A little over a year ago, we wrote a blog on the popularity of telecommuting for work. We examined what exactly telecommuting is and how businesses are utilizing it within their own structures. Today we’re taking another look at the prevalence of remote workers in organizations and why we continue to see movement towards out of office workers.
Below are the numbers as they are today.
“The number of telecommuting workers has increased 115% in a decade, according to a new report from Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs. That translates to 3.9 million workers, or almost 3% of the total U.S. workforce, working from home at least half the time in 2015, an increase from 1.8 million in 2005.”
To clarify, it is important to note the definition of telecommuting. In its earlier iteration, telecommuting often meant eliminating physical office space altogether and working as a team online. It was also introduced for key members of a team, perhaps a technical analyst or development team. These people rarely, if ever, worked in the office and often lived in another state or country.
While that structure of telecommuting is still around, more companies are moving toward balanced work weeks. Research shows significant benefits of balancing the time working in and out of the office across the majority of job roles and industries. Utilizing a mix of time collaborating with team members inside the office, with the freedom to get out of the office, benefits time spent in each work situation.
Workers are more likely to take creative and collaborative time with teams if that time is somewhat limited. The same goes for working from home. With predetermined action items, goals and expectations, workers are more efficient outside of the office than in it, for certain types of projects.
“Reports showed that the most engaged workers were those who spent 60 to 80 percent of their week, or three to four days, working from home and a minority of their time in the office. Those who spent more or less time working remotely were less enthusiastic about their work, with the lowest numbers occurring among those who spent either all of their time either in the office or at home.”
The most important aspect of flexible work plans is balance. Studies show sharp declines in productivity and enthusiasm for work on each end of the spectrum. Work balance plans should reflect the worker’s needs and how they accomplish work most efficiently. Work outlines prior to setting up an office/home work balance makes the transition smoother for both employer and employee.
Factors for Change
So where did this shift come from? Why do people want to leave the traditional office set-up behind? Many reports point to improvements in technology. Better communication tools and better internet connectivity makes working outside of the office easier, resulting in an uptick in workers asking for/expecting workplace balance. While these factors do play a role, there are other interesting lifestyle factors that affect trends. Single parent households and households with two working parents are more likely to push for more flexible work solutions to be available when needed for their families.
Often, people wonder if remote working actually benefits a company. There is a fear among managers and leaders that workers simply do not complete the work they need to while away from the office, or they do so with too many distractions.
Unfortunately, this can happen. Although better than full-time telecommuting teams, flexible schedules present difficulties too. US News examined businesses with failed telecommuting experiences. In the case of many failures, it came down to the program itself.
“The flexible and telecommuting work options offered weren’t tied to business goals or any formal strategy, and the results of letting people work flexibly (productivity, reduced absenteeism, increased loyalty) were not tracked.”
Making the Most of Remote Workers
To successfully reap the benefits of enthusiastic and engaged workers via a flexible work plan, awareness and outlined goals are necessary. With these in place, workers are more focused, enthusiastic and productive.
“Those who work remotely do so for longer periods. It is not just that more working Americans are working off-site; they’re doing so more often, too. The workers that reported working remotely four to five days a week grew to 31 percent from 24 percent.”
So, what can we expect next? This flexible work schedule shows no sign of slowing down. As Generation Z enters the workforce, data shows increases in online entrepreneurial ventures and freelance opportunities.