Remote working can lead to more motivated staff, lower overheads and a greener carbon footprint. Here’s why it’s worth considering.
Ask a group of office-based professionals what they think about remote working and you’ll get a mixed response. On the one hand, there’ll be concerns about productivity, while others might be more enthusiastic about the idea. Good or bad, reactions to remote working tend to focus on the employee, but there are advantages for businesses too.
In 2018 a US report found that 63% of surveyed departments allow people to carry out work away from the office. While many firms still consider remote working a ‘perk’, it’s gathering pace and several high-profile employers, including Amazon, Dell and Toyota, have begun adjusting to a growing remote workforce.
We looked into why the home working trend is going mainstream. Here, in the words of both employees and employers, are eight reasons why you should think about letting your employees work remotely.
1. It reduces annoying distractions
A popular idea is that working from home is too distracting – but what about the office? In an interview with Gallup, Gloria Mark – an associate professor and researcher from the University of California – points out that the average office worker is interrupted every three minutes. For bigger disruptions, workers can take up to 23 minutes to get back to their full workflow. We’ll let you do the maths.
Meanwhile, working away from the office can help staff to get into their deepest mode of concentration. Music Producer, Emily Foreman, has worked remotely for Lateral MGMT for more than two years and she explains how remote working has allowed her to operate at her best:
“Working remotely massively increases my productivity. It allows me to work at my own pace without any distractions. Having worked remotely for over two years now, I’ve learnt the ways to keep myself motivated throughout the day and ensure I don’t lose concentration. I think that more employers should consider it as an option for their employees, to allow them to focus on certain projects without the everyday distractions of an office.”
2. Your company overheads will be lower
In short, companies with remote staff can save money. Cisco, for example, found that in 2009 they “generated estimated annual savings of $277 million in productivity by allowing employees to telecommute and telework.”
Jonathan Allen, Managing Director of Rutland Capital, has seen similar results for his own business. He found that by having a company that works remotely, he spent less on heating, electricity, office space, utilities and kitchen supplies. It meant he could allocate his financial resources to other areas of the business, and in turn, allowed the company to grow more rapidly.
3. Remote workers benefit your company CSR credentials
The world is on a path toward a more energy-efficient way of living and working – for companies, that means embracing corporate social responsibility (CSR). As well as saving money, by vetoing a half-empty office building that requires lighting, heating and electricity, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint. It helps employees to be greener too, reducing the need for travel.
4. It builds an element of trust between employer and employee
The option to work remotely can signal to your employees that you trust them to manage their own time and achieve results, rather than just working the allocated number of hours. Content marketing expert, Cassandra Naji, is based in Europe and has worked for a US-based content marketing agency, Animalz, for just over four months. She works remotely for the company along with her entire team, including the CEO. She explains why it works well for them:
“Remote working allows me to manage my time as I want – if I need a long lunch, no problem! I feel trusted by my employer, and that actually increases my desire to do my work well. They trust me, and I have to live up to that!”
5. Staff take fewer sick days
Five Guys report seeing fewer absences since introducing work-from-home days within the business. Kris Taylor-Rush, a member of the HR team, says:
“People with minor colds often feel capable of working but not at the level of ease they normally would. Now that they’re able to work from home and be comfortable, they don’t feel anxious about having to travel in and spend a day in the office. A side bonus is that spreading bugs and flu has drastically reduced. Before, people felt under pressure to work in the office despite the fact they’re contagious!”
“Presenteeism issues have also declined. This is when people turn up to work when they’re ill and are essentially there to show their face, but their productivity is low. “
6. You’ll end up hiring better, more motivated staff
There are two opposing schools of thought on whether remote working leads to lower productivity or in fact, increases it. But a belief persists that home workers, given the opportunity, will literally phone it in. Trello provides more detail on the ‘slacker’ theory:
“There is a perception that if you can’t physically see someone sitting at their desk doing work, then they’re not getting anything done. Any worker, regardless of location, can slack off if managers are not adequately communicating expectations and deadlines.”
“If someone understands what work they are responsible for (goals) and when it needs to be done (deadlines), and they work accordingly (with regular status updates), then they surely won’t warrant a ‘slacker’ title, no matter where they’re located.”
As a side note, Trello rewards its teams by the work that they produce, rather than monitoring their productivity levels.
7. It gives the employee a better work-life balance
According to Business Leader, the average commuting time in the UK is just shy of an hour. Londoners have the longest commute in the country, at 74 minutes. Across the space of a year, that’s a lot of time spent travelling in a cramped train carriage.
Joanna Whalley, Global Pricing Manager at Sodexo, has been working remotely for two years. She explains:
“I work most of the time remotely and only commute to the office to attend meetings. I save a fortune on travel and the extra time I now have has allowed me to focus on my house renovation or do simple tasks such as washing and cleaning.”
There are other perks too. Joanna enthusiastically reveals that she’s finally been able to buy a dog. She says:
“Not being out of the house for ten hours a day has meant I can be at home to look after him and ensure he’s not chewing up the furniture!”
8. It’s the modern way of working
People work in different ways and it’s up to the employee to find the approach that means they get the most work done. Freelancing staff say this is one of the leading benefits to having their home as an office base.
Nick Sirris is a copywriter who has been working remotely for several clients while travelling the world. He explains:
“I’m a naturally late sleeper, and I couldn’t be further away from being a morning person! By following my own schedule, I can answer important calls or emails at my leisure while focusing on the most crucial tasks at hand. I manage deadlines more easily this way, and the quality of my work is far better. It takes a lot of the unnecessary time-wasting out of my day simply by working at the time when I perform best.”
Companies need to play catch up
Companies are beginning to adapt their work culture to align with the interests of the new generation entering the workforce. For example, one study reported that 68% of millennials are looking for jobs that offer some remote working provision. While a few years ago, this requirement might have seemed a bit niche, around a third of businesses predict that 50% of their workforce will be carrying out at least some of their work remotely by 2020, according to a recent poll.
Several tools now allow companies to adapt to this contemporary way of working. Trello, for example, has a chat tool for quick communication between staff. Managers can also schedule weekly catch-ups with their team or direct reports through a video conference.
While there are many advantages for your staff, remote working can serve you as a business too. More companies are now offering it as part of their employment package and with digital nomads on the rise, employers need to remain competitive in the jobs market. Offering the flexibility and trust of remote working can help you to make your business a more attractive place to work and foster a culture that fits with the best up and coming talent.