In an increasingly global economy where advanced technologies and a growing workforce of Millennials are leading some companies to redefine the culture of the workplace, the growth of “telecommuting” is on the rise.
Working remotely is more than just working from home; it’s a new business model that top companies are embracing to be successful in adapting to the changing landscape of business. And it’s slowly becoming more the “norm” for many. Just consider these statistics:
- A study cited in New York Business Journal found that as many as 50 million Americans (40 percent of the workforce) work from home at least part of the time, and approximately 48 percent of all managers spend half of their week working remotely (from home or on the road).
- Studies show that by 2020, Millennials will make up 50 percent of the global workforce, and that 50 percent of all U.S. employees will work remotely.
- A survey of business owners by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60 percent of office-based employees will regularly work from home by 2022.
For companies, this doesn’t necessarily mean 100% of their workforce works from wherever they want to work, but it does call for a “flexible work arrangement,” specifically for Millennials who are used to more flexibility and autonomy.
Benefits to Business
Despite these numbers, some companies are still hesitant to fully embrace the shift. While it will look different for every industry, it’s a big mistake for employers to look the other way entirely. Beneficial outcomes for businesses include:
- Relationships and Retention. Allowing employees to work remotely exudes trust in that employee, which is a necessary ingredient in long-term employee retention (less turnover). When you treat adults like adults, they act like responsible and productive employees.
- Peak Productivity. If you consider a traditional American work schedule, an employee is in the office from 9 AM to 5 PM with an hour lunch break. However, when you factor in the commute, (which by the way there are 3 million commuters in the U.S as of 2015) that employee is actually putting in more like 10-12 hours of their day “working” when maybe only 4 to 5 of those hours are yielding tangible results. Changing the mentality of the traditional work schedule to consider something like a “results-oriented systems” that focuses on what’s tangible rather than hours put in can be better for both the employer and employees.
- The Best of the Best. If companies want the crème de la crème of talent, their reach may need to move beyond geographical location. Talent is more important than availability and when you open up to allow for employees to work remotely, you open up an entire new fleet of potential employees.
As for companies who are successful using this approach to business is Virgin. Owner of Virgin, Richard Branson, believes in empowering his employees through flexible work arrangements. In an interview, Branson explains: “Through initiatives like working from home, unlimited leave, integrated technology, and well being in the workplace – we treat our employees like the capable adults they are. If standard work hours no longer apply, then why should standard working conventions? Flexible working encourages our staff to find a better balance between their work and private lives, and through this balance they become happier and more productive.” Sometimes companies forget that their biggest investment is in their employees, and flexible work arrangements unlike the traditional American schedule is one way to do so.
A Little “How To” for Employees
Working remotely takes discipline. If you’re considering a position where you’ll have the ability to work from home, consider researching some tips on working remotely to make sure you are successful and productive.
First, create a work environment similar to one that you would have in an office. Don’t work from bed or a comfy couch. And definitely don’t work in your pajamas. You know the saying, dress for the job you want? Well, it’s true. Put on some pants.
Next, communicate, communicate, communicate. 70 percent of communication is nonverbal so if you are a remote employee, you’ll need to put in effort to stay in touch with co-workers and managers.
Finally, stay organized so that you can come off as a responsible employee, not one who goes missing or pops up on Skype eating a bowl of Cherrios at noon. Despite the fact that you’re not in a physical office, your overall presence is still very important.
Tools of the Trade
One reason working remotely has become some popular is the availability of project management tools and apps. Skype and Google Hangout have been around for a while, but these newer apps/programs are making remote work even easier:
- Slack is a popular messaging app for teams that uses “channels” to help teams organize conversations by topic, project, etc. You can also direct message within the app, organize and store files, and it even syncs with Google Drive, DropBox, and Box.
- Basecamp is also an “all-in-one” project management app that can also be used with clients. The app features “campfires” which are real time chats with team members, as well as a centralized schedule that syncs with Google, Outlook and iCal. Users can subscribe to schedules to stay on top of tasks and in the know. This app also has doc/file storage options.
- Trello uses “cards” that can be dragged and dropped across lists that allow users to track the progress of specific projects. As with other collaborative apps, Trello also organizes and syncs your files, features checklists and labels. The design of this app is very similar to Pinterest in that it’s more visually driven.
- Asana is a project management app that actually works with the messaging app, Slack. It’s a management tool with a clean interface to track results and show tasks remaining and tasks completed. You can also sync files and collaborate with clients in Asana.
Creativity trumps Tradition
Change is never easy. Making a shift from the traditional work space to one where employees are able to work remotely won’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely the future. Sure, it won’t work in every industry, but every industry can and will benefit from embracing the changing landscape of the work place and this new type of employee.
There are of course a few critics who argue that when people work alone, creativity is at stake, and there’s also the hurdles of technology if teams use apps that go away or have glitches. However; if implemented correctly, many companies will find a more creative workforce that can work together in a space more conducive to today’s emerging technologies.