As technology advances and shapes our world, seemingly with every passing second, we become more and more interconnected. And as we enter 2015, such connectivity is and will continue to have drastic changes on the working environment—perhaps most notably, in that a company’s working environment may no longer be confined to any defined space, such as a traditional brick and mortar office.
While some companies still prefer to utilize the traditional “eight hours of ass-in-chair-in-office” as the basic measurement of employee productivity, others have committed to a different path, allowing a certain number of qualified employees to work remotely, and are ultimately embracing a more mobile workforce. In fact, this trend is steadily increasing and the data shows that there’s good reason for both employees and employers to start tearing down those figurative walls.
Why you should believe in working remotely
- Employers have access to a wider range of talented employees:
Hiring outside of your given locale will often give you access to skill sets that may not be represented well in your area. For example, if you’re based in a more rural community, the talent pool in your given location may not offer many software developers or graphic designers, let alone anyone that can code in up and coming languages. But if you’re willing to hire employees that can manage working remotely, you can gain access to higher quality employees with the added benefit of a more diverse workplace.
- Telecommuting minimizes location-based turnover:
Good employees can be hard to find. And when you lose them for seemingly trivial things such as their spouse going to law school, it can hurt. We’ve all seen amazing employees walk out the door because their family situation made it necessary to move, and they could no longer live in (insert city here). These employees were not only good at what they do, but they had been deeply invested in it financially. Hiring individuals who can handle working remotely makes this a non-issue. People are free to live wherever they want, and can continue to succeed in the work they’ve been doing all along.
- Working remotely will likely improve productivity:
This is a big one, and there are several substantial reasons for this. For one thing, when your commute consists of walking down the hall to a quiet room in the house, pants optional, it’s pretty easy to simply start being productive. You don’t necessarily have to spend too much time getting yourself ready only to sit in blood pressure-raising traffic with the rest of the 9 to 5ers, just to get to work. Working remotely can also quell a lot of the soul crushing distractions that can crop up in a typical office environment. Your chatty coworker, Brian won’t be able to stop by your desk to tell you about his weekend trip to Cedar Rapids when you’re trying to focus on a project, and your supervisor won’t be peering over your shoulder just to make sure you’re not browsing social media. Instead, you can put your attention into your work, and no one will be tallying the number of bathroom trips you take. Also, allowing employees to work remotely can drastically cut down on unscheduled absences. Approximately 78% of employees who call in sick are actually doing so, not because they’re sick (gasp!), but because they’re tending to family issues, personal needs, or stress. These types of absences can cost employers up to $1,800/employee per year. Allowing for more flexible hours enables individuals to run errands, schedule appointments, and generally tend to their lives without costing them a full workday. Furthermore, for those that are actually sick, many individuals, while they may not have the energy to come in to the office, will be totally content to crank out some work on the laptop if it means they get to stay in bed.
- Working remotely improves employee satisfaction:
Having greater command of your workday can be one hell of a perk. The flexibility of hours allows for greater flexibility of personality types. Morning folks can roll out of bed and seize the day, whereas night owls can channel their nocturnal productivity when it best suits them. The family man can continue to be a family man, and the bachelors of the world can still have a proper social life. Not to mention that the ability to better manage work vs. life is also a great asset when recruiting especially sought after individuals. In fact, this is such an attractive bonus that according to a poll of 1,500 technology professionals, 37% said that they would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.
- Remote work forces employers to evaluate productivity, not just asses in chairs:
When your employees work on asynchronous schedules and you can’t focus on simply the ass-to-chair ratio, it forces management to evaluate productivity. Essentially, one’s work becomes the subject of quality-driven assessment and not the quantity of hours logged at a particular location. And while working from home can seem like a dream come true, one quickly realizes that you can’t trick yourself into believing that perusing reddit and Facebook for an hour was really work. Working remotely places you in an almost entirely results-based environment and working your way up the corporate ladder becomes less about sucking up to the right person when in the elevator, and more about producing the best work possible.
- You’ll enjoy your colleagues more when you see them in person:
Let’s face it—much of what will wear you down in any job is monotony. Doing the same thing, in the same place, with the same people. Working remotely means that you’re not tethered to any location, correct, but it also means that you’re not necessarily forced to see and hear the same people talk about the same things with all of their imperfect habits and irritations. (Think about that year or two when your best friend was your roommate and even he/she started getting on your nerves). When you finally do go into the office or see them on company retreats, spending time with them can be a joy – like seeing an old friend for the first time in far too long.
Some things you should know
Despite all of these reasons why remote work can be great for employees and employers alike, it’s certainly not without its drawbacks. Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
- Remote working isn’t for everyone:
There’s a reason why in the above section it repeatedly mentions employees that are “qualified” for remote work. Working from home means you miss out on being around other people and it can truly be very isolating. It can also become very easy to lose the distinction between work and the rest of your life, which makes it easy to become a workaholic, and equally as easy to wither away in a social vacuum.
- Working remotely is a skill set:
Since remote working is not for everyone, like most skill sets it should be something that you hire for. Most people will tell you in their interview that they’re highly self-motivating, but working from home where all of the distractions are self-created means that it will truly take someone that can “walk the walk” so to speak. This authentically proactive person needs to not only stay on task, but also initiate new ones, and reach out of the home-office-void when communication is necessary.
- You have to commit and you have to communicate:
When working remotely, all of the decision-making is done outside of the office. You can’t just drop into someone’s office or cubicle to work something out, and you can’t huddle everyone up in the bullpen for a quick chat. This means that everyone has to start communicating online. It is imperative that you hammer out the details of your communication practices if you want to be successful. Skype, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts will likely be the most efficient avenues of instant communication. If you need an immediate answer or you need to bounce some ideas off of someone, these are your best bet. Email, while great for asynchronous communication, only allows individuals to get back to you when they have spare time. You shouldn’t rely on email if you need a response today. Instead, web-based applications like Basecamp and GitHub, in tandem with Google Docs, can function as the primary source of task management and communication for the day-to-day workload, while Skype and the like will fill in the gaps and lend you more immediacy. In short, putting the right communication tools in place is EVERYTHING.
So remote work isn’t for everyone, but that can be said about any number of occupations. Yes, hiring and coordinating a more mobile employee group can be more work (at least in the beginning), but the quality of work granted in return, and the quality of life that can be offered to employees is likely to be well worth the effort.
Share a picture of your favorite remote workplace
At Bonzzu we thrive as a virtual team, and take pride in allowing our staff to enjoy their favorite remote workplaces (outside the office) nearly every day. Whether it’s a coffee shop, a home office, or a park bench, productivity can happen just about anywhere. Show us a picture of what your favorite remote workplace looks like with #MyFavoriteOffice on Twitter or Instagram, and we’ll share your submissions below – so be sure to check back to see some amazing remote “offices” from around the world.