Remote work and telecommuting are not truly defined as the same thing. However, they are similar when it comes to working away from a physical office with the ability to avoid a commute each day. A remote worker is one that can work remotely any place in a geographical sense. A telecommuter may have an office they can go to, but work all or a few days from home.
With today’s technology and an increasing number of companies competing globally, it only makes sense to offer remote work to employees. Yet, a majority of businesses small and large are still resisting the opportunity to offer employees the chance to work from home entirely or a percentage of the time. Moreover, some corporations that previously allowed remote workers are now calling them back to work in a physical office.
Why don’t more companies offer remote or telecommute work?
Although some companies would argue that remote and telecommute work does not support good communication or collaboration, surveys and statistics on working away from an office do not support this. The true reason is control and trust. It is more challenging to know when a person is working and when they are not if they are not in an office.
There are numerous reasons employers will give for not allowing a worker to telecommute in addition to the argument for good communication and collaboration. The problem is not many of these arguments hold up very well given today’s technology. With email, video conferencing and the endless possibilities of the internet, there are quite a few jobs that would be fine away from a physical location all employees work at.
Companies that are resistant to letting employees work remotely entirely or telecommute a few days a week is the result of failed leadership in business. They do not either recognize the benefits of letting people work outside of a traditional office space or have a corporate culture and management team that does not support remote work. The lack of trust and control they are not able to let go of can only hurt a business. There are too many benefits both employees and companies gain from remote or telecommute work.
How does a business benefit from allowing people to work away from a traditional office?
The number one reason more businesses should consider remote telecommute workers is to save money. Although some companies might claim they do allow it as a benefit for their workers, the real reason is saving money. In the case of a business that has all remote workers, they save a tremendous amount of money on not having to buy or rent office space. Remote workers also typically purchase their own internet and phone service. Having remote workers also makes it possible to hire people as independent contractors. This would go even further in saving a company on benefits.
In addition to savings on office space, some workers consider the option to work from home as a real benefit. A survey by flexjobs.com found that 28% of the respondents surveyed stated they would take a pay cut in exchange for telecommuting. The savings from allowing remote or telecommute work can be substantial.
It can be difficult to believe, but studies have shown productivity actually increases with workers that are remote or telecommute. The reason for this is the number of distractions is often limited compared to an office setting with co-workers. No more discussions by the water cooler or wasted time having conversations with others that are not related to getting work done. It is much easier for an employee to be more efficient and productive without distractions.
Attract Top Talent
Having a culture that accepts remote workers can attract top talent to hire. If there is no physical office location where a star job candidate lives, a company can just let them work remotely. There would not be a need to have them relocate as a condition of employment.
Even just allowing a worker to telecommute a few days a week and spend time in the office the remainder of a week could be a benefit to attract the best job candidates. The flexibility of working from home just a few days a week is considered a real benefit to many people. A survey from flexjobs.com found that 61% of the respondents stated they have left a company or have considered leaving because there is no flexibility at their current job.
Lower Employee Turnover
Having the flexibility of working away from an office is something workers say they want. The study by flexjobs.com revealed that 76% of the people surveyed said they would be more loyal to an employer with flexible work options. The truth is that flexibility from remote or telecommute work makes people much happier and content in their job. This only results in lower employee turnover.
Increase Hours of Operation
With remote workers, the hours a business is open or offers customer service could be increased. A workday consisting of 8am to 5pm is not the same for someone located in another part of the country or world on a different time zone. Offering a better customer experience from an increase in operating hours will benefit just about any business and have a positive impact.
A natural disaster that occurs with remote workers could also keep a business open. For example, if a business is located in an area prone to earthquakes and there is one, it might be able to stay open with workers taking over in another part of the country or world.
Remote Work Makes Communication More Important
Although a business that is resistant to remote or telecommute workers would claim that communication suffers, this is generally not the case. Because people are not in the same location, there is an emphasis on the importance of communication. This can result in improved teamwork. With the technology available today, there is no reason people cannot effectively communicate when they are in different locations around the country or world.
Positive Impact on the Environment
Allowing workers to be remote or telecommute can reduce the carbon footprint. They would either only be commuting to work a few days a week or not at all. The savings on smog generating automobiles saves the planet. Some companies would claim they are entirely remote because they are green and want to save the planet. This may be the case, but the true first reason is likely to save money. It’s a nice thought, but I don’t believe a company would allow only remote workers because they are saving the planet. It’s good for Public Relations, but an overall saving in overhead is the true reason.
How do employees benefit from remote or telecommute work?
Employees that are able to work remotely without commuting to an office report better health. This is due to having more personal time available. This results in more time spent with family and friends. In addition, the extra time allows a better schedule to exercise.
Lower stress from not having to commute to an office each day also improves the health and well-being of workers. Better health results in less sick time, which is a benefit to both an employer and employee.
Employees Can Plan Their Own Workday
With some jobs, the work just needs to get done at some point during the day. A person that telecommutes or works fully remote can plan their own work schedule. Maybe they decide to work four hours early in the morning and then another four hours in the evening.
An employee that can plan out their own workday and not be constrained to a rigid schedule is able to get more personal items done that could interrupt a formal schedule. This reduces the need for a person to falsely call in sick or make an excuse as to why they might be late to work.
Money Savings Also Benefits the Employee
Just like a business saves money with remote or telecommute workers, the employee’s themselves also save money. By not commuting to an office there is a saving in transportation costs. Things, such as gas and the wear on a car, are savings that can add up to thousands of dollars per year.
If an office setting requires professional clothing, the cost of dry cleaning could also be reduced or eliminated. This can be big savings in a year’s time as well.
With a fully remote worker, there can be large savings by living in a geographic area that has a low cost of living. For example, if a company had its main office in California where living expenses are high, a remote worker could live in a state like Georgia or Tennessee where the cost of living is much lower.
Most workers would like the option to work remotely at least some of the time. With the benefits of better health, lower costs, and flexibility, it should not be surprising that many people would like the option to work outside of a traditional office workspace. A report by buffer.com on the state of remote work in 2019 showed that 99% of the people surveyed wanted the option to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their career.
Is there a downside to having employees work away from a centralized location?
The simple answer to if there are issues with telecommuting or remote workers is yes. The one disadvantage to the employer is some workers may abuse the benefit of working remotely. This comes back to the trust an employer must have in their employees.
Feelings of isolation could also be a negative for an employee that works outside of a structured office environment. In addition, some workers have reported that relationships may suffer and not having actual face time could result in not getting promoted.
More employers should offer remote or telecommute work.
The report on the state of remote work by buffer.com showed that only 33% of the respondents worked for a company that offered some remote work. With today’s available technology and reports showing that workers are generally happier with some flexibility, it is surprising more employers do not hire with the option to be remote or telecommute.
With the number one item being trust and control for a company to allow work to be remote, employers really need to get over this. If a company has workers they can’t trust, it should be important to discover this quickly so a distrustful employee is replaced.
As a potential new hire interviewing with an employer that does not offer at least some telecommute work, this sends a message that the employer wants to monitor and control people. For many professionals, this is not the type of place they would want to work for.
More employers do need to open up to the concept of allowing employees to work remotely. It is not for everyone, but for many workers, it is something they desire to have at least part-time. Allowing or at least trying it on a trial basis should be something to consider for many businesses that can work with remote employees and teams. Both the employee and employer benefit from the arrangement.
My own experience with remote work.
The last three corporate job positions I have had in my career could have all been easily done working at least part of the time telecommuting or entirely by being remote. I can say for two of the three it was discussed, but everyone knew the employer had a difficult time giving up control. There was also the issue of trust with some workers while others would have no issues not being monitored. The trustful ones would do the job just as well from home or another location.
The last corporate employer I had was a fully remote position. The experience a person has with being a remote employee will depend on the position and the employer. The job position I had required someone to be available between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm. This made it seem more like a structured office job rather than working from a home office. However, I can say for certain that I was able to accomplish more at home than I ever could in a traditional office. Being this was a similar position to one I previously held; I was able to determine that limited interruptions made a big difference in getting work done.
The only drawback I found with working remotely was the hours spent on the job. These were actually probably more than I had in a traditional office setting. This shows to me that a remote employee can indeed be more dedicated and productive, which are the results from many of the studies on remote workers.
Are you an employer that does not offer remote or telecommute work?
If you are an employer that does not currently offer at least part-time telecommute work, you are missing out on attracting the best job candidates as the research shows many are looking for some type of flexibility. The cost savings alone should be reason enough to start looking at remote or telecommute work. With many businesses moving to a more global structure now or at some point in the near future, remote workers will need to be an option.