Maryke Hansen, Design Studio Coordinator at The Blue Room, shares her research and insights into working remotely, as well as the pros and cons thereof.

I won’t go into detail on ‘The What’ – I’m sure everyone knows what working remotely is. So, for this edition, let’s look at ‘The Why’.

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of working remotely. I love coming to the office, I love routine, I love my desk, and mostly, I love catching up with my colleagues. Isn’t that the norm? Also – just to clear things up, I AM a millennial, believe it not. So, why is working remotely still a thing? And why, after I’ve done research on this topic, did I learn that working remotely isn’t a ‘thing’, it’s the norm? The new norm. It really seems like we’re in the age of the ‘anywhere office’.

Owl Labs conducted a survey which found that 16% of global companies are now fully remote and 52% of employees around the world work from home at least one day a week.

Let’s look at the stats.

Benefits for employees:

  • Let’s face it, everyone is struggling financially. At least working remotely helps to compensate for stagnating wages.
  • Employees who work remotely at least once a month are 24% happier, notably less stressed, and have a higher morale than their desk-bound colleagues. Why?

Reason 1: Working remotely offers a more flexible lifestyle.

When employees aren’t required to be in an office during a set timeframe, they can focus on the things that matter to them outside of the office. For example, if a remote worker is a parent, they have the ability to start work earlier in the day so that they can be present at important events or take time off during the day for a doctor’s appointment.

Reason 2: They skip their daily commute.

Andrew van Dam from Washington Post said, “The fastest growing commute is no commute at all. A growing number of commuters have found that the fastest way between Point A and Point B is if Point A is Point B.”

According to new data shows that South Africa is among the worst countries in the world when it comes to traffic congestion. Cape Town is rated as the most congested city, ranking 41st globally. In Cape Town, an average commuter will lose 42 minutes per day due to rush hour traffic, which totals to 163 hours per year. This converts to almost a week that a person spends in their car, over and above the average uncongested time. Working remotely obviously saves time, money, and clearly, alleviates the stress of the daily commute.

  • 69% of remote workers reported lower absenteeism than non-remote employees, according to a 2014 study by PGi.
  • Remote workers gain an extra hour of sleep a week to become more attentive and alert.
  • Remote workers tend to get along better because they can easily avoid office politics. Sharing a space with the same people, 40 hours a week can, and surely will, cause tension. But, because idle chatting and time just hanging around the break room isn’t possible every day for remote workers, they tend to skip the gossiping that happens in traditional work settings. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it?

Benefits for employers:

  • Reduction in operation costs. When you allow your staff to work remotely, you’ll naturally need less office space, less coffee and tea, less sugar and milk, less printing and electricity, and the list goes on, to accommodate employees – saving you valuable money.
  • Remote workers are healthier and less stressed which leads to fewer sick leave. Why? Firstly, less stress from commuting daily equals to lower blood pressure. For real. But the benefits don’t just stop with removing the commute. Overall workplace stress is vastly reduced with 82% of remote workers reporting lower stress levels. Over 3000 workers were surveyed by FlexJobs who found 77% of respondents would be healthier if they had a flexible job and 86% would be less stressed.
  • Remote workers tend to return to work sooner following health issues.
  • 75% of employees surveyed in a Softchoice study said they would quit a job they love for one that offered remote work.
  • I STRONGLY feel that the remote nature of any job should be a secondary reason for wanting the job, but I must agree, it can offer a great incentive. Employers could consider offering employees one day to work from home for each year they work at the company. Which leads to the following point:
  • According to the State of Remote Work report done by OwlLab, companies who encourage working remotely experienced 25% lower employee turnover than companies who did not support remote work. Take, for example, Buffer, a fully remote company that boasts a 91 % employee retention rate.
  • According to the State and Work Productivity Report, two-thirds of managers who were surveyed reported an increase in overall productivity from their remote employees. The statistics found on Proofhub tells us the following regarding productivity and remote working. Remote workers are:
    • 20% more productive
    • 13% more efficient due to less distractions
    • 28% more engaged towards their work

The truth is, what is now an incentive or perk will soon become a necessity. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution for remote working – the way this works can vary enormously from company to company. It ultimately depends on your company culture and the management of remote working in terms of time management, meeting deadlines, open communication, and valuable connection between employees and teams.

So, looking at all of this, I am re-looking my opinion and actively exploring ‘The How’. Stay tuned for my follow-up blog on my final thoughts.

Written by Maryke Hansen: Design Studio Coordinator, The Blue Room