What Are the Benefits of a Remote Workforce?
Remote working has been linked to reduced employee turnover, lower organisational costs and increased employee productivity. Is it time to implement it into your long-term business strategy?
Only a few years ago, remote working—be that a temporary fixture or even permanent—might have raised a few eyebrows amongst friends and colleagues alike. Even today, many employers continue to voice their concerns about hiring remote workers, fearing procrastination, unreliable communication and a lack of employee productivity when unsupervised.
In reality, however, creating a remote infrastructure for your workforce has never been easier. Apps such as Slack and Trello help keep remote employees organised and communicating, and many forms of accounting software to keep employees organised, hardware with interactive displays enable teams to interact and retain camaraderie and community spirit.
And the ability to do business banking and access business loans online means your accounts department or business managers don’t always need to be in the same location to successfully manage the businesses finances.
More recently, many businesses have been forced to implement remote working to survive the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. This could be an opportune time to consider some of the benefits of remote working that you might wish to keep in your organisation—even after things have returned to some state of normality.
Today we explore the numerous and various ways that building a remote workforce can benefit your company—some of which are less intuitive than others.
Many employers worry that working from home will lead to remote employees slacking off, but just as many find the opposite to be demonstrably true. According to the 2019 Harvard Business Review, businesses actually see increased productivity from people working from home compared to when they’re in the office.
In a home environment, employees have the freedom of setting up a work station exactly bespoke to their needs, meaning they are comfortable, relaxed and free from office-related distractions such as noise, chatter and politics.
Hiring remotely enables employers to bring on board the crème de la crème, regardless of whether or not they’re living on the other side of the world. Furthermore, you can allow yourself the freedom to hire only those individuals who are pre-trained in the necessary areas, thereby negating training costs.
You can also hire natives in other languages, which can be massively beneficial to businesses that require customer service or translation around the globe, as this in turn translates into increased brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
A remote workforce is directly linked to a higher rate of employee retention. For one, losing an employee because they’ve moved house becomes an obsolete concern. Remote workers are also afforded far greater flexibility with their time, which is a particularly major requirement for millennials—who, after all, already constitute the majority of the global workforce.
All in all, remote working can help you retain staff for longer, saving you potentially huge expenses on hiring and training in the long run. The Owly Labs 2019 State of Remote Work report found that remote workers are 13% more likely to stay in their current job for the next five years than onsite workers.
Save on equipment
Many remote workers purchase the equipment required for their role. This is especially the case with freelancers, who are self-employed and can therefore claim their devices as business expenses. This all serves to take away some potentially hefty receipts from your business as you stop forking out for laptops and tablets.
Illness and appointments are inevitable for any employee, but any form of absenteeism whose likelihood is greatly exacerbated by commuting can be significantly reduced by implementing a remote working infrastructure. This is little surprise when you realise the sheer extent to which the majority of workers negatively perceive their daily commute, considering delays in public transport as diminishing to their long-term life satisfaction as a pay cut.
In fact, many remote workers may be happy to be flexible with their working hours, because they are not rushing for a train, worried about getting stuck in traffic or stressed about missing their bus.
Stress is a major contributor to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, so cutting stress can have significant and far-reaching benefits when seeking to build a workforce who are both happy and productive. Owly Labs found that 86% of workers believe remote working to not only reduce their stress levels but improve their health, too.
Furthermore, remote employees are more likely to have higher levels of gratitude toward their employers, thankful for being granted the opportunity to enjoy a flexible working arrangement or spend more time at home with loved ones.
This then translates into employees feeling more inclined to work to the especial benefit of their employer. Although this only remains true whilst the option to work from home is less common, if it becomes normalised then this benefit may diminish. It’s worth pointing out that some employees’ mental health may suffer whilst working remotely. To keep morale high, it’s important to keep regular communication with employees, set clear goals and praise a job well done.
This includes factors like a feeling of isolation, lack of exercise and the challenge that you cannot leave the stress of work in the office. Encouraging employees to set ground rules to help the work effectively and healthy is key.
Cost saving for employees and employers
In the long run, employers may make big savings on reducing business costs, including staff turnover and recruitment, by crafting a workforce who are more profoundly satisfied with their jobs. Employees will also benefit from reduced travel costs. In fact, for many workers, the luxury of remote working is enough of a perk in itself as to reduce the want for more.
Forbes found that 54% of employees would actually change jobs for one that offered them more flexibility. Furthermore, the State of Remote Work 2020 report found that not having to commute was amongst the top benefits of any role.
Smaller office space
Office space is one of the most significant expenses for any business, but a remote workforce means an employer cutting this cost by many magnitudes—or even altogether. Wi-Fi, water, electricity—the savings companies can make on reducing their need for office space can quickly add up. And of course, every expense cut is mirrored in the business’s profit margin.
No time constraints
A huge benefit of a remote workforce is that your company can operate in the suitable time frames for its business needs, not just during the office hours of a single set location. This is especially important for companies with major customer service bases that are required online at every hour of the day. Setting up correspondents in the major time zones serviced by your business means there will always be someone on the other end of a customer’s query, solution at hand.
It’s always good for a business to be perceived as environmentally responsible, and remote working directly leads not only to less traffic pollution but also to building space being utilised for more pressing infrastructural purposes. Reducing the overheads entailed by an in-office workforce, such as water and electricity, is also inevitably beneficial for the environment.
Could remote working be right for your company?
Remote working, it would seem, is here to stay. It is not a fad; indeed, many laud it as the future of business operations.
The freedom for workers to choose their location is beneficial to the environment and mental health, which in turn pays great dividends to businesses and their profit margins.
Given the myriad benefits afforded those employers who embrace the trend, companies might even consider why they wouldn’t implement a remote working infrastructure. And with remote working having profound, positive effects on morale, it’s little wonder that more and more businesses are taking the plunge.
Finance Director at NerdWallet UK and business adviser to SME's Nic is spokesperson for small and growing businesses with a strong understanding of the financial needs of business Read more