Remote work is the future. Learn how to unlock the benefits of remote work to keep up with the competition while boosting employee productivity and well-being.
As the future of work shifts away from the traditional office model, it’s time for business owners and executives to take a closer look at the many advantages of remote work and the best ways to go about maximizing them. From increased employee retention to a better work-life balance, reduced absenteeism for remote workers to the cost savings that come with paying for less office space, there are numerous benefits of remote work.
At ActivTrak, we believe that remote working is the future and embracing flexible work environments is key to helping employees work wiser and reach their full potential. That’s why we’re creating resources to help business leaders leverage the benefits of remote work. In this article, we’ll break down these perks and show you the best ways to unlock them. You’ll also learn about some of the disadvantages of remote work and how best to mitigate them to create a flexible work program that prioritizes productivity.
Understanding the Shift To Remote Work
The way we work has changed drastically over the years. We used to live in a time where spending your 8-hour workday in a formal office space was the standard across almost every industry, and the ability to work from home (either occasionally or permanently) was an added perk. Now it seems that the future of work is trending in the opposite direction with full-time remote work and home offices becoming the norm. The number of people who work from home has risen a staggering 159% since 2009, and 73% of all business departments are expected to include remote workers by 2028, according to an Upwork survey. What are some key drivers behind this trend?
- Talent shortages
- Increased use of technology
- Meeting global business demands
- Adapting to natural disasters (and global health disasters, like the coronavirus pandemic)
Still, these key drivers only tell you part of the story when it comes to remote jobs and the benefits that flexible work can bring.
The Advantages of Remote Work
Remote work is here to stay, so the natural question is, what do C-suite executives, managers, and remote employees gain from it? There are quite a few advantages to working from home, including:
- Better work-life balance: When you have control of your work schedule, you’re better equipped to negotiate personal and professional boundaries. That’s true for business owners, managers, and remote employees alike.
- Increased work productivity: Numerous studies, including a recent one from Stanford, show that remote working is strongly associated with increased productivity. Reduced commuting time, mental health and physical health benefits, the ability to take control of your own work schedule and build an approach that works best for you — these are just a few of the many reasons why employee productivity increases in a remote workforce.
- Reduced stress: When you remove some of the biggest stressors of traditional office life like commuting, office politics, and a lack of control of your own schedule, you can expect to see a marked reduction in stress and an overall improvement in well-being.
- Major cost savings: Everyone — from remote employees to business owners — can save money with remote working. Remote employees can save over $4,000 a year now that they can spend less on commuting, lunches, and even work clothes. Also, companies can save $11,000 a year for each remote worker. Those cost savings can be attributed to reduced office space and real-estate costs (which amount to $10,000 per employee per year for full-time remote employees) and to the reduction in absenteeism that comes with a flexible working arrangement. Absences can cost anywhere from $1,800 to $3,600 per employee. Thanks to remote work, employees can attend to personal matters without missing work to do so.
- Access to a larger talent pool: When your employees are telecommuting from a home office instead of coming into a traditional office space, they can work from anywhere. That means your hiring is no longer limited to people who live in or are willing to move to your enterprise’s location, which gives you a larger talent pool to pull from.
- Increased employee retention: Studies have shown that remote workers are more satisfied, more empowered, and less stressed than their in-office counterparts, and they also feel more trusted by their managers. This boost in employee satisfaction means remote workers are less likely to want to leave. Also, remote work increases employee retention because, now that your team members can work from anywhere, you won’t lose valuable talent if an employee decides to move.
The Challenges of Remote Work
These benefits of remote work notwithstanding, working from home isn’t always perfect. Here are some disadvantages to remote work that all managers, team leaders, and C-suite executives should keep in mind:
- Focus challenges: While some employees may thrive in a remote work environment, others may find that there are actually more distractions at home than in the office. The ActivTrak platform allows you to analyze peak productivity to understand when remote teams are most productive. By giving employees access to that data, they can take charge of their own productivity and make changes that help them stay focused. Also, workforce analytics software lets you dig into social media and app usage to see if they’re frequently distracting your team.
- Communication breakdowns: Sometimes, having to rely on Slack or other messaging apps to speak with coworkers can be more challenging than having a quick conversation in the office. Video calls go a long way here, and scheduling periodic check-ins with your team can help keep the lines of communication open.
- Overwork and burnout: These are big issues in any workspace, but some employees are more inclined to work past standard business hours while working from home. You can use employee productivity data to determine which teams are being under or over-utilized and re-balance workloads accordingly. Also, it’s always a good idea to let your employees know that you’re committed to helping them create healthy boundaries between personal and professional time. If someone is feeling overworked, encourage them to reach out as soon as possible!
- Cybersecurity risks: When remote employees work outside the corporate network, they risk connecting to Wi-Fi networks that are insecure. Whether it’s in a coffee shop or even their home office, this introduces extra cybersecurity risks for a company. The ActivTrak platform helps you identify unproductive or potentially risky apps so you can take action as soon as possible. Plus, you can stay informed about potential compliance risks within your enterprise via customized alerts and notifications.
There are ways to mitigate all of these challenges, many of which will also help you take advantage of the benefits of remote working. You can create more open communication forums and highlight the importance of using direct communication methods that mimic the in-office experience (like Zoom) instead of solely relying on chats. You can also use workforce analytics to track and adjust workload balance to avoid burnout. You can implement more cybersecurity measures like VPNs and AVs, multi-factor authentication, email-based scanning, and more to mitigate security risks no matter where an employee is working.
How to Unlock the Benefits of Remote Work
These disadvantages shouldn’t be discounted but they are far outweighed by the benefits of remote work. Today’s enterprises need to offer remote working options in order to keep up with the state of work today, boost retention, and improve employee satisfaction. What can you do to mitigate the pain points of remote work? We recommend these two approaches:
Embrace remote workforce analytics: Remote workforce software like the ActivTrak platform uses real data to give managers insights into how their teams are working, whether they are in-person or remote. The insights delivered by ActivTrak make it easier to identify key factors like employee performance gaps, workflow process bottlenecks, and unbalanced workloads that might be leading to overwork and burnout. You can then leverage these insights to make proactive changes that will help you unlock the benefits of remote work, creating a better work environment and boosting both employee morale and productivity.
At ActivTrak we believe workforce analytics software should never be used to spy on employees, but to support them and help them be their best. You should always be transparent about your monitoring and you should encourage your employees to use the data to learn more about their own work practices.
Create remote work policies that fit your enterprise: When the coronavirus pandemic first began, many companies suddenly shifted to remote work without having any policies in place to provide structure for the new work arrangement. Now that things are a little more settled, one of the best ways to create stability and unlock the benefits of remote work is to create a remote work or flexible work policy. In this policy, you can set clear expectations for your remote employees, highlight any perks the company will offer to support their mental health and physical health, and explain the productivity monitoring program the company will be implementing. Be prepared to answer any questions remote employees may have and if provide additional educational resources.
Leveraging the Benefits of Remote Working
Flexible working arrangements are the future of work, that’s why the ActivTrak team creates products that will help managers better support their remote teams from wherever they are. With our workforce analytics solutions, you can get the insights you need to unlock the benefits of remote work for yourself and your employees. Follow these pro tips to get started!
- The best way to maximize the benefits of remote work is to use a remote workforce analytics solution.
- Working from home isn’t just for freelancers and it isn’t a stop-gap measure. Take the time to create company policies that add some much-needed structure to remote work and support effective remote teams.
Remote workforce challenges aren’t just limited to productivity and focus — don’t forget about cybersecurity!