For decades, white-collar employees have labored under the glare of fluorescent bulbs in cubicle farms dreaming of corner office windows from which they might catch a glimpse of the outdoor world. The traditional drab office atmosphere is so cliched that it has become a trope for depicting modern work as alienating drudgery.
But we are in a new era! As telecommunication technology advances, it’s connecting people in far-flung places and expanding options for where they can work. Now, those toiling from home can enjoy a corner office — or, at least, a window with a view.
Most companies are looking for ways to increase productivity and keep employees engaged, and most of their strategies are coming up short. Having snacks in the office can only go so far when it comes to boosting employee efficiency and morale. Enter: remote work. Not only has remote work been proven to boost productivity and morale; it saves money, is eco-friendly, and contributes to a healthier work-life balance.
Remote Work on the Rise
Remote work, or, working outside of an office, has become a prominent feature of 21st century tech culture. Though the practice is not yet standard for businesses, it is increasing in popularity, especially among large firms and within the human services world. Since 2005, the number of employees who work from home has grown by 115%, meaning that the telecommuter population grew 3x faster than the employee population as a whole. In the last five years, the number of employers offering flexible workplace options has increased by 40% and this trend shows no sign of slowing down.
There has been some debate about whether allowing employees to work remotely is beneficial or detrimental when it comes to productivity and the bottom line. As a fully remote company, here at Bitfocus we have a vested interest in diving into this topic. Well, the research is in and it’s shining a positive light on remote work for both employers and employees.
What are the benefits of remote work?
1. It saves money.
Telework’s growth in popularity is due to several factors. Among them is its agreeable effect on budgets, for both companies and employees. Businesses that allow their workers to spend at least half of their time working from home save an average of $11,000 per person per year, while those workers each save between $2,000 and $7,000 annually.
The Federal Government, looking to add some slack in its budget, has also researched the cost savings of allowing remote work for certain positions. The CBO found that even though the upfront price of implementing telework throughout federal offices would be $30 million, it’s still only a third of the cost incurred by a single day of a government shutdown due to inclement weather.
2. It helps with employee retention.
Telework helps businesses attract and retain talent, and it’s becoming increasingly sought after. In all, 80% to 90% of US employees say they’re interested in remote work. Millennials now make up about 68% of those on the hunt for a new job, and surveys show that they largely prefer remote work. They’re not the only ones. Senior employees also say they are interested in telecommuting, because it offers more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Mature workers can continue to benefit companies with their institutional knowledge and valuable experience while maintaining family relationships and healthier lifestyles.
Remote work allows firms to source talent from all across the globe. The Bitfocus team, for example, includes members from Canada, Europe, and every region of the United States.
3. It reduces your carbon footprint.
Telecommuting is an attractive and practical option for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Since people who work from home drive less on average than those who have to commute, they generate less pollution and consume less fuel. In 2007, the US Patent Office calculated that the 3,609 employees who participated in its telework program saved 613,000 gallons of gas and emitted 9,600 fewer tons of carbon. Many private firms have estimated similar results.
4. It increases productivity and efficiency.
The most important consideration for employers and clients, however, is whether remote work is just as good for productivity as traditional office-based work. The answer is: yes! Despite the stereotype, remote employees are on average more productive than their cubicle-contained counterparts. The preponderance of research supports this.
For example, a recent study by Stanford University found that the quality and quantity of home-based labor exceeded office-based labor by 15%. This report corroborates the testimonies of employees and employers alike. A survey conducted by the firm, SurePayroll, records that two-thirds of managers believe that their workers are more productive when telecommuting and 86% of workers surveyed said that they’re most productive when alone.
A little reflection and some empirical research explain why remote-workers are such a benefit to their employers:
- They’re more focused.
Many office-settings are notorious for disturbances such as office politics, talkative and loud coworkers, and impromptu meetings. With all these distractions, it’s not surprising that office workers are absent from their desks at least half of the time. At-home employees can avoid such diversions and focus instead on their responsibilities.
- They’re less stressed.
The quieter surroundings of a home office also promote a low-stress environment. According to a study by PGi, 82% of workers say they feel less stressed while working remotely. This boost in morale means that companies with a high number of telecommuters often experience lower turnover and retain more engaged employees, according to the Harvard Business Review.
- They bring their employers a broader geographic presence.
Since many remote employees operate in different time zones, they can better serve the needs of their clients located in a diversity of places and contexts. An increased geographic presence means the scope of a company’s working hours may be significantly expanded, allowing them to be more available to clients. It also means that the company can do a better job “staying in touch” with the cultural, social, and political contexts of the communities they serve.
So, when the mention of home-based work conjures images of distracted employees doing laundry or surfing the internet instead of analyzing spreadsheets, remember: the bulk of evidence suggests that those employees are more productive, happier, and easier on the budget than their office-based counterparts.
At Bitfocus, we are proud to have cultivated a company environment known for its innovation and collaboration. Are you interested in joining the team? Check out our open positions.
Bell Corporate Responsibility Report: 2007 Bell Corporate Responsibility Report
Global Workplace Analytics: Pros and Cons
Lifewire: Telecommute to Save the Environment
PGi Study: State of Telecommuting 2014 | PGi Report PGi
SurePayroll Survey: How to Be More Productive