September 26, 2019
Once upon a time the concept of ‘remote working’ beyond outsourced contractors was almost unheard of. Employers viewed remote work as an opportunity for workers to be less productive, out of contact and generally more inefficient. As an employer myself, I would have agreed with these misconceptions early on in my career. However, after many years of hiring staff that either work part- or even full-time remotely, I can confidently say the myths are unfounded; even I am now more prone to remote working.
The shift is being driven by the changes in the way we work, thanks to IoT and a changing labor force which is increasingly filled with Millennials and Gen Z. There are so many benefits to working from home that it begs the question if we’ll even be visiting ‘The Office’ in the future (outside watching the lauded comedy). Nearly, four million Americans spent 50 percent or more of their time working remotely in 2018, up 115 percent from 2005.
The increase in productivity is driven by an ability to work on demand and the technology that increasingly allows us to instantly connect with anyone anywhere. There have been several studies conducted stating that 86 percent of employees felt more productive working at home and employers reported 69 percent less absenteeism after offering partial remote working options. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that employees working from home in a certain office were quantitatively 13.5 percent more productive than those working within the office.
Employees who worked from home also reported higher morale and being happier and less stressed. This can be due to obvious factors including not having to deal with a stressful commute and the various comforts associated with staying at home.
Without the need to fill and furnish office buildings with people and their creature comforts, companies can save massively on overhead. American Express reported a savings of $15M per annum thanks to their remote workforce in 2018.
A study of our youngest generation of workers showed that 68 percent of them would be more inclined to work for an employer that offered at least some remote working flexibility. The labor force will be largely millennial by 2025 (with the group gaining a 70 percent majority in the workforce by then). Millennials and the companies they create (or interact with the most i.e Google, Facebook) are more intelligent and savvy than any previous generation of workers. With IoT making it easier than ever to work anywhere, they’ve come to expect and value jobs that take advantage of our technological advances and give them more real world freedoms.
Anecdotally, working from home can benefit your marriage
An increase in remote working means a decrease in commuting. This not only benefits the workers who no longer have to contend with late buses and bumper to bumper traffic, it helps the environment as well. A 2013 study highlighted the impact of increased remote work, estimating that around 680 million gallons of fuel was saved that year due to the increase in remote work, a number that accounts for .5 percent of total US fuel consumption.
And perhaps more anecdotally, working from home can benefit your marriage. You get to spend more time with your spouse or at least, less time bogged down by the stressors leaving for a regular 9-5 workday can entail. Personally, I’m able to spend more time with my wife and children, and I know I’m happier for it. If you don’t believe me, Manchester Metropolitan University found that couples in marriage that were either both of part remote workers had a happier marriage due to the fact they worked from home and were together more.
There are of course, negatives related to working from home. Workers can feel more isolated, less connected and even more depressed due to the lack of human interaction or routine. Of course, these issues vary from person to person, and one style of work isn’t for everyone (that being said, not every job can even be done remotely). So it’s perhaps not so much that offices won’t exist in the future, but perhaps they’ll be more open and flexible as time moves on.
We all need to find the exact balance to make remote working work. Its predicted that 38 percent of the labor force will work remotely in some way in the next decade so clearly the trend isn’t going anywhere. I personally believe that the positives of telecommuting outweigh the negatives. Maybe working from home 100 percent of the time is too much, but a good blend of keeping face in an office environment whilst also having parts of your working week done remotely is just the balance companies and employees need to get the most out of their working relationship. So, to answer the question posed at the beginning, yes I believe there will be offices in the future, we just may visit them a little less often.