As someone who loves and is lucky to live near the ocean, I enjoy occasionally working remotely near the beach, with a cup of coffee and a laptop, enveloped in the soft sounds and cool breeze of the ocean. Fortunately, improvements in technology and new business mindsets have made it possible to do so much more often.
In fact, 38 percent of U.S. workers currently work as freelancers and that number is estimated to grow to 50 percent by 2020. Not only is it more convenient, there are also examples of ex-corporate professionals who make twice as much freelancing.
This trend is not only for ambitious individual freelancers. Many large and innovative companies are also adopting remote work strategies. BaseCamp, Upworthy and Buffer, just to name a few, now allow employees to work from anywhere.
The reason for this shift is that working remotely (anywhere outside the office) can actually offer a myriad of benefits. For companies, working remotely can help reduce costs, increase productivity, and boost employee well-being. For workers, the option to avoid stifling commutes, bland cubicles and ineffective meetings are becoming much more attractive and preferred by young employees.
If you need more evidence, consider these four reasons why many smart companies continue to go remote.
1. Happier and more productive employees
A study from TINYpulse demonstrated that remote workers are increasingly happy in their work because of the freedom and flexibility that working remotely offers. The study also showed that remote workers feel more valued and an overwhelming 91 percent felt more productive overall.
The study also showed that workers appreciated having the choice between working remotely and reporting to an office, which empowered them to achieve work-life integration and ultimately perform better for the company.
2. Recruit and retain top talent
High performers get work done wherever they are, so offering your best talent the ability to better meet family obligations, fuel creativity and spur productivity by working remotely is a benefit that helps both them and you.
Additionally, a study on remote workers in China found that high-performers were more likely to stay at companies that offered remote positions and when employees were allowed to integrate the benefits of remote work into their work day, overall performance actually improved.
Lastly, companies that hire remote workers open opportunities to find top talent from a broader global talent pool. Tech talent in particular crosses borders at growing rates as innovative companies take full advantage of the global market.
3. Promote healthier workers and bottom-line.
For employees, remote work can significantly enhance personal health with the right routines and balance. Remote workers have more time and freedom to exercise regularly, eat healthy meals at home and take "recharge" breaks from work when needed. All of these benefits are vital to physical and mental health and help employees be happier and more productive.
Allowing employees to work remotely also has significant benefits for the environment. Research by Global Workforce Analytics estimates that if employees with a remote-compatible job worked remotely at least half the time, society could save annually:
- $20 million in gas
- 54 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent to taking almost 10 million cars off the road for a year)
- 640 million barrels of oil (worth $64 billion)
- 119 billion miles of highway driving
Furthermore, research from Nielsen indicates that 55 percent of global online consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies with a positive environmental impact. This means that going green (through remote work) could actually result in a net-positive impact to the bottom line.
4. Create superior long-term business performance.
Many top tech companies have already made the shift to allowing remote workers, including Automattic, Mozilla and Toptal, just to name a few. According to Toptal’s website, employees are "recognized for what you do, not your time in a chair."
For these companies, a remote work strategy is more than just about making employees happy or improving the bottom line today. It is about creating a sustainable and long-term strategy through a cohesive high-performance culture.
Jerry Porras, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford, found through his research that superior long-term business performance comes from tightly integrated, values-driven teams. While it is never easy, these companies are figuring out ways to stitch together remote workforces that embody the principles outlined in Porras’s research.
While keeping remote teams cohesive is not simple, many businesses are rising to the challenge. Companies are deploying remote work methods like streamlined team communication, retreats, and video chat. Others are encouraging the use of and even creating their own coworking spaces, which allows for the commingling of talented professionals to meet, network and ultimately benefit from increased collaboration.
As technology continues to improve and the "remote work revolution" continues to evolve, the top performing companies will continue to find that balancing remote work strategies with a well executed business culture will keep them ahead of the competition.