Remote work means the flexibility to work from anywhere outside the office, whether due to travel or distance to the local office, or by choice. Employees who work remotely might do so 100% of the time or part of the time. Some companies maintain a team of remote workers (aka a remote workforce), while others call upon a mix of office workers and remote workers.s
Why Remote Work Matters
of workers do not believe they need to be in an office to be productives
more of U.S. employers offer flexible or remote work options today than they did 5 years ago
of Americans did all or some work from home in 2016
of the App Generation and half of Millennials feel their smartphone and laptop are the only essential tools for getting their job done
Frustrations With Remote Work
As these trends underscore, the concept of work is no longer about a place but about being as productive as possible from anywhere. Today's remote workers want easy-to-use, seamless digital solutions that enhance their communication and productivity – because they know these tools exist.
Unfortunately, disconnected, difficult-to-access and hard-to-use tools are the norm.
Some companies don’t even provide purpose-built mobile communication tools. As a result, many remote workers turn to unsanctioned tools. While this shortcut puts better tools in employees’ hands, it leads to new challenges.
On average, employees use four-to-six communication apps at work every day. Toggling between multiple tools wastes time and distracts from the work at hand. It also slows down workers in another way: research shows that the cognitive cost of switching between different tools to perform even simple tasks can be up to 10 IQ points.
For remote workers, this translates into a frustrating, disconnected experience. For their companies, the result is lower productivity and difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.
The Evolution of Remote Work
According to McKinsey,“Employers first began ramping up their use of remote-work arrangements in the 1990s, in part to retain the services of mothers who preferred not to commute or who wanted to work part time. As technology evolved, companies such as IBM found they could eliminate permanent offices for sales reps and other customer-facing employees. Such moves yielded huge cost savings on real estate while increasing the time reps could spend with customers. Now, thanks to broadband, cloud computing, and a burgeoning market for online collaboration tools, many more jobs that once required in-person interactions can be performed anywhere.”
In many ways, knowledge workers could only thrive while in the office, where extensive and necessary human interaction could take place. With Internet connectivity, modern tools, and the rise of social media, remote work became feasible and popular in the past few years. Simply put, employees no longer need to be in an office to excel at work.
The ROI of Remote Work
Employees are happier and more productive:
89% of workers say flexible working should be how they work, not a benefit
73% of employees work outside of their contracted work hours as they are more productive
What It Takes to Ensure Remote Work Success
But the technology alone is not enough. To truly foster a culture of remote work, organizations need to pair technology with other key elements:
Openness, adaptability, and a non-hierarchical culture that values the work-life balance. The right hires: self-starters who are likely to perform well outside of the traditional office environment. A focus on performance and productivity versus attendance as the real measure of employee value.
With the right framework in place, organizations can empower their remote workers. This includes:
- Accommodating the communication preferences of different generations.
- Implementing company wide virtual work policies and security measures.
- Developing standards for handling meetings and projects remotely and working with freelancers as part of the Gig Economy, such as by clarifying workstreams and responsibilities.
The Future of Remote Work
Employees who work in different areas of an office are1.3x
are more engaged
Those with a space to connect with coworkers are1.5x
To learn more about the value of equipping remote workers to succeed, download our report: Workforce Futures: the role of people in the future of work.