Remote work. The virtual office. Virtual teams. Once, this described the workplace of the future.
Today, it’s a workplace reality being embraced by employers and employees alike. According to the Forrester US Telecommuting Forecast, the number of remote workers in the U.S. is expected to grow to 63 million this year, or 43 percent of all workers in the country.
Traditional office culture is under attack as employees strive for work-life balance and a reinvention of what it means to go to work every day.
That said, not everyone wants or needs to work remotely.
What is it about remote work that is so beneficial? What has changed to cause this proliferation?
Remote Work = Technology
Interestingly, from both the employee and employer perspective, it is only recently that technology has hit a level that makes a remote work situation (nearly) seamless.
“Technology now makes it possible to work from almost anywhere. Creating a sustainable and innovative business is becoming more important. And, today’s employee wants to work differently.”
This is how Dell introduces us to its workplace culture. According to the company’s 2020 Legacy of Good Plan goals, Dell hopes to see upwards of 50 percent of its employees participating in flexible work programs by 2020.
Remote Work = Sustainability
Environmental sustainability is a surprise factor in the pickup of remote work programs.
According to the report, How Dell Saved $39.5M, Slashed Emissions, Increased Sustainable Materials by 20%, Dell employees saved “fuel consumption and vehicle carbon emissions resulting in an average savings of $350 per year—a total of $12 million. The program eliminated hundreds of millions of miles of commute travel and over 35,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Remote Work = Flexibility
“Flexibility will become the norm for employers who want to win the war on talent,” says Joanna Barsh, director emerita for McKinsey & Company and author of Centered Leadership. (“Inside Three Companies That Are Innovating Flexible Schedules,” FastCompany)
Remote Work = Productivity and Loyalty
In “To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home”, the Harvard Business Review reports that remote workers were more productive and more loyal than their onsite colleagues.
Furthermore, according to insights from a recent Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology 2017 Conference panel—sponsored by the IBM Smarter Workforce group—”those who were able to work remotely to any extent were more engaged, have stronger trust in leadership and much stronger intention to stay.”
Remote Work = Health(y)
In addition to achieving more work-life balance, health is a huge factor in why flexible work programs are so popular. No commute. Less time in face-to-face meetings. The aforementioned increase in productivity. All of this means remote workers, at the very least, have time to take a walk. They can fit in an exercise routine. As a result, they are also finding time to eat healthy.
In addition, people with more flexible work programs also tend to be less stressed. Less stress typically translates into more satisfaction in their work, working more hours, and less sick leave.
The New Normal
Remote work, like any work, isn’t perfect. Not everyone embraces the concept, and it doesn’t work for every industry. That said, it’s increasingly how employers and employees are thinking. And it’s not all about working remotely or virtually, itself. Remote work is about working smarter in order to make the company and its employees, better.
Thanks to the technologies and pioneering examples of many tech companies–including Microsoft, Google, Apple, and, yes, IBM itself–work is now far less time- and location-dependent than ever before. That means companies now have the ability to conceive of themselves as “results-only work environments,” where what really matters is what someone produces, not how many hours they work or where they sit in order to do it.
(“IBM’s Remote Work Reversal Is A Losing Battle Against The New Normal”, FastCompany, May 2017)