The remote workforce is expanding rapidly as technological advances make working away from the office an increasingly simple, efficient and cost-effective option. According to the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey, more than 1.54 million people work from home in the UK — up from 884,000 ten years ago.
A growing number of businesses are choosing to ditch the office altogether and operate with an entirely remote team of freelancers, employees and self-employed professionals. The benefits of a remote workforce to individuals is clear — flexible working hours, the freedom to work from anywhere in the world and a better work-life balance.
But is a remote workforce good for business? Although there are challenges to working with remote teams, we’ve put together our top five reasons why a remote workforce can be great for business.
1. Remote workers are more productive
Remote workers are often more productive than in-house staff. They get more done in less time — and that means higher customer satisfaction levels, healthier customer retention levels and ultimately, a more profitable business. A recent 2-year study by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom found that the enhanced productivity of telecommuters was equivalent to a full day of work. Additionally, employee attrition decreased by 50%. But why are remote workers so much more productive?
Working away from the office, in an environment chosen by the individual, often results in a less stressful working day. Some people work better in absolute silence; others need music to keep them motivated. Some thrive on interactions with colleagues; others find discussion a distraction. Having the freedom to choose a work environment that suits us tends to result in higher levels of productivity.
Remote workers may also be more motivated to deliver the highest standards to maintain their working arrangement and to prove themselves. Finally, remote workers have the freedom to manage their day as they see fit. This freedom allows them to take breaks when they have a dip in productivity and to power on through when they’re “in the flow”.
2. Reduced costs
Renting office space and equipping it with everything a workforce requires, from computers to kitchen facilities, is a huge cost for any business. If your location is in an area such as London, where business rentals are the highest in the country, this could be a crippling expense.
Remote teams make a much smaller dent in the company budget. Even if your company chooses to cover the cost of home office equipment and transport to occasional team gatherings, the chances are your overheads will be significantly less than if you’re shelling out on permanent office space.
Business phone systems can provide all the collaboration, team working and call handling solutions you need at a fraction of the cost of a full-time office-based workforce. Most offer a range of payment plans for different size businesses. So you only pay for what you need and it’s easy to scale the service as your business grows. A bonus of business phone systems is that you can choose your phone number. Do you want a London number but can’t afford the rents? Pick a London phone number to boost your business’ reputation and simply divert calls to your remote workers — wherever their location.
3. It’s easier to build a team of experts
If you have to recruit from your local geographical area, or from a finite pool of people willing to relocate there, you’ll have a limited choice of candidates. Remote workers can be located anywhere in the world — provided they have a decent internet connection. So, you can draw from a much larger talent pool.
A larger talent pool is of significant benefit for all companies but especially if your business is quite a niche, requiring a particular skill set. In this situation, there will be a smaller pool of suitably qualified people to recruit from. You’ll also compete for their attention with other businesses in the same industry. So being able to cast your recruitment net wider will give you a distinct advantage.
According to a recent survey by Buffer, 99% of respondents would like to work remotely — at least some of the time — for the rest of their career. If your company offers flexible working options, you stand a better chance of attracting the top talent.
4. Your workforce will be healthier
Allowing your team to work remotely promotes a better work-life balance, which means a much healthier, happier team. Healthy, contented workers are less likely to take time off and they tend to be much more productive.
Conversely, in-house office environments can contribute to a range of health issues. People can suffer from stress and anxiety to physical ailments caused by employees struggling into work when they are unwell and passing germs on to colleagues. In addition to a potentially damaging office environment, many people endure long commutes to and from work that increases stress and may result in issues such as high blood pressure. According to a survey by Flexjobs, 42% of people say commute stress was one of the main reasons they sought out flexible work.
5. Your business will be more eco-friendly
There is an increasing consumer expectation for companies to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable business practices. A survey of over 1,000 consumers in the UK and USA by Futerra revealed 88% of people would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily life. Allowing people to work remotely — at least some of the time — will reduce your company’s carbon footprint. You’ll have no physical office producing waste or using electricity and heating. Additionally, your team will not be contributing to pollution by commuting.
Demonstrating a commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of your business will boost brand reputation and may make the difference between an individual choosing your company over a competitor.
Whether you have a small startup or an established enterprise, a remote workforce can add value to your business. There is a wide range of virtual business tools to help you manage a remote team effectively, from business phone systems to virtual assistants. Don’t be put off allowing your team to work from where they choose for fear of them slacking off and costing your business money. The reality is, remote workers are more productive, healthier, happier and much more likely to commit to your company long-term.