A survey carried out by Global Workplace Analytics in 2018 discovered that 61% of global companies allowed some form of remote working for their employees. The survey also found that, across the world, remote working has grown by 159% since 2005, more than 11 times faster than the rest of the workforce.
Furthermore, a survey conducted by Owl Labs in 2018 found that 16% of global companies have a fully remote workforce, and that 52% of employees around the world were working from home at least one day each week.
Another study carried out by Thinknum found that remote working job listings in the United States more than doubled between January 2018 and March 2019, making it one of the fastest growing employment sectors there.
The situation in the UK
Here in the UK, the number of remote workers in 2018 represented 4.4% of the workforce, with HSO predicting that by 2020 this number would have skyrocketed to around 50% of the workforce. This prediction seems to be on-track since, in 2019, a surprising 68% of UK businesses reported having a flexible workspace policy, with an increasing number of employees opting to work remotely, at least some of the time.
There are plenty of great reasons to hire remote workers, which is why so many UK businesses are now making the decision to do just that.
So, what are the benefits of making this choice? Read on to find out.
1. Remote workers tend to be more productive
“Workers across the board say they get more work done from their home office.”
Sara Sutton, Founder and CEO of Flexjobs
Contrary to popular belief, countless studies have shown that remote workers are significantly more productive than employees working in offices. Research has shown that remote teams get more done in less time, and they also tend to go above and beyond the call of duty, often giving a little extra to the companies they work for.
In a recent survey, Global Workplace Analytics found that remote workers were 20-25% more productive than office-based employees. Furthermore, 53% of remote workers stated that they were likely to work overtime, compared with only 28% of office workers.
When an employee is working from their home, they can avoid the daily distractions of the typical office or workplace. They are less likely to have to deal with interruptions from co-workers, time-wasting idle chat, and unproductive meetings. Without such distractions and interruptions, the remote employee can really focus on the task in hand, and is likely to get more done in the time available.
Employees who work from home also tend to be more self-reliant, taking a pro-active approach to solving problems.
Remote working arrangements often allow employees to take control of their working schedule, which can really boost their productive output, whilst also helping them to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Many employers are beginning to realise that the 9-5 culture doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
Some people need their working schedule to fit in with other commitments such as raising children or caring for elderly parents, whilst others may do their very best productive work in the early hours (morning larks), or late at night (night owls).
Adopting flexible, remote working practices means that employees can work to their strengths – i.e. when they happen to be at their best, whether that is 4am, 1pm or 9pm. After all, we are all different, and not everybody is at their very best between the hours of 9-5.
As a result of this flexibility and freedom, many remote workers feel more valued, trusted and empowered, which in turn encourages them to do their very best work.
2. Businesses can access a larger talent pool
If your business is based in and focused around a specific geographical location, then you will be very limited when it comes to finding the right employees, since potential recruits will need to live within commuting distance of your offices or workplace. Of course, some candidates may be willing to relocate if you are offering them their dream job, but your choices will still be somewhat limited, as many applicants will not be prepared to move. This means that, for the most part, you will be limited to drawing from your local talent pool.
In contrast, hiring remote workers outside of your commuting radius can give you access to the very best talent across the globe. Location suddenly becomes irrelevant. You could be running a web design startup from Romford with a software developer based in New York, a marketing consultant based in Paris, and a designer based in Scotland. Online tools and VoIP communication technologies such as Skype and Hangouts make this style of working a totally feasible proposition in today’s digital world.
Hiring remotely also gives you access to a much more diverse recruitment base. Employees with different life experiences to your own can add perspective and balance to your decision making. This can enhance your business greatly. Many businesses find that they become more agile, and more able to quickly adapt and evolve in response to global changes and developments.
Another good reason for considering remote workers for your business is that today’s generation expect to be able to work flexibly. A survey conducted by AfterCollege in 2015 found that 68% of millennials would be more inclined to apply for a job if remote working was an option. In 2020, that percentage is likely to be even higher.
Young millennials have grown up with digital technologies that enable them to communicate quickly and easily with others, whatever their location. Increasingly, they expect their future careers to offer them this same degree of flexibility. Many young jobseekers now consider a decent work-life balance to be just as important as a good salary. If businesses wish to attract the very best young talent, then they need to consider creating more remote working opportunities. Not offering this kind of job flexibility may limit your choice of prospective candidates significantly in the future.
3. Remote working reduces business costs
Hiring remote workers can save small businesses a significant amount of money.
Firstly, it reduces office costs, since you won’t need so much space when you have fewer in-house employees. When you consider the overhead costs of leasing large premises; buying computer equipment, phones, furniture and office supplies; paying utility bills and cleaners’ wages, etc, it becomes very clear that hiring remote employees can seriously benefit your bottom-line.
A word of caution here, though. Businesses should ensure that their remote employees aren’t left shouldering any unreasonable costs arising from working at home. Businesses should be prepared to make a contribution towards home office running costs – this might include electricity, gas, phone, and computing equipment costs, and could be paid either as expenses, or as part of the employee’s salary.
Another saving can be made with the reduction of wasted time. One study found that, on average, employees could be wasting over eight hours per week on non-work related acitivites. This represents one whole day’s work – or 20% of the working week! By hiring remote workers, you can cut costs significantly by only paying for time actually spent working.
There are even more potential savings to consider, such as hiring workers from countries where salaries tend to be lower, reductions in recruitment costs (remote workers tend not to switch jobs so often, as their job satisfaction is higher), and a reduction in sick pay (remote workers tend to have less time off due to illness).
Taken together, these cost-saving implications can make remote working a very attractive option, and a smart move for many small businesses.
4. Remote working increases job satisfaction
Make no mistake, the level of job satisfaction felt by your employees can seriously affect the performance of your business. When employees believe their work is important, and that their contributions are valued by their employer, they tend to work harder and be more productive. High levels of job satisfaction can also help to increase loyalty and retention, ultimately reducing bottom-line costs.
When businesses allow their employees to work remotely, job satisfaction very often increases. This can be due to a number of benefits that simply cannot be accessed when working in an office environment.
For example, working remotely can benefit employees financially, since the costs of commuting are eliminated, and they may also save money on lunches and coffee runs.
It can also reduce stress, since remote workers won’t find themselves stuck in rush-hour traffic jams twice a day. Commuting has been associated with higher blood pressure and negativity in the workplace.
In the UK, workers spend on average 58 minutes commuting to work. Swedish researchers found that a commute longer than 45 minutes for just one partner in a marriage makes the couple 40% more likely to divorce. Commuting has also been linked to weight gain, increased stress, loneliness, and neck pain. Remote working removes the need for commuting, as well as the associated negative effects.
Remote working also means that employees will no longer have to put up with stressful office politics, an affliction that can stymie productivity, and one which unfortunately affects most working environments at some point.
Remote staff tend to be happier and healthier as a result of an improved work-life balance, and the knock-on effects of this can have positive impacts on your business.
Studies have shown that workplace stress is greatly reduced for remote workers, with 82% reporting lower stress levels. A survey by FlexJobs found that 77% of 3,000 respondents felt they would be healthier if they had more flexible jobs, and 86% felt they would be less stressed.
5. Remote working improves employee retention
It is estimated that the cost of replacing an employee can be as much as 20% of their annual salary. Recruiting employees for jobs that require higher levels of training may cost much more.
Given that recruiting and training new employees sucks time and resources out of your business, you want to be sure that new employees won’t be looking for another job after a couple of months.
Studies have found that remote working helps to improve retention rates by at least 10%.
This is because working from home can have many benefits for employees. When employees are happy, they are less likely to start looking elsewhere for work.
Because they are often happier, remote workers tend to be more loyal to their employers than in-house workers. Loyal employees save businesses the cost of recruiting and training new staff.
6. Remote working is better for the environment
We all know we need to take measures to reduce our environmental impact, yet the traffic on our roads continues to increase greatly, year after year. Businesses are now expected to adopt greener practices, so any opportunity to reduce the amount of petrol and diesel we burn should be welcomed. Remote working can offer great environmental benefits in this respect.
Tips for hiring remote workers
- Focus on talent rather than location when recruiting your remote workforce;
- Search for people who are already working remotely (perhaps as freelancers), or who have previous experience of working remotely;
- Learn from others’ experiences when developing your own remote workforce;
- Give employees as much flexibility and freedom as you can, to ensure your employees can achieve an optimal work-life balance;
- When measuring productivity, focus on results and outcomes, rather than hours worked;
- Ensure that goals, objectives, expected outputs and deadlines are communicated clearly, and remember to include your remote workers in team decisions.
- Although many employers currently do not cover the costs of remote workers’ expenses, this is likely to change as the sector grows. It is highly likely that at some point, all employers will be required to support their remote workforce with costs for overheads such as laptops, broadband, phones and stationery. It would be wise to anticipate and plan ahead for this.
- Make effective use of the very best online productivity tools to enhance functionality and communication between your office base and your remote workforce. Tools such as Trello for task and project management, Zoom for video conferences, Dropbox for file sharing, and Slack for everyday communication between team members can revolutionise your business.
Remote working success stories
More than 60% of Github’s workforce now works remotely, and this has proved to be a great success for the company. Their Senior Product Designer, Joel Califa believes that the key is to find the formula and balance that works best for each workforce.
Zapier is another example of a company that has successfully embraced remote working. In 2019, they published a comprehensive online guide designed to help other businesses wishing to establish a remote workforce.
To be successful, a remote team needs a unique structure and a training process that should be implemented from the very beginning. Businesses should learn to recognise exactly what remote workers can do, that on-site teams cannot.
Could hiring remote employees work for your business?
It is clear that remote working can provide many businesses and employees with a range of benefits. However, remote working obviously does not work for all types of business – frontline workers in manufacturing, retailing, transport, catering, and healthcare, for example.
On the other hand, businesses that offer digital services, or who sell solely online could really benefit from a remote workforce. If this describes your business, you will still need to think carefully about whether this is the right step for you at this point in time. Although many businesses are making a success of working this way, it isn’t the right way forward for everyone.
Take a look at the checklist below to see whether a remote workforce could work for your business.
- You need to have job roles suited to remote working, i.e. roles that don’t require hands-on, manual labour or front-line, people-facing services.
- You will need to be able to trust your remote employees; if trust doesn’t come easily to you, then this method of working may not be for your business.
- If you prefer to micro-manage your staff, then developing a remote workforce is probably not the right path for you and your business.
- You may need to adapt some of the managerial practices that govern your business.
- You may sometimes need to deal with the odd “bad apple” – i.e. remote employees who take advantage and don’t complete the work on time, or to a high enough standard. However, this can be overcome by taking note of the next point.
- You need to be able to hire the right people. This is key to creating a successful remote workforce. You need to be able to identify candidates who are collaborative, proactive, self-motivated, and self-disciplined. They will also need to be excellent team players who feel comfortable communicating via digital technologies rather than face-to-face, and who are able to work in harmony with others for the common good.
Although recruiting a remote workforce comes with certain challenges and may not be for everyone, many small businesses find it to be one of the best decisions they ever make.
The research tells us that a remote workers tend to be more productive, so if your in-house team seem to be losing their productivity mojo, then perhaps it’s time to make that change!