As technology and business evolve, our attitude towards work and the workplace has changed. For many, from millennials just entering the workforce to baby boomers looking for a better work-life balance, telecommuting and remote work is a desired feature in their job hunt.

Remote employees have been a contentious point for business in recent years. Both Yahoo and IBM made waves in recent years by pulling back their remote workers and forcing them to either move back into the office, or go looking elsewhere for work. Even internet-based companies such as Reddit have pushed for some co-location. At the same time, smaller companies have been expanding their remote working capabilities, offering more opportunities to telecommute. So why are there conflicting directions.

 

Productivity

For many workers in the tech world, distractions and micromanagement both deliver blows

to productivity on a regular basis. By separating the worker from the office atmosphere, you allow them to eliminate potential distractions and allow them to create an atmosphere that increases their productivity. When remote employees are allo

wed to build their own environment, they can develop it to fit their working needs and habits, instead of the office norm. Instead of trying to fit to regulations and requirements passed down from higher management, they utilize flexibility.

Autonomy is even more important for many remote workers. When management seems overbearing, and they are continually interfering in the daily work routine, this can lead to a decline in productivity. Instead of paying attention to the work they are expected to be doing, office workers will be worried about dotting their I’s an crossing their T’s, minding their office manners, and pleasing their manager’s daily whims. When they work from home, they will be focused on the final deliverable, allowing them to be more productive.

Talent

When Andy Mattes took over as CEO at Diebold in 2013, he looked at the company’s recruiting and no

ted that, with their policy of only hiring folks willing to live near their Canton, Ohio headquarters, Diebold was limiting their talent pool. As he told the Huffington Post, “We were fishing in a small fishing pond.” As a tech company, they could only pull the best talent from the Canton area.

By opening up to telecommuting and recruiting remote employees, Diebold was able to recruit top talent

from major companies such as HP and Intel – talent that would never have been available if they held to the on-site work demands.

A team of remote employees can outperform on-site office staff simply by having the best available talent to begin with. Do you want the closest available worker, or the best available one?

Teamwork

Working on site, office staff can communicate easily, face-to-face. Remote workers, meanwhile, spend days or weeks as their only space-sharing co-worker, and most communication is done through e-mail, video conferencing, and telephone calls. This leaves remote workers at a disadvantage when it comes to teamwork, right?

According to a recent Polycom survey, it’s actually the opposite. Reaching out to over 24,000 workers across the globe, Polycom found that remote collaboration technology can instead help remote workers get closer and worker better as a team than on-site workers.

So why is this?

Some of it comes from the fact that communication between remote workers is meaningful. There isn’t office chatter, gossip, or non-essential communication taking up their bandwidth. Instead, every piece of communication is done with a distinct purpose.

Another reason that runs against the grain is that remote workers feel they are actually creating stronger bonds when they communicate with other remote workers. Office staff can take their communication for granted day to day. Remote workers value their opportunities to communicate, so they seek to create a personal connection with fellow remote workers.

Presence

Absences. Personal distractions. Errands

Remote workers who have flexibility in their schedules can design their work day around their lives, instead of the other way around. This allows them to be present and on-task during their working hours, instead of being distracted. This allows them to continue to work, even through sickness, as they don’t have to worry about spreading germs to others or dealing with their ailments in the office.

Some workers also can produce better with schedules that may be different than most. Some people prefer to work as early as possible in the day, while others prefer second- and third-shift work. Office staff has to be there at specific times due to constraints, safety, and other issues. Remote workers can work at whatever time suits them best.

Benefits to the Company

Remote workers can be beneficial to the parent company, in plenty of ways

  • Reducing Turnover: On-boarding new employees is an expensive process. A study by Stanford University indicated that introducing remote work can reduce job attrition rates by 50%. A similar study by Staples Advantage found that 80% of remote workers reported a healthy work-life balance. Companies that don’t prioritize a work-life balance see higher turnover rates.
  • Decreased Business Costs: Telecommuting reduces the need for square footage in an office, along with associated costs. Everything from office equipment and supplies, to coffee, to cleaning services, to utility costs can be slashed. When Aetna started introducing remote work, they soon saw massive savings – they eliminated 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving $78 million dollars. American Express estimates their remote work policy saves them $10 to $15 million every year.
  • Worker Retention: Older generations need more flexibility to take care of health checkups, family, and more. For some older workers, the commute itself becomes increasingly stressful. This can lead to the vacuum of experience, as older workers with 30+ years may leave simply because they no longer want the commute. Telecommuting can help businesses retain experienced personnel past the usual retirement age, allowing them to pass on their knowledge for an extended period of time.

Plenty of businesses tout their on-premise offerings to attract potential employees – beer fridges on Fridays! Pool tables and cutting edge design! Office pets! But when it comes down to it, these in-office perks can’t make up for everything that remote working can offer. If telecommuting is an option for your company, it is well worth exploring for now and into the future. Even Yahoo has relaxed its work-from-office policy since 2013.