Out Of Sight, But Not Out Of Mind — Why Remote Workers Are Becoming A Non-Negotiable Reality

Twenty-five years ago, the idea of working remotely was mostly nonexistent. Keeping a career and forgoing the commute to the office was a fantasy reserved for a small and eclectic portion of the workforce. “Working from home” was a distant concept for most people beyond the realm of novelists, screenwriters and the occasional consultant.

Today, however, remote employees are a fundamental part of the modern workforce. Working where you choose no longer conjures the image of Ernest Hemingway pecking on a typewriter in a far off and beautiful bazaar; instead it refers to the more than 4.3 million full-time workers in the U.S. who now own the title of “remote employee.” Thanks to a globalized economy and in part the proliferation of advanced collaboration technology, “regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140 percent since 2005.”

The now common practice of allowing teams to collaborate between thousands of miles is a natural response to the pressures that have shaped the modern economy. Influences like the high cost of living on coastal cities, a move away from manufacturing and hands-on occupations, and a changing culture and set of expectations from younger workers have all shaped the evolving work environment.

While remote work comes with its own set of challenges, it’s beginning to look less like a perk and more like a strategy that employers must give serious consideration.

The potential cost savings are hard to ignore

The act of getting people to an office and home again each day is an incredibly time consuming and expensive process. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 10 million people travel more than an hour each way for work. The sum of fuel costs, maintenance and repair, and impact on infrastructure is enormous. Research from Global Workplace Analytics suggests that if all those in the U.S. who have compatible jobs were able to work remotely just part of the time, it would save taxpayers, employees and employers $700 billion a year.

Today’s collaboration tools bypass yesterday’s roadblocks

While a large portion of today’s work can be performed remotely, it’s the lack of face-to-face interaction and collaboration that have stood in the way of many employers embracing telecommuting. Today’s advanced team collaboration tools like Slack, Trello and GoToMeeting are making that argument difficult to make. Tools such as instant messaging, video conferencing and virtual reality office spaces, from companies like Dream, are making remote teams more connected every year.

Fighting your employees is no longer an option

Full-time remote workers aside, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that 6.5 million people work in “contingent” or “alternative work arrangements.” As labor needs continue to shift to the “gig economy,” freelance and contract based work will become the norm for more people. With this shift in work culture comes a greater need for autonomy and tools for collaboration.

That, coupled with the fact that 90 percent of all employees say they would like to work remotely at least part of the time, leaves employers in no position to realistically refuse remote work. NextPlane can offer workplace collaboration solutions to help teams collaborate on their own terms, removing a major barrier to a productive remote workforce.

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