Recently, I was on a conference call with a team participating from Singapore, Moscow, Zurich, and Washington D.C. We shared documents, collaborated on projects, and checked off action items in rapid succession. None of this was new or strange to any of us. We had done this many times. We are remote workers.
In fact, we were all part of a global company with agile virtual teams created from different geographies and time zones. We had few, if any, constraints to function effectively. Our biggest headache was deciding who would have to get up early, or stay awake late, for the call because it spanned so many time zones. Hardly a showstopper.
Remote working is part of a recent movement to build a flexible, performance driven culture vs. a time-based office environment that was created during the industrial revolution for factory workers and may have outlived much of that usefulness.
Are you ready for the remote workers?
Before you invest another dime in your office space, consider the following:
- According to one study, since 2005 non-self-employed remote workers have grown 159% – which is 11 times faster than the rest of the workforce.
- 3.4% of the population in the USA or 4.7 million employees work from home at least half the time.
- Freelance workers, most who work remote, are expected to become the majority of the US workforce by 2027.
- 50% of the US workforce is currently doing work that is compatible with remote working.
- According to one estimate of Fortune 1000 companies, office desks are empty between 40-60% of the time already.
- Gen Z (those born between 1995-2005) will make up 36% of the global workforce by 2020. Not only do they expect to work more flexible hours, they are looking for work-life balance and may be the first digital nomad generation that demands remote work options.
Are remote workers less productive?
- According to a 9-month long Stanford study, remote workers took fewer sick days and were 13% more productive than their office colleagues.
- Flexjobs, one of the larger sites for remote jobs, did a survey and found that 97% of respondents thought that remote work has a positive impact on their well-being and work-life balance. 75% thought they were more productive because of fewer distractions.
- 86% of respondents on Flexjobs said that they would be much less stressed in a remote position.
How much do employees want to work remote?
- A Gallup study found of that 21% of employees would give up their vacations to work remote.
- In the same survey, 33% would quit and move to another employer who offered remote working opportunities.
- In the OWL Labs survey, remote workers earned 2.4X times higher than onsite employees. The notion that remote work pays less is false.
- On the Flexjobs survey, 76% said that they would be more loyal to their employers if they had remote options. 65% said that working with “minimal office politics” in a remote position, would be better. Most might agree!
- And according to the OWL Labs survey, remote employees are 29% more likely to be happy compared to their onsite colleagues. Happier employees can mean happier customers.
Is remote work more suited for certain types of organizations?
- Admittedly, some companies are better situated for remote work. For example, it would be hard to perform certain functions in the service industry remotely.
- On the other hand, Gitlab is an 850-person company, based in 55 countries, is valued at $ 2.75 billion and has no offices.
- You might think that tech companies are more suited for remote work. And yet, IBM and Facebook have recently curtailed remote work.
- Frankly, in an era of low unemployment, companies – including nonprofits – that were previously averse to remote work, are being forced to adopt a remote worker policy to be able to fill critical jobs. The competition for skilled workers is intensifying every day.
What are the top three cultural lessons for remote work?
- Gitlab’s CEO Sid Sijbrandij focuses on the
following cultural attributes:
- Prioritizing results over hours.
- Document everything. This is key to coordination and communication.
- Finally, use challenges as learning opportunities.
Can you save money with remote employees?
- By some estimates, companies could save up to $ 11,000 per employee per year. Most of this is the cost of rent and property overheads.
- Remote employees too save money on transportation costs, clothing etc. which can amount to $ 7,000+ per year.
What are the top challenges for remote work?
- Some employees are unable to adjust to the self-discipline of working by themselves. Co-working spaces might be one alternative here.
- Prioritization of tasks, planning a schedule and dealing with loneliness – are some of the other challenges.
- 38% of respondents to the OWL Labs survey said that they had received no training. Perhaps more importantly, 84% of remote employee managers had received no training. It is quite likely that this may have contributed to some of the remote work pilots that failed. Managing onsite and remote workers is vastly different in so many ways including delegation, maintaining culture, number of meetings etc.
- Not having the right equipment can be a severe handicap. Outsourcing all your needs for technology to managed service providers like #wellforceit solves much of that problem. Such an MSP takes care of maintenance, replacement, upgrades and even a help desk for all hardware and software. They can also provide training for remote workers.
Companies have no place to hide. They cannot wait for trends to pass them by. They will have no choice but to adapt to the changing demands of the new workforce as it relates to remote work and work-life balance, if they want to recruit and retain high quality employees, and in turn keep their customers.