Smart companies will emerge from this recent crisis stronger in many ways. Are there any competitive advantages of keeping the remote work models we’ve had to adopt during this unprecedented time? If so, what are they?
The benefits of remote work for the employee are obvious, mainly flexibility and saving time that would otherwise be spent commuting. And forward-thinking employers understand that initiatives benefitting employees often benefit companies in the long run. But are there tangible benefits for employers to turn these reactive, impromptu remote work models into a permanent part of their company culture? As many companies are now seeing, yes!
Counterintuitive (Remote) Productivity
Low productivity: Employers’ top concern when considering remote work models. TVs, video games, household chores, and children… How are employees supposed to be productive with all those distractions? How can they be managed if they can’t be monitored?
Turns out, there’s no need for concerns. In a groundbreaking study by researchers at Stanford University, a Chinese travel firm of 500 employees was split into two equal groups. One group stayed in the office and the other worked from home. The result? Most of the workers reported that it was easier to concentrate at home than at the office. They also took shorter breaks, less sick time, and fewer days off.
In short, those who worked from home were not just a bit more productive – they were productive to the point of squeezing an extra day out of the workweek.
Decreased Costs Per Employee
One of the drivers of the Stanford study was that the Chinese firm wanted to investigate ways to cut costs, including trying to save on office leases in Shanghai that absorb a huge chunk of the bottom line every month.
Just by assigning even a portion of their workforce as remote employees, the company saved $2,000 per employee in office space alone.
When you add in increased productivity, higher retention, better business continuity, and other cost savings, Global Workplace Analytics estimated that every remote employee saves their company $11,000 per year.
Become a Talent Magnet
Even before the pandemic, many employees wanted the ability to work remotely at least part-time. In fact, according to a 2018 Owl Labs survey, 71 percent of workers said the ability to work remotely would make them more likely to choose one employer over another. Perhaps even more surprising, 34 percent said they would take a 5 percent pay cut for a remote job.
Also, when jobs aren’t restricted to locations, your company can pull from talent pools it would normally not have access to, either in more cost-effective parts of the country or overseas.
So, what happens to your existing employees when you start offering flexible work?
According to the Owl Labs survey, remote workers were 13 percent more likely to say they planned to stay at their current companies for at least five years. What’s a 13 percent reduction in turnover worth to you?
Remote Work Beyond 2020
On the flip side, what happens if remote work is taken away, as many companies are eager to go back to status quo?
55 percent of the Owl Labs survey respondents said they would start looking for another job if they were unable to continue to work remotely, while 61 percent said they would expect a pay increase to offset the loss. (And that was back in 2018, reflecting workers’ pre-pandemic views.)
Based on those responses, it’s reasonable to assume that once most workers have had a taste of remote work, it will become as much of a negotiating point as vacation time or bonus structures when it comes time to hire or retain employees. Treating remote work like the benefit it is could give you a leg up on your competition, making it much easier to recruit your next company star employee.
Most business leaders already believe remote work will increase compared to pre-2020 levels, according to a 2020 Gartner survey. And just like any other competitive edge, there will be visionaries and there will be holdouts. The visionaries — the leaders who see this crisis as an opportunity to reshape their structures and processes for the good of their workers and their bottom line — will stay agile in any market conditions and reap the rewards.
Learn more about how remote work helps companies face anything ahead, keeping them prepared for the “new normal” business landscape.