Remote working isn't ideal for every team — some teams and people just work better face-to-face. But if you want to give it a shot, there are distinct benefits. For both employees and employers.
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A nine-month study of remote work at Ctrip, a Chinese travel website, for example, found the company saved $US1,900 per employee in furniture and office costs during the period — a not inconsequential sum when converted into the local currency. Meanwhile, those allowed to work from home were happier, less likely to quit and more productive than the control group – those that had to work in the office.
#1 Spend less on space
As the Ctrip study shows, one of the major savings enjoyed by going remote is in the workspace itself. You can save on big ticket items like rent — you can potentially have a smaller workspace, or none at all. But remote workers can save you across the board — desks, chairs, kitchens, parking spaces and electricity are all costs you no longer have to worry about. These may seem like small incidentals, but over the course of years, and multiplied for all your remote staff, can really add up. Further, remote workers can tailor their workspace for their preferred way of working, trying weird and wonderful productivity techniques that might not fly in an office environment. Things like the Pomodoro technique — working in frequent, short, sharp bursts followed by breaks, suddenly becomes possible.
#2 Less distraction
Getting away from an office environment — where your co-workers may be having loud conversations, enjoying smelly food, or are tempted to poke their nose into your space, can do wonders for getting headspace and into the zone. This is especially important for jobs that require some thought, say founders of Basecamp Jason Fried and David Heinemeier. Basecamp's team is spread far and wide, and the two have become evangelists for not having a central workspace.
“Meaningful work, creative work, thoughtful work, important work—this type of effort takes stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the zone. But in the modern office such long stretches just can’t be found. Instead, it’s just one interruption after another,” Fried and Heinemeier write in their book on remote working, Remote.
#3 More flexibility
Flexibility can mean many things — such as choosing when, where and how you work. Several studies now show that unshackling workers from traditional, rigid work practices, can bring productivity improvements, on top of gains in retention and worker satisfaction. Workers with increased flexibility can enjoy greater work-life balance, such as the ability to pick up children from school and pursue interests outside of work — both essential in long-term mental health and productivity. Envato, a Melbourne-based startup, has instituted a "universal workplace flexibility" program — allowing employees to work from anywhere, at any time. It claims worker retention and productivity as benefits — on top of picking up kids and working from home on projects that require solitude, employees can work overseas and pursue other opportunities for personal growth.
#4 A more diverse team
Being able to hire remotely opens up a world of possibilities. Rather than your choices being constricted to only those in a commutable distance from your workspace, you can draw from a much wider pool. Even if you must have someone who can work the same office hours as you, suddenly your potential talent pool expands from just your city, to everyone who shares your time zone. And, if you can be flexible with your work hours, your options are greater still. Take Automattic, the company behind Wordpress, as an example. The company is "fully distributed" — they hire people no-matter where they are in the world. Not only does this mean they can hire the best, but it also all but ensures diversity — Automattic employs people from numerous countries, ethnicities, creeds, language groups, and timezones. And in an increasingly connected world, a diverse workforce is an incredible competitive advantage.
#5 Focusing on results
Having a team that works remotely often requires a change in how you work, especially how you measure effectiveness. Rather than time spent at a desk, remote teams often have to emphasise other factors, like output . As longtime remote worker Sara Rosso points out, this can be both a workaround for office politics, as aswell as a way to empower people take control and responsibility for their work. When you're a remote worker its hard to hide behind presenteeism — a lot of your co-workers can't actually see if you're present. It's your results that matter and that are most visible.