are now able to have access to top talent from anywhere. Better talent means better business.
And these benefits don’t just apply to businesses in small cities. The freedom to select workers outside of your commuter zone means that employers have access to more diversity in terms of people, ideas, languages, mindsets, and problem-solving skills.
In the past, the barriers to having diverse teams was higher due to the availability of candidates. However, the trend towards remote work helps dismantle part of that by giving you access to diverse teams.
Study after study routinely shows that diverse teams often outperform other teams in terms of productivity. These teams are better for your business, your employees, and your company culture. How’s that for a win-win.
Remote Work Advantage #3: Stronger Employee Retention
It’s no secret that for the most part, companies have seen remote work as a benefit that only the employees enjoy. In fact, many companies list it on their employee benefits to attract and retain talent that values flexibility in their work.
$1.5 million The amount of money a medium sized company spends on training and onboarding new employees every year
However, companies have a lot more to gain than just a happier group of employees. Remote work, it turns out, is also great for the bottom line.
Interviewing, hiring, onboarding and ramping up employees is costly. In fact, a midsize company with about 150 full-time employees and a turnover rate of about 10% has to spend over $1.5 million a year on training and onboarding alone. Employees are valuable and losing them is expensive.
Having a workplace that allows for flexible work options is vital to the modern workplace. With more women working than ever before, it’s vital to have the flexibility to retain your staff. A study by Forbes recently showed that 70% of women who dropped out of the workplace would have opted to stay in their jobs offered flexibility.
Losing talented employees that you’ve spent time and energy training sucks. As does the 150% of their salary that a company can lose when the person has to leave. Giving people the option to work remotely and have a flexible schedule can help decrease turnover while increasing employee happiness and productivity.
Remote Work Advantage #4: Better Work-Life Balance
Sometimes in the chaos of hiring, onboarding, and delivering every day, we can start to forget that the team members we work with are also people with their own lives beyond the office. And ultimately, losing sight of that basic humanity becomes a business liability when employees start to feel like their work no longer fits inside those lives.
Alternatively, investing in benefits like remote work options allows employees to bring the best versions of themselves when they are in the work environment. And that’s great for business.
Imagine an employee who is not feeling well. The kind of sickness that is not bad enough to take a sick day, but disruptive enough that it will affect their ability to work in the office.
Without a remote work policy, an employee might be stressed about coming to work while not feeling well. They will certainly not perform at their best when there. They might arrive late, be irritated at coworkers, have some anxiety about their day. Worse yet, they would be spreading germs to coworkers around the office, exponentially decreasing productivity for the entire team.
However, In a company that values a flexible work environment, the employee would be able to have their tools with them. They can avoid the commute, work in a less stressful environment, and not contaminate the entire office with used tissues. Best of all, since they’re in a comfortable environment, they’ll be able to focus more on their work, and ultimately return to work much faster.
Even in other facets of life that are not an illness, the benefits of telecommuting on work-life balance is evident. It reduces stress surrounding child care and doctors appointments, encourages flexibility and travel, eliminates the stress of long commutes that affect your productivity, and can even decrease the amount of absences employees have.
Employees work best when they are healthy and feeling good. Acknowledging that people are not machines will help drive up the productivity (and profit) in your team.
Remote Work Advantage #5: More Effective Management
You may have heard the saying, “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers.” When implementing remote policies, having managers who are good team players and communicators is key.
A manager that leads a remote or distributed team, by default, has to learn to put a lot of trust on employees and treat them without suspicion. Micromanagement will not work well with remote employees. They are competent and productive workers who enjoy their freedom.
However, letting go of that control can be difficult, especially for managers. Having to learn how to communicate well will mean that managers have to level up their management skills.
Skating by on bad habits like weak communication can work (barely) if you’re in an office but will end up costing you in terms of decreased employee engagement, lowered employee satisfaction, and eventually, turnover.
Dealing with the lack of regular contact with employees can also be another source of strain on managers, especially when it comes to review time. It’s important to make sure that you’re setting goals with your employees and making sure that they are clear, measured, and most importantly, understood by all parties involved.
Don’t let the quarterly or annual review be the moment you and an employee find out that you’re on totally different roads. Make sure to check in periodically, possibly more often than you otherwise would, to help employees feel comfortable reaching out to you when needed.
The shift to remote teams will mean more compromise and collaboration across the board. The lack of day-to-day in-person contact and conversation will mean having to learn new skills and touch base in creative ways. But the benefits of working remotely outweigh the costs of retraining managers to improve their communication skills.
While the transition might take some adjusting to, it’s necessary to be fully prepared for the workspace of the future. With a wide range of tools on the market built to facilitate better communication, the concept of ditching the traditional office in favor of remote workforce might become less and less terrifying after all.