Would it surprise you to know that up to 90 percent of the U.S. workforce says they would like to telecommute at least part time? Some aren’t waiting for permission, but gradually changing the perception of what’s acceptable office protocol.
Plenty of companies are offering remote working options to their employees, but there are some stalwarts who believe the most productive employees “come” to work every day. Still, other companies draw the line at sales execs or field techs. IDC forecasts the U.S. mobile worker population will grow at a steady rate to nearly 106 million by 2020. Unless sales and field technician positions explode, this means many jobs will move from the traditional office locale to an alternative site or sites.
Some of the hesitation to open this can of worms is that employees will slack off if not under constant supervision. Data security and communication are other concerns, although these are becoming less of an issue thanks to modern technology, such as cloud computing and employee communication software. The key, however, is to leverage existing and emerging technologies, set expectations, communicate frequently, and devise a measurement benchmark to evaluate performance.
5 Reasons Why Employees Should Work Remotely
If you’re skeptical or simply wondering why all the fuss around mobility, here are 5 reasons why offering employees the ability to work remotely should be on your list of to-dos for 2017:
1. Technology Evens The Playing Field
It used to be that only in-office employees had access to the technology, systems, and applications needed to do their jobs. Out of office meant, quite literally, that you were out of any office, on vacation, at an appointment, or otherwise indisposed. Today, however, out of office may mean lots of things, including on the road and working just the same.
Our mobile devices, the cloud, and mobile apps make working out of the office not only possible but quite enjoyable for many. Data is no longer locked inside on-premise servers and accessed only by a desktop computer located nearby. Employees can be just as productive from a home or shared office, an airport, a car, or even a Starbucks as they are sitting in a cubicle on the third floor. In the IDC report mentioned above, the key drivers for the shift towards mobile working are “the affordability of smartphones and tablets, combined with the growing acceptance of corporate bring your own device (BYOD) programs.”
Thanks to our devices, companies can communicate with their employees no matter where they are located around the globe. Employee communication software makes connecting with co-workers simple, as well as sending and receiving internal communications. With remote workers comes the challenge of reaching every one of them on whichever device they may be carrying, on any channel they may prefer.
Gone are the days where email and phone were all a company needed to notify employees of important information or alerts. Today, email and phone have good company with SMS texting, app push notifications, social media posts, and custom channels. These expanded communication options make it possible to reach the most remote field worker or the guy on the other side of your office wall in the same amount of time with the messages only they need to receive. Segmenting groups of employees by topic, location, or job is simple and sending targeted messaging, even emergency alerts, is instant across any and all channels, ensuring no message is missed.
2. It’s A Recruitment and Retention Lure
Millennials and Gen Xers make up the majority of today’s workforce and are increasingly attracted to companies who offer some flexibility in working environments. Ernst & Young found that 75 percent of millennials want the ability to work flexibly and still be on track for promotion and 74 percent of them want colleagues and supervisors who support them being able to work flexibly without stigma.
A whopping 82 percent of employees say they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. This flexibility enables them to have better work/life balance, spend more time with family and friends, save time and stress commuting, and even help them be more healthy.
What’s more, companies gain access to an entirely new pool of potential recruits when they open up to applicants that are from non-local areas. Instead of only hiring candidates in and around the city of company location, employee communication software gives them the option to hire from across the nation or globe. Being that one study showed the majority of CIOs said skill shortage was a concern, this could be a game changer.
3. It Can Reduce Costs
IDC also reports that 69 percent of enterprise mobility stakeholders polled saw a reduction in opex or capex costs as a result of implementing BYOD programs. Another study found the average company could save more than $11,000 per employee each year by permitting them to telecommute. Where are all these savings coming from? No office space means no real estate, no desk, chair or other overhead costs, not to mention electricity or supplies.
But the cost to companies is just the tipping point. Telecommuters themselves have much to gain by working remotely. One study puts a dollar figure of up to $7,000 of savings per year per person as transportation and clothing costs can be slashed. Going even further, greenhouse reduction from having fewer people traveling is estimated to be the equivalent of taking every working person in the state of New York off the road forever. All of these cost savings is estimated at saving a total of over $700 billion a year.
4. It Can Improve Productivity
Contrary to its reputation, a mobile workforce can be even more productive than their on-premise counterparts. One ironic finding is that 76 percent of people avoid the office when they want to get work done!
Working remotely can offer a quieter workspace with fewer interruptions and distractions from well-meaning co-workers. Hey, we all like cake in the breakroom and water cooler banter, but how much productivity is lost engaging in such activities on a regular basis? Loud colleagues, chatty coworkers, and impromptu meetings can dampen even the productivity of even the most dedicated worker. But by implementing employee communication software you’re giving your people the opportunity to be more productive while working remotely and still being connected.
Working remotely also generally means employees work longer hours with fewer and shorter breaks, do not have to build commuting into their work schedule, and often work some on weekends and vacations. Even with all of the extra hours, most remote workers want this flexibility and at least in one survey, 91 percent of them believe they get more work done when working remotely.
5. It Can Improve Morale
In one survey of over 200,000 employees across all work arrangements, remote workers scored 8.1 out of a possible 10 when asked, “How happy are you at work?” Their on-premise counterparts? They scored a 7.4. The flexibility and freedom remote workers enjoy seems to be the attraction. When people can achieve a greater work/life balance, they are generally happier and more content with their current job situation, appreciating the fact that things could be markedly different if they worked in an office.
This same study found remote workers actually feel more valued than their counterparts. Perhaps because they are more productive and achieving their goals, they are being recognized for their efforts, in spite of their work environments. They also have to spend less time and energy on office politics, something few of us enjoy.
For some remote workers, however, there can be a social disconnect. While some enjoy the privacy and independence, others may feel isolated and crave social interaction. Where there’s demand, there will be supply and that’s just what’s happening in a new working environment called “coworking spaces.” Here, workers can “rent” space within a space to work alongside other remote workers from different companies and industries who want a little camaraderie and community as well as to share in office costs.
Working remotely isn’t possible for everyone or every job position, but it is becoming more and more popular amongst many U.S. workers. Both employers and employees can experience significant benefits from such an arrangement. It’s worth the time to evaluate how your organization can bring mobility options to the forefront of its operating strategy by investing in employee communication software. One thing we know for sure, this is a trend that doesn’t show signs of slowing.