Remote employment has become one of the greatest gifts of the modern workforce. Let’s be honest: who doesn’t want to nix their commute for a little extra sleep, trade in work-casual button-ups for a favorite pair of slippers, or enjoy freshly made lunches right from the kitchen instead of reheated leftovers out of the communal microwave?
Those of us lucky enough to indulge in the occasional work-from-home day understand its beauty in small doses. But those who work remotely on a more permanent basis also learn its pitfalls.
Remote workers often face certain stigmas from on-site employees and managers when it comes to their level of commitment, professionalism, and dependability.
It’s time to embrace the remote worker as well as the work-from-home enthusiast. Stereotypes about remote employees aren’t just disrespectful to workers, but simply untrue. And in fact, investing in remote employees can be a smart move for many businesses, if they can look past these incorrect assumptions, that is.
A 2015 Gallup poll found that 37% of the US labor force are now working remotely. So what’s the real deal with remote employees?
Remote employees are as productive or more productive than on-site employees.
The biggest concern for business owners and managers when it comes to off-site employees is their productivity. After all, if no one is there to make sure they’re working, they could spend all day slacking off, right?
It’s time we give employees a little more credit. We’re all adults, and we don’t need someone looking over our shoulder or micromanaging our day-to-day tasks to stay productive. A good manager can communicate clear goals, set realistic deadlines, and empower their employees to increase efficiency, no matter where their employees are working from.
In fact, many scientific studies and surveys have shown that being off-site may actually improve productivity. One such study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that productivity increased 13.5% after permitting remote work.
How can this be? Offices create a lot more distraction that we like to think. For one, people can come up to us all day with questions which continuously breaks our concentration. And it takes time (one study found that it can take up to 25 minutes) to re-focused each time it’s broken. We’re also distracted by people around us making small talk, daily stand up meetings in the middle of the room, music playing overhead, office deliveries, frigid temperatures, etc. Being at home in a controlled environment where you can set every detail to your preference can create a super-space for productivity.
Collaborative technology and communication tools keep remote workers closer than ever before.
Certain jobs, like physical labor, simply can’t be done remotely. But many jobs nowadays can be completed from anywhere with the aid of a laptop computer, reliable wi-fi, and a few helpful collaboration tools. Messaging apps, project management products, and other modern tools are made with collaboration in mind.
Gone are the days of having to pick up a corded phone only to reach an answering machine. With this stream of constant communication and collaborative capabilities, being physically in an office has become an option, instead of a necessity, for getting most jobs done.
And for those still worried that managers will feel less in control, TINYpulse conducted a survey on the satisfaction and productivity of remote workers and found that 52% of respondents had daily contact with their managers, with an additional 34% reporting once a week interactions. This probably sounds pretty typical for even on-site employees, and they’re only a few chairs away.
Remote employees decrease overhead costs.
Many worry that costs associated with IT and equipment will make having a remote workforce more expensive. While it’s true that there are added shipping costs for providing initial home setups, remote workers actually end up saving companies money in the form of office space, including rent, furniture, copy machines/printers, maintenance, and in-office snacks and supplies. Overhead costs go down once you take into account how much all of these things cost per employee per year.
Company culture is about more than chatting with coworkers, and you can still foster a positive team culture.
Possibly the most substantial argument against remote workers is the concern that office camaraderie is harder to forge when employees don’t have daily interactions that establish report.
While everyone can agree that liking your coworkers and feeling loyalty towards your team are important aspects of employee retention, the real reason employees stay at a company for years isn’t for the small talk and work relationships. What employees want most is to feel appreciated, respected, and rewarded for a job well done. Providing these things for remote employees might require different strategies for implementing and delivering these procedures, but they’re easy enough to offset if a company is committed to doing so.
And for those still worried about employees missing out on camaraderie, there are plenty of growing trends for providing more digital socialization. You can set aside intentional meeting times for casual talk via video calls, create non-work related messaging channels that focus on topics like pets, kids, and sports, or you can host offsite meetups where everyone can get together. All of these can help foster a similar connection, and give remote employees a chance to loosen up a little with coworkers, even from afar.
Working remotely can provide employees with an effective environment for getting things done while also providing a satisfying work life. As long as employers ensure that remote employees aren’t unfairly stigmatized, and they implement processes and technologies to keep them connected, remote employees can be a big boost to the company and a positive experience for employees.