The phrase “work from home” once conjured images of pajama-clad employees slacking off on the couch and checking email every 20 minutes with a TV blaring in the background. As the years have gone on, however, working from home is becoming a more prevalent element of an efficient workplace, not an unproductive vice.
According to a Gallup poll , 37 percent of U.S. employees have worked remotely. This is a massive increase from 1995’s figure of just 9 percent, and is a number that will most likely continue to grow as the younger workforce appreciates built-in days from home and technology increasingly makes it easier to complete work over a distance.
What’s driving the Desire for Remote Work?
Aspects of a job that were once deciding factors of employment are shifting. Salary and time off are still high on the list, yes, but other considerations such as work/life balance and culture are starting to become much more impactful on the satisfaction -- and therefore productivity -- of employees. Remote work’s ability to engender a happier and more productive team stems from two main reasons.
Remote work allows companies to fast track talent into the thick of productivity much quicker than a traditional onboarding process. Research from the online freelance network Upwork shows that seeking and training employees remotely — as opposed to a more traditional method — trims an average of 40 days off of the entire process.
Working remotely has also been shown to help foster a sense of individuality. Traditional work meetings , while certainly not going the way of the dodo anytime soon, have proven to hold many downsides from disengaged employees to lack of structure. By providing the trust and openness of remote work, employees are allowed to think freely and contribute creatively instead of being stifled by an avalanche of PowerPoint slides. All of this makes for a more attractive work culture which is an increasingly large factor for potential hires.
Does Remote Work Facilitate Productivity?
More Gallup research shows that the freedom to work remotely fosters higher levels of engagement in employees. Levels of engagement and productivity, however, tended to drop the more time an employee spent working from home. Relationships between managers and fellow employees are more difficult, but not impossible, to maintain in a remote environment. This lack of face-to-face interaction contributes to an eventual malaise that may cause increased detachment and loneliness.
Even with those challenges, advancements in technology and company innovation are making it easier than ever to fight against the negative and isolating effects of working from home, ideally leading to a balanced, active, and efficient team.
What’s Enabling Increased Remote Work?
Like many developments in the working world, technology is mostly to thank for the ever-increasing number of Americans working from home. More and more, companies are fostering an environment in which employees are able to work productively at home by providing a stable of software that allows for instant and personalized communications between team members.
Instead of splintered chat threads spread out over a dozen windows or tabs, programs such as Slack and Perch (an always-on video conferencing solution) offer teams a unified chat space that emulates the traditional office interaction more than one might expect. These programs have turned what was once a fractured and isolating work practice into a cohesive and team-oriented environment.
At Maverick Software Consulting , we outfit our remote employees with video conferencing, scheduling, and chat software, ensuring that communication is free-flowing and organized despite distance and time zone differences. So, it seems that just like many other aspects of life, a golden mean should be applied to remote work. Time outside of the office doesn’t guarantee employee productivity and engagement.
As technology progresses and increases our ability to communicate, working remotely will certainly continue to become a viable and valuable asset to any business. Traditional meetings aren’t going the way of the dodo, no, but they’ll almost certainly become more of a rare bird going forward.