If you're thinking of joining a distributed workforce, here are some things you should know.
Just because someone is working from home doesn’t mean they’re sitting in front of their TV watching Netflix in their pyjamas. Recent research has found that remote workers are actually more productive than employees who head into the office every day.
Today, more and more people are beginning to work remotely. According to a recent Gallup survey, 43 percent of employed Americans spend at least some time working remotely every week. Of these people, 34 percent spend four to five days working outside the office — an 11 percent increase from 2012.
It’s no wonder — remote work has a number of perks for employees, from boosting productivity, increasing happiness to engaging employees. The perks of a remote workforce aren’t just for employees though. Research has found that a distributed workforce not only cuts costs for a business, but there’s less turnover at companies and hiring processes are more efficient.
Of course, not everything can be perfect and working remotely does come with its own set of challenges, including job intensity and work-life balance. So, if you’re thinking about working remotely or having a distributed team, here are 17 things you need to know.
There is less turnover with remote workers.
When people get to work outside the office, they’re more likely to stay at a company. The State of Remote Work 2017 report by OWL Labs and TINYpulse found that companies that support remote work have a 25 percent lower employee turnover rate compared to companies that don’t.
The hiring process is faster.
Sometimes, a company’s hiring process can take weeks and even months. However, if these companies switched to a distributed workforce they might be able to fix this problem. According to the State of Remote Work 2017 report, companies with a fully distributed workforce take 33 percent less time hiring new employees.
Most remote workers are in sales.
If you’re looking for a company that hires a mostly remote staff, your best bet is to look at careers in the sales industry. The State of Remote Work 2017 report found that compared to industries such as marketing, engineering, customer service, IT and finance, sales hires remote employees 66 percent more often than the average.
Small companies hire more remote employees.
Don’t look at big companies for remote work. According to the State of Remote Work 2017 report, small companies are twice as likely to hire full-time remote employees.
Managers are less likely to work remotely.
When it comes to the types of employees who work remotely, you’re more likely to find “individual contributors” working out of the office than managers. The State of Remote Work 2017 found that full-time remote employees are twice as likely to be individual contributors than people in management positions.
Remote workers are more productive.
A recent study found that remote workers are actually more productive than regular employees. “Our study shows that employers benefit from increased effort as workers strive to show that working remotely is not a slacker's charter,” said study co-author Alan Felstead.
Remote workers have trouble “switching off.”
For non-remote employees, it’s important for many to leave work at the office and focus on their personal non-work related lives outside the office. Unfortunately, remote workers don’t have this advantage. Whether they are working at a coffee shop or home office, the same study found that remote workers struggle to “switch off” and unwind after their workday. “Remote workers find greater difficulty in redrawing the boundaries between work and non-work life,” Felstead shared.
Remote workers are happier.
Just because remote workers might struggle to draw the line between their work and personal lives, it doesn’t mean they're unhappy. In fact, the same study discovered that remote workers had higher levels of organizational commitment and job satisfaction, ultimately resulting in an overall increase in job-related well-being.
Remote jobs are more intense.
When you’re not in an office, communicating in-person with a boss or manager, it can be difficult for others to understand your workload. In the study, researchers found job intensification to be higher for remote workers. Thirty-nine percent of remote workers said they often work extra hours, over the formal hours of their job, to get through all of their work or to help out.
Home is the best place to get work done.
A study by FlexJobs, which surveyed more than 5,500 workers, found that people actually prefer to work from home, especially when they have to get a lot of work done. Only 7 percent of workers said they get their most productive work done in the office, and to the contrary, the majority of participants said their homes were the best places to go when they “really need to get something done for work.”
Remote workers are more engaged.
While remote work can boost productivity, it can also boost employee engagement. According to the Gallup study, State of the American Workplace, employees who work remotely 60 to 80 percent of their time had higher rates of engagement compared to people who came into the office every day.
A distributed workforce can build stronger relationships.
Just because remote workers don’t see their bosses or colleagues on a daily basis doesn’t mean they don’t think relationship-building is important. In fact, even more so than regular employees, remote workers feel appreciated and that people at work care about them both professionally and personally. The Gallup study explains, “In spite of the additional time away from managers and co-workers, they are the most likely of all employees to strongly agree that someone at work cares about them as a person, encourages their development and has talked to them about their progress.”
Distributed teams reduce costs for businesses.
While this one’s a given, but the more people work remotely, the less businesses need to spend on real estate and overhead. In 2013, American Express, which has a program for remote, partially remote and in-office employees, admitted to saving $10 to $15 million annually in real estate costs.
There are less workplace interruptions.
When workers get sick or need to take a day off away from the office, that can not only cause an employee to fall behind, but also cost the company. According to information from the legal advocacy group A Better Balance, employee absences can cost a large business upwards of $1 million a year. Remote work cuts absenteeism by nearly 60 percent.
A distributed workforce helps the environment.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute time for workers across the U.S. is 26.4 minutes in 2015. However, year over year, the average commute time has increased and the number of people with extreme commutes — 90 minutes or longer — has also grown. Having a distributed workforce not only saves time for employees, but also cuts down a company’s carbon footprint. In 2012, Dell set a goal for half of its workplace to be remote by 2020, and by 2014 the company reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 6,700 metric tons.
Remote workers are healthier.
Sometimes it’s hard to jump on the treadmill or head to the gym after a long workday. However, remote workers manage to make the time. In an earlier survey by ConnectSolutions, 45 percent of remote workers get more sleep than on-site employees, 35 percent get more exercise and 42 percent eat healthier.
Remote workers have fewer expenses.
Remote workers don’t have to worry about spending money on gas or train tickets for their commutes, which can mean huge savings. On top of saving on travel, remote workers also spend less on dry cleaning, business clothes and lunches. According to ConnectSolutions, on average remote workers admitted to saving $5,240 by cutting out these expenses.