Remote Work: A Path to Efficiency and New Talent

With thousands of younger employees entering the workforce every year, employers may want to consider increasing flexibility for how employees can perform their jobs.  Improvements and advances in technology have combined to make it easier and more feasible for employees previously confined to desk jobs in brick and mortar locations to branch out and begin working remotely—either from home or in a location which may be more convenient for the employee.  While not necessarily feasible for all business models, certain fields may want to consider this as an option to attract or retain talented candidates.

The concept of remote working stems from the notion that employees do not necessarily have to be in one set location in order to perform work effectively.  Contrary to what some employers believe, remote work options can lead to increased productivity from employees.  This is due to a number of factors.  For one, remote employees are able to work in an environment which is most comfortable for them.  This could be their home office, a library, or a conference room in a shared work space.  A comfortable work space does not necessarily mean one where the employee is tempted to fall asleep.  Rather, it is one in which the employee may not need to dress up or face the typical distractions in an office setting such as talkative coworkers or office politics or drama.

Second, and most critically for some, remote work removes an employee’s commute.  Depending on the distance an employee lives from work, this could be a significant amount of time that the employee can regain from his or her day.  This contributes to a more satisfactory work-life balance and can cause employees to feel more rested, less stressed, and more engaged with their work.  A more rested employee can lead to more efficiency and an ultimately better work product.  Moreover, remote work provides greater flexibility for employees.  Flexibility offers different benefits for different employees.  Some individuals may work better at night than first thing in the morning; others may need to attend appointments or functions for their children during the day and may have more free time at odd hours.  Either way, offering the employee the freedom to divide the day how they see fit can contribute to more rested and efficient employees.

Remote work can also build trust in an employment relationship, causing less turnover in the office.  Since the common misperception and stereotype of a remote worker is one who lays in bed and shops online all day, rather than doing substantive work, an employer willing to take the chance to allow an employee the freedom to set his or her schedule will likely feel trusted and valued, thus leading to less turnover in the office since employees enjoy the freedom that their jobs provide.  Further, offering employees the option to work remotely can also increase the talent pool available to a company.  Many talented candidates may expect that they will have the ability to work remotely after having come from a position that afforded them this opportunity.  Therefore, employers who offer this benefit stand to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Also, of interest to employers, according to studies from Global Workplace Analytics and Owl Labs, roughly 34-37% of employees would be willing to take a pay cut just to have the option of working remotely.  These figures indicate that, while not a majority, a significant percentage of employees would prefer to work on their own time and in their own space, rather than a physical in-person office.  The statistics should be closely examined, however, since offering remote work options may not work for every company or every employee.  Therefore, businesses may consider offering employees the option to work remotely on occasion or upon request, rather than as a default, full-time arrangement.

Another benefit to employers is a potential decrease in overhead.  If office space is unnecessary or can be shared or rotated, it could allow an employer to downsize in office space while retaining the same number of employees. Further, to give employers additional security and to guard against the stereotypes surrounding remote workers from becoming a reality, employers could create policies dictating the terms of remote work and a disciplinary plan for employees out of compliance.  At a minimum, employers could also mandate comparable performance metrics or requirements that employees must meet both in and out of the office.  These could include billable hours or certain job duties that must be completed normally.  With a plan in place, remote work options could provide a flexible and desirable work environment for employer and employee alike.

With contribution from Sarah Rothermel, J.D. Widener Law Commonwealth.

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