After investigating some of the dangers and concerns in four previous articles this month, it seems to make good sense that we could find some balance by owning one of our many great digital opportunities.
There was a time, not so long ago, when thinking about employees who worked from home brought up mental images of folks who slept in late, sat at their computers in pajamas, and took frequent breaks to take care of kids or chores. These misconceptions and generalizations are no longer the norms. Remote work and flexible workspace options have become a standard as 3.9 million people in the United States and 68% of employees around the world work at home sometimes or even full time. The digital revolution is reshaping the workplace as flexjobs drive employee satisfaction, productivity, and innovation. In turn, companies are adapting more rapidly.
According to Forbes Magazine and SurePayroll (a PayChex Company), two-thirds of employees are more productive when they work remotely. When sick, they tend to work anyway...and don't spread germs in the workplace. They return to work sooner after illness and medical issues. In addition, an OWLlabs survey says that turnover has decreased by 25%. The need for an office is diminishing every day. Aside from increasing corporate profitability, the environment is getting a shot in the arm with people working at home. No stressful daily commute means a lower number of cars on the road which reduces greenhouse gas emissions, petroleum consumption and decreases air pollution. Everyone seems to win with remote workplaces,
I might have a rosier perspective on working from home than some. My jobs for many decades demanded on-site participation. There was no remote employment opportunity for a clinical counselor and treatment center administrator. But now, as a journalist whose company is in Austin and home is in Memphis, a new reality has presented itself. To get a clearer view of what working at home is all about, I recently talked with a corporate executive of an organization ranked as one of Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2019. These are some of the things she told me:
"Remote work is less of an option and more of a requirement for corporations today if we want to attract millennials and college graduates."
Q ~ What percentage of your employees work remotely full-time and part-time?
A ~ 60 to 70% of our workforce operate remotely at least once a week. Nobody in the entire company has an assigned desk. When we do go on site we all hotel. Hoteling means that you go into the office, swipe your badge, register, log in where you want to sit, pick a spot and go to work. The entire space has been transformed. There are cappuccino machines, relaxed areas and views of the city. But fewer and fewer people go in.
Q ~ What is a management challenge you face with your remote team of workers?
A ~ There are nine employees I haven't physically seen for three years. They are all around the country. So I make it a point to have regular contact to check in and see how they are doing in addition to work-related business. So that can be a drawback. But we make it work effectively and have good personal and team relationships.
Q ~ What have the benefits been for you in working from home?
A ~ I couldn't do what I do if I had to go into the city and be onsite every day. My performance time at work has increased along with productivity. I am able to take care of my children and home at the same time. Being a Mom requires the same thing of working mothers as anyone else. I still have to do laundry, cook, pick the kids up from school, give baths, keep the house clean and so on. The only way to do all of this effectively for me is through off-site employment.
Q ~ How do you achieve work/home balance with a remote job?
A ~ You have to be disciplined. But there are all-day meetings and constant contact so some of that just happens. The hardest part about balance is that you are always accessible. People want an immediate response to emails and messages. In the past, there was an automatic downtime on a commute or at lunch. Not so anymore. I have people on the east coast who need answers at 7:00 in the morning and people on the west coast that require a response at 8:00 PM. The biggest challenge of balance is finding ways to turn it all off.
Q ~ What about the future of remote work?
A ~ Working on site is disappearing. Millennials expect to work remotely. I think about my kids who experience our kind of work every day. This is how they are forming concepts of what and where work should be.
New survey data suggests that "employees who work from home at least once a month are 24% more likely to feel happy and productive at work than their desk-bound colleagues." In fact, they just seem to be happier and less stressed in all areas of life. If my executive friend is right, and I am sure she is, the global nature of work is changing rapidly and there is no going back. We need to accept, master, embrace and celebrate the digital workplace. It is how we will be doing business from now on.