Does Remote Work Actually Work?

As offices move to become more agile, the option for employees to telecommute has changed from an added amenity to a commonplace practice. Global research from the International Working Group has shown that 50% of employees globally, work from home or remotely at least 2.5 days a week. 

While face-to-face time with colleagues and clients is invaluable for brainstorming and building connections, the option to have a flexible workweek can deliver numerous benefits for both employees and employers. For Canadian employers who have adopted a more flexible workplan, 88% experienced business growth, 83% saw an increase in profitability, and 81% were able to reduce their real estate management costs. Canadian employees saw measurable benefits as well, with 80% seeing increases in productivity, 75% seeing an improvement in work-life balance, and 82% reporting that remote work increased their exposure to networking opportunities.

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting involves working from a remote location, usually at home, rather than travelling to the office. It can be a full-time arrangement or allowed on certain days of the week, depending on workplace demands. Telecommuting employees use computer software and phones to remain connected to colleagues and clients.

Benefits of Telecommuting

A well-designed telecommuting program can result in benefits for organizations, such as:

  • Increased Productivity. A 2014 Stanford study showed that call centre employees were 13% more productive when working from home. Similarly, a study by the University of Texas showed that telecommuting employees worked 5-7 hours longer per week than in-office employees.
  • Increased Employee Attraction & Retention. Employees feel more valued when they can schedule their worktime during the most productive periods and around the demands of their personal lives. Moreover, the option to work remotely can cut down on stress related to commuting and associated costs, and help achieve better work-life balance.
  • Environmental Conservation. In 2015, Xerox reported that its telecommuting employees drove 148 million fewer kilometers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 41,000 metric tonnes.
  • Avoid Health Risks and Improve Emergency Preparedness. Each year, natural disasters cost Canadian companies billions of dollars in losses. Models have suggested that the future cost of climate change and extreme events can increase from $5 billion in 2020 to $21 billion in 2050. While business losses may still occur during a disaster, allowing staff to work remotely and flexibly can keep the company going in the short-term while recovery efforts are put in place. Even in the absence of natural disasters or public health crises, telecommuting during flu season or a snowstorm can help keep employees safe and healthy.

A Better Future of Work

Telecommuting has moved beyond being a trend but rather a disruption of the traditional workplace. As Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economist and leading researcher of the 2014 Stanford call centre study states, “The need to go into a workplace five days a week started because people had to go to a factory and make products. But companies that still treat employees like that are increasingly finding themselves at a disadvantage.”

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