As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to traverse the globe, more and more employers are taking precautions by requiring their employees to work remotely. This will be many people’s first time working from home, as well as many employers’ first time managing remote employees.
One of the bright sides in this otherwise gloomy time is that the template for successfully working remotely already exists. Even before news of the outbreak reached our shores, roughly 40 percent of the U.S. workforce was already working remotely in some capacity (and 80 to 90 percent would really like the opportunity to do so).
I experienced the world of remote work for the first time several years ago when I began working from home two days a week. I noticed I was able to get more work done at home than in the office. I also got more time back in my day to take care of personal and family obligations. I’ve been working from home full time for about three years now, and it’s been a game changer — both for myself and for employers all across the country.
Despite the mutual benefits to employers and the workforce, many companies are still hesitant to pull the trigger on workplace flexibility for a variety of reasons. So, if you’re concerned about the potential impacts to your business by offering remote work today or in the future, let’s break down some of the key benefits of working from home — today and in a post-COVID-19 world — for everyone involved:
For the Employee
- Improved work-life balance
When I worked in an office, it took me an hour to 90 minutes to commute to work. And I don’t even live in one of the top five cities known for soul-crushing commutes. I typically worked 11- to 12-hour days, so when I got home I had to rush to get dinner started or pick something up. As a single mom, I missed out on so much precious time with my son.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that commuting is a complete waste of time (unless you’re one of those people who actually enjoys listening to audiobooks and podcasts or learning a new language while navigating stop-and-go traffic). For me, it was all pain, zero gain. Sometimes, it was even a loss, because I was exhausted and frazzled by the time I even got into the office.
Working from home has proved invaluable in terms of helping me juggle my work and personal life. I can take my son to school and doctor’s appointments without having to frantically rush back to the office (I can take myself to doctor’s appointments much more easily than I could before, too). I can be there for every milestone, big and small, in his life. All this leaves more hours in the day for … everything. This flexibility makes it so much easier to plan my schedule.
- Increased productivity
As great as your coworkers are (and I have some great ones!), working from home eliminates the near-constant distractions you simply can’t avoid when working in an office. I’m not talking about work-related questions and meetings. I’m talking about the steady stream of non-work-related interruptions. The well-meaning “How was your weekend?” or “Did you watch the latest episode of [insert wildly popular TV show here]?” People repeatedly coming and going. “Quick questions” your coworkers could truly answer themselves. Some people need this level of interaction and community with their coworkers, and that’s okay. For others, it continually breaks their concentration, resulting in lower productivity and quality of work.
Not being able to physically see your coworkers in real time really cuts down on the number of interruptions, making it easier to focus and get more done. Technology such as RingCentral, Glip, Slack, Google Hangouts, and Skype make it easier than ever to stay connected with your team members and your clients, wherever they may be. You can even go old school and use the phone from time to time. You’re still communicating, just in a different way, so you can still build that bond and deeper relationship with your team.
- Time and money savings
I’ve already talked about the many benefits of ditching the commute. Even though the average commute time has increased by only four minutes since the 1990s, that adds up to an additional 36.4 hours spent in traffic each year. You also end up saving time by eliminating all the driving back and forth between the office and things like doctor’s appointments and running home to meet the plumber. Getting that time back means you can use it to be more productive in all areas of your life.
In addition to gaining back the time you would normally spend commuting to and from work, you also save on fuel and the car maintenance associated with all that increased mileage. Not to mention overpriced lunches and professional attire. I don’t know about you, but I personally do not wear a power suit and heels in my home office. And both those things cost more than a hoodie, leggings, and pair of tennis shoes combined. It’s estimated that employees who work from home even half the time can expect to save somewhere between $2,000 to $6,500 each year.
- It’s a literal benefit
The ability to work remotely is a benefit that not all companies offer, yet it pays you back in so many ways (see #1-3 above). That’s probably why half of the respondents to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report said they would leave their current employer if they found an opportunity to work remotely full-time. Thirty-seven percent would even leave for the chance to work remotely some of the time.
People have also literally quantified the value of working remotely in terms of overall compensation. In one study, workers said they’d accept an eight percent decrease in salary for flexible work hours and a four percent reduction to be able to work from home. Just like your medical, dental, and vision coverage, a flexible work schedule can improve your health and wellbeing — and is something to consider as part of a company’s overall benefits package.
- It’s better for the environment
Who else benefits from slashing the dreaded daily commute? The environment, that’s who. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels also cuts down on pollution and our collective carbon footprint. Since roughly 4.7 million U.S. employees now work from home 50 percent or more of the time, this really adds up. The same applies for work travel. All the great technology I mentioned earlier works just as well for meetings with out-of-state and international team members and clients. With video conference software aplenty, you can still get important context and that personal touch from hand gestures and facial expressions — without involving airplanes.
Additionally, people who work in an office tend to eat out more than remote workers, which creates tons of waste (literally). Single-use plastics have been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason. Some of the biggest offenders are fast-food chains and restaurants. Don’t even get me started on Styrofoam containers and all those single-use sauce packets. People who work from home tend to eat out a lot less, which, again, adds up. And making a positive impact on the environment is something we can all feel good about.
For the Employer
- Improved employee loyalty and retention
The flip side of a better work-life balance? Your employees appreciate the trust and flexibility you’ve provided them, so they’re less likely to leave in search of greener pastures. Employers that provide flexible work options actually experience 25 percent less employee turnover. This maintains organizational momentum, employee morale, and your organization’s collective knowledge base, while saving time and money on recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires.
A study found that 82 percent of professionals would be more loyal to their current employer if they offered flexible work options, and 39 percent had already quit their job because they couldn’t work remotely (or turned down an offer with another company because it meant they would lose their current ability to work remotely). When it comes down to it, all the benefits of remote work often outweigh increased salary offers and benefits packages from other employers. In all honesty, I can say I would forego a higher salary to continue working from home.
- Increased productivity and better decision-making
While employees appreciate the improved focus that comes with fewer distractions, employers directly benefit from an associated increase in productivity. According to a Stanford survey, remote employees are 13 percent more productive than those in an office. Remote work has also been associated with a reduction in absenteeism, which has been shown to cause a 36.6 percent loss in productivity and cost $1,685 per employee each year. Presenteeism, where your employees are physically in the office but not productive, is a much bigger problem. It’s been found to cost businesses 10 times more than absenteeism.
When employees have more time and flexibility to take care of both their personal and work responsibilities, they tend to notice a reduction in stress. And it makes sense that people who are less stressed tend to be more productive and make better, less reactive decisions. They also tend to make healthier decisions, like getting enough sleep, making time for exercise, and not reaching for a quick sugar fix to keep going, all of which play an important role in terms of decision-making and productivity.
- Time and money savings
Think about all the expenses associated with people coming into an office each day (or just ask your facilities manager): office space, office and IT equipment/supplies, electricity, paper towels, water, snacks and beverages (if you provide them), to name just a few. Fewer people coming into a physical office immediately translates into a cost savings for your business.
As I mentioned above, when employees improve their work-life balance, they often take better care of themselves. They tend to eat at home more, they can fit in exercise when it’s more convenient, and they can more easily schedule doctor’s appointments. So, it’s not a stretch to assume that medical costs will ultimately go down over time. And when your employees do get sick, they can more easily keep up with the workload from home and — more importantly — not lower productivity by coming into the office and getting your other employees sick, as well.
- Improved recruitment and hiring efforts
Offering flexible work options can make your organization more attractive to potential candidates, which helps to reduce hiring costs. Furthermore, you’re able to hire talent you may not otherwise have discovered or have been able to persuade to join your company.
If you’re a smaller business, offering remote positions can make you more competitive with larger organizations when it comes to finding, securing, and retaining talent. Many Millennials, who make up the majority of today’s workforce, may not even consider working for a company if a remote work option isn’t available. In fact, 42 percent of them already do some kind of freelance work, up from 38 percent in 2014.
- It’s better for the environment
More people working from home means fewer cars on the road and a reduced office footprint, meaning companies can play a big role in reducing carbon emissions and slowing global warming. A few years ago, when 3.9 million employees worked from home in some capacity, it was the equivalent of eliminating 7.8 billion vehicle miles and 3 million tons of greenhouse gases for a year. Which is similar to what you would get if you took 600,000 vehicles off the road. Corporate Sustainability Reports have become more commonplace over the past two decades for a reason: many employees, prospective hires, and even customers expect companies to be better stewards of the environment, making it a competitive differentiator in a tight market.
Remote work is here to stay
While remote work will definitely be a part of life for many over the coming month, all signs point toward a flexible work environment continuing to be a competitive differentiator for both hiring — and retaining — top talent in the long term.
The benefits of remote work are far from one-sided: truly everyone (and the planet!) wins. And these are just a few of the benefits that flexible work options provide. What else have you found to be a benefit of working remotely?
Check out these 7 tips to remain focused and productive while working from home.
Tina Hancock is a DemandGen Campaign Manager. As part of our Campaign Execution Services Team, she helps support client goals by quantifying objectives and developing supporting strategies that help ensure flawless client campaign execution and aim to turn our clients into marketing heroes.