Remote work isn’t the future; it’s the present
What’s driven the rise of remote work? One factor has been an exponential increase in internet speeds. In the past, working remotely simply wasn’t possible when slow connections didn’t support tools like video calling or large file uploads. But as average internet speeds have increased, so has the portion of American workers who work remotely; at this point, 47 percent of workers already work from home at least a few days a week.
Another factor is the emergence of workplace tools that enable communication and collaboration. Programs like Slack, Basecamp, Skype, Dropbox, Asana, and Toggl, just to name a few, have made it easy to be a productive, integrated team member from outside the office.
Working outside the office actually boosts productivity
Remote work wouldn’t be so widely accepted if it wasn’t effective. Perhaps counterintuitively, surveys have shown that working outside of a typical office environment isn’t detrimental to productivity and can actually boost the performance of workers. A Gallup poll of remote workers found that remote workers were equally as engaged as employees who only worked in the office. But the highest levels of work engagement was found in employees who spent 60 to 80 percent of the time working remotely. Out of all employees, these workers were the most likely to “strongly agree” that they were highly valued at work and to feel that they had ample opportunities for personal growth.
Some of this could be attributed to the fact that variety is stimulating, and workers benefit from a change of scenery. A static office can actually inhibit productivity; by some calculations, factors like the office gossip and commuting rob U.S. employers of nearly $2 trillion worth of productivity every year.
Remote work is good for Employers, Too
Workers aren’t the only ones who benefit from remote work. In the past, companies have been limited to hiring talent that lived in the vicinity of the office unless they were willing to shell out hefty sums for relocation. Remote work has radically expanded companies’ access to the talent pool: great news for startups that itching for talent but short on capital.
Startups often have trouble finding the right office space, not only because of financial uncertainty but because the typical 10-year office lease isn’t compatible with the needs of a company that might double its workforce every two years. The advent of remote work means that startups are often moving their workforce outside of the office, cutting down on office expenses such as rent, furniture, office equipment, and janitorial services. According to Global Workplace Analytics, companies can save $10,000 annually for every remote worker, while larger companies can save tens of millions. And studies show that the next generation of college-educated workers places less emphasis on “fun” office perks and focuses instead on monetary benefits, so employers can save money on office supplies, utilities, and rent by having fewer in-office employees.
Many successful companies have already embraced remote work on a large scale. Over 60 percent of tech giant Github’s workforce works remotely, and leading cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike has 800 employees, half of whom work remotely. Even smaller startups are benefitting from remote work: St. Louis-based real estate company Clever Real Estate takes advantage of the Midwest’s low rent and circumvents talent restrictions by hiring significant amounts of completely remote workers. Following this trend, startups may start moving away from infamously expensive traditional startup hubs such as Silicon Valley and Seattle and instead consider areas in the Rust Belt while hiring remote workers.
Of course, there are challenges associated with a remote workforce, too. Many companies have seen great ideas pop up from informal chats with coworkers, something that’s more difficult when communication is limited to Slack and video calls. There are also the intangible benefits that come from lunches and happy hours: the social bonds made in these casual off-site settings can be hugely valuable in times of adversity. And keeping employees informed of all the latest developments isn’t as easy when they’re not all under one roof.
However, these challenges are far from insurmountable. Remote work is on the rise; in fact, there’s already an entire town in West Virginia that caters to remote workers, and they’ve even upgraded their internet infrastructure specifically to lure government employees from D.C. Remote work is already a matter of convenience and efficiency, but if it also becomes a medium for economic revitalization, we may be looking at a near-future where working in a physical office is the exception and not the rule.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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