Fifty percent of the U.S. workforce will soon be working remotely, Forbes reported recently.
Since employers strive to achieve specific goals and (most of them) turn profits, there must be some advantage to having all those scattered employees in pajamas tapping away on their laptops. Otherwise the captains of industry would put the kibosh on the practice.
A new survey by TSheets by Quickbooks of 500 remote workers in the United States suggests why the practice is growing, even as it presents some disadvantages.
“We found that while there are a lot of benefits to working remotely, but there are also some significant downsides employers and employees should be aware of,” says Patrick Adcock, marketing analyst at TSheets, a time-tracking and employee scheduling software.
“While many companies are implementing remote work policies, it’s important that they understand the benefits and challenges, so they can set their employees and their business up for success.”
No more commute
The survey reports these key findings:
- Remote workers save nearly three hours a week (165 minutes) by not commuting.
- More than half of remote workers say their productivity increases when they work remotely.
- The top three struggles for remote workers are working more hours, people thinking they aren’t working and motivating themselves.
- Fifteen percent have never received a promotion and 9 percent have never received a raise.
- While remote workers love working remotely, it wouldn’t take much for them to give it up.
- More than half said they would give up working remotely for a raise, a promotion or even just a smaller workload.
The conclusions underscore findings from a far larger 2017 report from the polling and management consulting giant Gallup. From 2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely rose by four percentage points, from 39 percent to 43 percent, and employees working remotely spent more time doing so.
Gallup developed its “State of the American Workplace” report using data from more than 195,600 U.S. employees via the Gallup Panel and Gallup Daily tracking in 2015 and 2016, and from more than 31 million respondents through Gallup’s Q12 Client Database, the report states.
“New and emerging technologies are transforming the way work gets done,” Gallup reported. “More people do their job virtually or remotely and at various times of the day rather than between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and teams have fewer face-to-face interactions, communicating increasingly through email, instant messaging and conference calls.”
Another soon-to-be-released report from Gallup suggests a related phenomenon—what it calls “the gig economy,” or “a labor market characterized by workers who do not have a traditional, long-term employee-employer relationship.” The report, “The Gig Economy and Alternative Work Arrangements,” is slated for release later this month.
In it, Gallup estimates that 29 percent of all workers in the U.S. have an alternative work arrangement as their primary job. This includes a quarter of all full-time workers (24 percent) and half of all part-time workers (49 percent).
“From Uber drivers to remote contract workers, Americans are finding alternative ways of working by piecing together a ‘work life’ from a variety of income sources,” Gallup states.
TSheets states that avoiding the commute to work is the biggest benefit noted by remote workers (46 percent say this is the main benefit of remote work). “Having control over their schedules, not having to get ready for work, and the ability to sleep longer are also benefits,” the report notes.
‘Would you kids pipe down when I’m on the phone?’
Nearly 28 percent of respondents say being able to look after their kids is a benefit of working from home. Nearly as many apparently worry about the cat eating the potted plants or the dog chewing slippers if they’re forced to work from an office; slightly more than 22 percent say watching their pets is an important benefit.
“When asked how they feel about remote work, the majority of remote workers gave it either four or five stars,” TSheets reports.
Among the challenges faced by the telecommuting workforce is the propensity to work longer days. “Just over 29 percent say this is their top challenge,” TSheets states. “Nearly the same percentage of respondents say people assuming they aren’t actually working while they work remotely is a major challenge, and over 26 percent cite motivation as their biggest challenge.”
And as annoying as that co-worker is who shouts on the phone or clips his toenails at his desk, there’s a downside to all that blessed peace and quiet. Other big challenges for remote employees include disconnecting from work, loneliness and bad internet connections. Talking to your cat apparently just doesn’t fill the void.
Boosting talent retention
For employers, flexible work schedules have benefits in an economy in which top employees are at a premium.
“Gallup consistently has found that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job,” the organization wrote in its 2016 report.
Or, as TechRepublic recently stated, “The better the work-from-policy, the better the tech talent.”
TSheets’ data show that remote work should be implemented with intention, Adcock says. If employers are just looking to cut costs on office space, they are looking at it the wrong way.
“Remote work should be seen as a tool to help their business and their employees,” he says. “When done correctly it can have a major impact on employees’ health and happiness, but if done poorly it can leave your employees feeling disconnected, overworked and alone.”
For those thinking of working from a truly remote location, Business Insider offers a slew of suggestions of cities you can park in from around the globe. Chiang Mai, Thailand, features speedy Wi-Fi, sunny weather and good food. Budapest offers cheap rent and lots of restaurants. Ho Chi Min City has a multitude of cafés with good coffee.
“Cafes are always filled with other patrons on their laptops, so waiters are used to customers sitting at a table for hours at a time,” a source tells Business Insider.
There’s just one small problem: You’ll have to leave your cat at home.