I can remember a time when working remote was greatly frowned upon. It was viewed as an opportunity for employees to slack off, take care of kids, or get stuff done around the house—or so everyone thought. In reality, a number of reports now show that remote workers are more productive in the same amount of hours as in-office workers. And just last year, Gallup reported that some 43% of working Americans now spend at least some time working remotely, up four percentage points from 2012.
But it wasn’t always this way.
The Evolution of Remote Work
For as long as humans have had housing, they’ve been integrating their work into the home. But when the Industrial Revolution came around, society saw the rise of automation and large machines that required employees to be on-site in a warehouse or work facility. It wasn’t until the 1970s when the concept of telecommuting (re)emerged and began to stick.
Since then, working remotely has risen through the ranks with the increasing availability of remote desktop software, mobile technology, cloud platforms, etc. But for some reason, it’s still not the “norm.”
There’s still a stigma around remote work—that it’s unproductive, distracting, and costly to the company in terms of “wasted” employee hours. (I don’t have to remind you about Yahoo’s famous ban on remote work in 2013.) But I personally think there a handful of things that people get wrong about working remotely that I’d like to clear up.
The Benefits of Remote Work
While remote work programs are still in their adolescence, there are a number of companies who are already realizing the benefits to their business. Top companies like Dell, Xerox, Citrix are among the most forward-thinking organizations in terms of offering full or partial work-from-home programs.
While working remote will never be a possibility for some professionals (specifically hands-on, trade, or similar), it is a reality for many today who hold one of the millions of tech-related jobs around the world. And in my mind, working remotely allows them (and their companies) to realize a number of physical, psychological, and financial benefits:
Offices are actually incredibly distracting places. From water cooler chatter to drive-by check-ins from other employees, it’s hard to get anything done.
But an experiment of a Chinese call center concluded that employees who were able to work from home were actually 13% more productive than their in-office counterparts, which they said was due to the quieter working conditions at home. The experiment even showed that employees working from home took fewer breaks and sick days.
Company Benefit: Higher Employee Productivity
When work is uninterrupted, employees are able to engage in deeper focus, not only helping them complete their work more efficiently, but more thoughtfully and intentionally too.
Lack of Commute
U.S. Census Bureau surveys report that 10.8 million Americans suffer through a commute that’s over an hour long each way. That’s more than 10 hours per week of stress and stationary activity that employees could be used to exercise, read, spend time with family, etc.—things that have been found to have a positive impact on human/employee well-being and productivity.
Company Benefit: Healthier Employees
Remote employees have the freedom to bypass the commute or significantly decrease it by choosing a workspace much closer to their home (like a coffee shop or coworking space), which allows them to get online faster and with a much lower stress level.
Productive, High-Performing Culture
I think there a lot of CEOs that are especially concerned that remote employees might not work as hard or that they won’t be able to contribute to a hard-working culture if they aren’t in the office every day. But team communication, document sharing, and conferencing technology have advanced so much that entire companies are now opting for a completely remote work style. The truth is, being remote forces employees to make better use of company time—cutting tardy meeting attendance, water cooler chatter, and even office gossip and politics because of lack of proximity.
Company Benefit: Increased Intentionality
Yes, there can be distractions in a work-from-home environment. And getting ahold of your remote workers (whether because they’re unavailable or because of time zones) at a moment’s notice isn’t as easy as it would be to walk over to their desk in an office setting. But remote teams certainly aren’t impossible. Remote work requires greater intentionality of managing teams through the best tools and practices.
No Physical Boundaries When Working Remote.
Best of all, working remote is…well…remote. It allows employees to choose where they feel most comfortable and productive. It gives them the freedom to take their work with them while traveling or vacationing, keeping connectivity high regardless of proximity. It allows sick or recovering employees to check-in and stay in the know wherever they are. Most importantly, remote work allows you to widen your talent pool so you can choose the best team members, whether they’re located across town or across the country.
Company Benefit: Hire Top Talent
When you open your company up to the possibility of remote work, you remove limits of having to hire local and expand your search to the most talented professionals around the world. As long as you set remote employees up for success, remote work has tremendous benefits to your company’s culture, productivity, and ability to innovate.
No, remote work may not be for everyone or every business. It takes trust, boundaries, and a stellar internet connection. But for those who can make it work, working from home has tremendous benefits, both for the employee and the employer. The main thing everyone gets wrong about working remotely? That it isn’t here to stay. Technology has made it more doable than ever.
So before you hesitate to make it a reality in your company, consider: does working remote makes sense for your company, and if so, how much longer can you keep from instituting a work from home policy? The gig economy has made it more enticing than ever for professionals to work from home. If you don’t set up the proper tools and plan to make remote work a possibility, perhaps your competitors will.