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Remote Working – 3: But what’s in it for my company?

Chris Shenton | Head of People Science at Weekly10 / July 11, 2019

And so, the end is near…

That’s right guys, we’ve nearly reached the end of our series of blogs looking at the remote working revolution that is shaking up business in the UK and further afield. If you have missed either of our previous posts looking at what remote working is and the impact it can have on wellbeing, these are available at the end of this post. Go give them a read, we’ll wait here for you…

For those avid readers who are up to date with the series, well done first of all. Secondly, you may be asking yourself:

“OK Chris, you’ve told us what remote working is, how the remote work revolution rumbles ever forward and the benefits & negatives of remote working on employee wellbeing, but what about the bottom line, how does remote working impact my company’s performance?”

Well, fear not as we have one blog post left, and we’re going to use it to look at the impact remote working has on a business’s performance. We’re going to focus of some key business metrics that help dictate overall performance; productivity, engagement and expense.

Remote workers are more productive

One of the biggest misconceptions we hear when discussing working remotely is how it must surely decrease productivity. The theory seems to go that if I can’t supervise them, workers aren’t going to stay on task and productivity will drop. Whilst this may be the way many managers feel about remote working; the evidence simply doesn’t support this.

A recent study published in Harvard Business Review looked at remote work within the framework of a call centre business (specifically, Chinese travel specialist, Ctrip). Ctrip hypothesised they could save money on space, furniture and all the other requirements having an office-based workforce entail by pushing some workers to a remote work pattern. They also assumed there would be a reduction in productivity, but at the end of the day that the gains would outweigh the losses. They were therefore extremely surprised to find that the staff working from home completed on average 13.5% more calls per day than the control group still based at head office over a 9-month trial period. Across a week, this means the remote teams were giving Ctrip nearly a whole extra workday!


A cross-industry study of remote workers by Connect Solutions found that amongst those who work remotely 77% of staff were more productive than they were when office based. 30% of participants reported that they accomplished more in less time than when they worked out of HQ.

Why is it that while common sense may suggest working from home reduces productivity, the truth seems to lie in the opposite?

Well, one theory lies in the difference between office and home environments. Offices are generally quite distracting places, be it the constant ringing of phones, that colleague who seems to think typing on a keyboard is akin to banging out a drum solo at Wembley Arena or yet another selection of gluttonous birthday treats causing a clamour. All this distraction means we lose focus, slowing down our work rate, often without us really even consciously noticing the impact. Working remotely affords every employee the opportunity to craft a workspace that works for them, void of distraction and thus primed for productivity perfection. Remote workers can stay on task for longer and don’t need time to refocus their attention.

Another supporting factor is that in general, remote workers, work longer hours than their office-based colleagues. With no daily commute to contend with, the ability to sort out small chores during lunch, reduced length of breaks and a willingness to give back to an employer and therefore work a little earlier/later, remote workers on average work for 8% longer daily. Sick days also reduce, meaning less productivity is lost to illness.

Remote workers are no less engaged, providing you have the right engagement strategy!

Engagement (rightly in our view) is a key focus for a lot of companies when it comes to HR activities. The benefits of employee engagement are clear, with thousands of studies and companies finding engagement can improve productivity, decrease attrition, increase staff happiness, boost discretionary effort and turn staff in to proud advocates of the company they work for. In fact, PWC’s 2015 Employee Engagement Landscape Study found companies with highly engaged employees produce 250% better performance-related business outcomes.

A frequently asked question around remote working seems to be “won’t staff working away from base, kill engagement”. But, we’re happy to report that if you have an effective employee engagement strategy in place, remote working can actually boost engagement!

That’s right, staff working away from the office can do wonders for engagement. Don’t believe me, well let’s look at some examples:

  • In a 2017 review, Gallup found staff who remote work for 60% of the time had significantly increased engagement levels than those who never worked remotely. Staff who worked away from the office 80% of the time were further engaged still.
  • Customer support business, Help Scout achieve an average 81% engagement score despite being 100% remote work based. According to AON’s 2018 Employee Engagement Report, the global average is around 66%.

Employee engagement is a crucial business performance KPI. Getting it right is a vital step for any business and remote working needn’t impact negatively. If you are currently struggling with your employee engagement activities or seeing an increase in the number of remote workers across your business, why not check out Weekly10 for an effective employee engagement platform.


How much will it cost us?

Ok so you’re sold on the benefits to productivity and engagement that remote working can serve up, but sceptical about the costs involved? Well fear not, we have yet more good news…utilising a remote working structure in your business can save you money!

Ohio University carried out a research project in 2017 looking at some of the financial benefits a company could reap by implementing a remote work structure. They found that the average US company could save $1 million a year by allowing 100 employees to work remotely for 50% of their time. The researchers found that through even allowing just one employee to telecommute, a company can save in excess of $10,000.


Many companies find that the cost of renting large office spaces, particularly in tech hubs such as London, Manchester and New York are shockingly high. By introducing some level of remote working to their operation, companies can look at smaller spaces, saving huge amounts across a year in many cases. Fewer staff also brings down electrical, connectivity and sustenance costs.

Don’t forget the increase in productivity and engagement will also help bring in more revenue, added to the cost savings offered up by remote working. All in all, the financial benefits of remote working are clear.


Can remote work offer my business any other benefits?

Well, yes actually, how about recruitment? Matt Mullenweg, CEO and founder of Automattic (the company behind WordPress) puts it simply:

“Talent and intelligence are equally distributed across the world, but opportunity isn’t. A distributed workforce opens up the talent pool from local, to global”

This is a key benefit often overlooked for implementing remote work. You have a larger opportunity to find the right staff member for you. You can hire staff who live, sleep and breathe in the countries in which you are doing business, giving you experts in your global markets and the cultural differences of each.

Summary

So, there you have it, remote working not only works for employees, but businesses too. Increased productivity and engagement coupled with tangible cost savings and an improved talent pool all add up to a pretty compelling case for why remote work is good for business.

Communication and the right tools (such as Weekly10) are vital to ensure your remote workers get the most out of the telecommute experience and that your company reaps the bevvy of potential rewards. If you get it right though, then the opportunity is huge and it’s easy to see why the remote work revolution rumbles on ever stronger.

Enjoyed this blog post? Why not catch up on the rest of the series:



References

2015 EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT LANDSCAPE STUDY

In-text: (Pwc.com, 2019) Pwc.com. (2019). 2015 Employee Engagement Landscape Study. [online] Available at: https://www.pwc.com/mt/en/publications/people-and-organisation/pwc-hrs-employee-engagement-landscape-2015.pdf [Accessed 10 Jul. 2019].

  2018 GLOBAL EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT TRENDS REPORT | AON

In-text: (Aon.com, 2019) Aon.com. (2019). 2018 Global Employee Engagement Trends Report | Aon. [online] Available at: https://www.aon.com/2018-global-employee-engagement-trends/index.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2019].

  5 BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT REMOTE WORK AMONG EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES

In-text: (Forbes.com, 2019) Forbes.com. (2019). 5 Biggest Misconceptions About Remote Work Among Employers And Employees. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/abdullahimuhammed/2018/11/22/5-biggest-misconceptions-about-remote-work-among-employers-and-employees/#76dc2047f821 [Accessed 9 Jul. 2019].

  PRESS RELEASE | COSO CLOUD SURVEY SHOWS WORKING REMOTELY BENEFITS EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES

In-text: (CoSo Cloud | Secure Virtual Training & Collaboration, 2019) CoSo Cloud | Secure Virtual Training & Collaboration. (2019). Press Release | CoSo Cloud Survey Shows Working Remotely Benefits Employers and Employees. [online] Available at: https://www.cosocloud.com/uncategorized/connectsolutions-survey-shows-working-remotely-benefits-employers-and-employees [Accessed 9 Jul. 2019].

  STATE OF REMOTE WORK 2019

In-text: (Buffer.com, 2019) Buffer.com. (2019). State of Remote Work 2019. [online] Available at: https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019 [Accessed 9 Jul. 2019].

  TO RAISE PRODUCTIVITY, LET MORE EMPLOYEES WORK FROM HOME

In-text: (Harvard Business Review, 2019) Harvard Business Review. (2019). To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2014/01/to-raise-productivity-let-more-employees-work-from-home [Accessed 9 Jul. 2019].


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