How remote workers can transform your business
And how commuting is hurting your employees — and their productivity
Remote work is more popular than ever — but what advantages could it offer your business?
Working from home might seem like a convenient opportunity for your employees to relax and avoid traffic and overpriced sandwiches.
But there are far bigger benefits.
And smart, forward-thinking companies are already leveraging them.
Employees in America who regularly work remotely increased from 39% to 43% of the workforce between 2012 and 2016, according to Gallup.
And the evidence suggests that remote workers are happier, more productive and better value.
Using apps to work from home and public spaces has shifted from being an occasional perk for established employees, to a popular style of employment — especially in tech companies.
Successful businesses including Buffer and Zapier are run by fully-remote teams that launch market-leading products and services — built in and marketed from home offices, coffee shops and co-working spaces around the planet.
So how can your business benefit from building a remote team?
Faster internet and collaborative apps like Slack, Basecamp, and Dropbox can explain how remote teams can collaborate and work remotely.
But these technologies don’t offer any intrinsic reasons for working remotely.
It’s a combination of shifting talent requirements, improved tools for measuring productivity and increased awareness of the damage that commuting inflicts on employees and the planet that’s driving the remote revolution.
And forward-thinking companies are reaping the rewards of remote work.
Here are five ways that remote workers can transform your business:
1. React to rapid market changes by hiring remote workers
Technology is driving huge changes in the type of work that humans are performing.
Today’s companies have to find employees who can deliver on evolving job demands, driven by the rapid pace of technological innovation — including robotics and artificial intelligence.
Technology doesn’t merely allow people to move traditional business processes off a sheet of paper and onto a cloud-based spreadsheet. It’s fundamentally changing the definition of ‘valuable work’; creating new processes, new jobs — and a demand for new skills.
Jobs that involve repetitive tasks and recalling information are on the way out.
Humans can access huge amounts of information online and run cloud-based services and ML (machine learning)-powered algorithms that can match or surpass humans in a range of tasks — including image and speech recognition, natural language processing, and predictive analytics.
New jobs like growth-hacking and cutting-edge marketing strategies often demand technical skills blended with ‘soft’ traits like interpersonal qualities, cultural awareness and creativity.
Finding people with the right blend of skills and qualities for your most important roles could be challenging.
Remote workers could be the solution, as Will Fan, the CEO of the career discovery platform QLC explained:
‘It’s important that we’re not constricted with talent within the region. Hiring remote workers allows us to access a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, skill sets, and truly global minded people, without the traditional constraints of office space or the 9–5 working hours.’
- Will Fan, CEO, QLC
By hiring a remote worker, you can cast your net across the planet and find the best fit for your business, brand and team.
2. Improve employee productivity by hiring remote workers
Demanding that your employees arrive at an office each day wastes their time and causes a catalogue of emotional and financial stresses that could harm them — and your business.
Work has changed. Technology can perform repetitive tasks, which frees your employees to use their thoughtfulness and creativity to solve problems. So it’s never been more important for your business that they are happy, healthy and well-rested.
A report by the University of Oxford identified huge benefits from teleworking (working remotely) for employee well-being and productivity:
‘Teleworking has a wide range of benefits for employers, employees and communities. It has been linked with lower absenteeism, improved recruitment and retention, higher productivity, good work-life balance and good quality of life. Teleworkers tend to work longer hours than non- teleworkers, and identify this as one reason for their improved performance, but see reduced stress and better concentration as more important factors. Greater autonomy and flexibility in work planning and performance appears to be a key reason for improved work-life balance. Teleworking has also been linked to better health.’
- Oxford University Centre for the Environment
Humans aren’t machines. Our work-life balance and ability to relax has a massive impact on our productivity.
Here are a few ways that remote work can help your team become more productive:
Remote work can end your team’s commuting misery
Commuting helps no-one. Sitting in traffic or on a train is wasted time for your employees, their families, and your business.
Worse, are the health and lifestyle impacts of commuting:
- Lower life satisfaction and happiness;
- Higher anxiety.
- Less sense that their daily activities are worthwhile.
- 33% more likely to suffer from depression.
- 40% more likely to have financial issues.
- 21% more likely to be obese.
Workers who commute more than 30km are more likely to have a relationship breakdown — and above 50km they’re more likely to die sooner.
Daily travel also hacks away at any salary you offer to a potential employee.
A season ticket into London costs between £3,000 and £10,000 each year from most commuter-belt towns.
As this cost is after tax, your employees could easily lose a five-figure sum off the salary you’re offering to pay them — in addition to several hours of wasted, unpaid time each day.
So if your competitor offers remote work, they’ve got a big hiring advantage.
Reduce employee stress and improve their productivity
Employees suffering from stress have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher levels of absenteeism.
But there’s good news — as 82% of remote workers report reduced stress.
How can remote work reduce your team’s stress?
Remote work can improve your team’s lifestyle
A job is just part of your employee’s life. Most people try to balance their work against spending time with their family and friends — and pursuing passions, hobbies, and interests.
Remote work allows your employees to:
- Spend more time with their families and friends.
- Live near their passions — in the mountains, or by the ocean.
- Choose an affordable area, with plenty of space and safety.
- Work hours that suit their genetic sleep patterns.
- Choose a workspace that’s quiet, or social — whatever fits their personality.
Remote work can lower living costs
Property costs might be the most famous problem with office-based jobs.
Many employees move to big cities to find opportunities and build their careers. Perhaps they can afford an apartment when they’re single. However, family life changes the picture — and living costs often rise faster than salaries.
A ‘super-cheap’ two-bedroom house in San Francisco costs $3,000/month, or $36k/year. Again, that’s after tax.
Zapier fire shots at office jobs, with their smartly-named ‘delocation package’ — which reimburses new employees up to $10,000 to move away from the Northern California Bay Area.
Remote work could be the difference between your employee being able to afford a spacious family home — versus a cramped, shoebox apartment.
‘It’s clear to me that remote employees stay longer, work harder and offer better ROI over co-located employees.’
3. Cut your business costs by hiring remote workers
Hiring remotely doesn’t just save cash for your employees. Your business can directly cash-in on global variations in living costs.
Your business can hire talented employees in less-expensive locations
Your business can cut costs and hire top talent at lower prices, by casting the net beyond the expensive cities that most businesses are based in.
Freddy Chanut, the CEO of In Marketing We Trust explained the financial incentives that first motivated him to hire remote workers — and their unexpected benefits:
‘The initial spur to hire remotely was simply driven by supply/price. Folks in Sydney were asking more per hour than I was charging my clients. I couldn’t afford them and I was maxed out, so I had to find a better quality/value talent pool. Once I started hiring folks in a distributed environment, I noticed that most shared a common set of traits that are extremely valuable as teammates — they were dependable, self-sufficient, organised, disciplined and motivated self-starters.’
- Freddy Chanut, CEO, In Marketing We Trust
You can reduce employee absenteeism by allowing remote work
By reducing employee stress and giving your team more free time to exercise, pursue hobbies and spend time with their families, they’re less likely to experience burnout and illness.
Perhaps that’s why 69% of remote workers report improved absenteeism.
When you factor-in increased productivity, reduced facility costs, lower absenteeism and reduced turnover, your company could save $10,000 per employee by going remote.
4. Help save the planet by hiring remote workers
If cutting your organisation’s costs and helping your employees to build more healthy and rewarding lifestyles isn’t enough motivation to go remote, then how about saving the planet?
86% of US commuters drive to work each day (76.6% drive alone), with an average round-trip of 18.8 miles. Switching to full-time remote work would cut each person’s work-related carbon footprint by 98%.
- Dell have saved over $1,000,000 in fuel costs and avoided over 35,000 metric tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere each year, through remote work initiatives.
- Xerox employees have used 4.6 million fewer gallons of gas, saving nearly 41,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, through the company’s Virtual Workforce Program.
5. Cover more time zones by hiring remote workers
Working remotely and across time zones is sometimes presented as a problem for remote workers, due to the difference in both working hours and culture.
However, a shift in strategy can bridge the gap, as Freddy Chanut, the CEO of In Marketing we Trust explained:
‘With people from across five continents, you add a layer of complexity due to inter-cultural differences. To solve that, we’ve been focusing on hiring amongst a global subculture of geeks and tech enthusiasts. This means there is a meta set of references that most people can share and understand. The divide between trekkies and star wars fans is serious business at our company!’
- Freddy Chanut, CEO, In Marketing we Trust
With employees based on each continent, your business has the ability to offer an agent in each customer’s time-zone — with deeper cultural awareness and knowledge of their local market.
What does the future look like for remote work?
Remote work offers a compelling set of benefits for employees, business and the environment — so it’s little surprise that it’s growing in popularity.
‘Last year the NYTimes reported that 43% of workers in the US worked remotely at least some of the time. Based off projections, remote work should break the 50% barrier this year — so I think within the next decade or two it will be the majority of work relationships.’
- Liam Martin, co-founder, Time Doctor