Remote work has increased in fits and starts as technology has improved and attitudes slowly evolved. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the immediate and widespread adoption of the geographically distributed workforce. Today, not only has remote work become commonplace, but workers are increasingly reluctant to return to the office.
In a survey of 1,007 full-time and part-time employees, PwC found 29% wanted to continue in a fully remote role as of January 2021. However, as infections reached new heights over the summer, by August that number increased to 41%. In addition, research is indicating that there is a large section of the workforce (up to 50%) that indicates they are ready to quit if necessary to secure a remote work lifestyle.
Why Is Knowing Why Important to Employers?
As companies reevaluate their work models, many are contemplating a variety of new policies and procedures to implement the lessons learned over the past two years. Three main options are emerging:
- Returning full time to the office
- Implementing a hybrid work model of some office days and some remote
- Becoming a fully remote company
What option is best for your business will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of business, the location of the office(s), and the preferences of management and employees. In the past, the preferences of management would have been the primary deciding factor; however, things have changed. The remote work lifestyle is like a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle.
Now, everyone in the world knows that remote work is possible, there are real benefits, and it doesn’t cause employees to binge-watch daytime TV. Choosing the wrong direction now regarding flexible schedules and remote work could be very expensive if your employees quit or become dissatisfied with their jobs. In addition, not embracing progressive remote work policies could dramatically shrink your talent pool.
So, what is the draw? Why are so many employees willing to risk it all to retain their remote work lifestyle? There may be as many answers to that question as there are people. However, most remote work benefits tend to fall into three categories, mental and physical health, financial, and practical or logistical.
Mental & Physical Health Benefits of a Remote Work Lifestyle
There are several ways that a remote work lifestyle can contribute to reductions in stress levels. First, there is no more commute. No more time spent white-knuckling it through endless traffic jams. Stress can also be reduced due to less need to interact with toxic coworkers or play office politics. In addition, leaving a noisy and overstimulating office environment can lead to lower stress levels.
While many people were concerned about professional and social isolation while working remotely, many others were thinking — bring it on! The busy modern lifestyle makes it difficult to prioritize self-care. With extra time and less interaction with people, employees have been able to retreat and focus more on their physical and mental health.
Improved Sense of Safety
Being at home brings a greater sense of safety and security. In addition to the obvious safety from COVID-19, our homes naturally contribute to feelings of psychological comfort. This is especially true in an increasingly unsure world. While some employees are comfortable returning to the office, a survey conducted in July 2021 by The Harris Poll found that 89% of employees continue to have reservations.
Quality Family Time
For many parents, time with the kids was at a premium. Many got home after the kids were in bed. Others spent all their time together rushing off to other activities, and family dinners were rare. The work from home lifestyle initiated by COVID-19 has brought families together to bond and reconnect as never before. Research shows this increased time together can result in better-socialized children with more self-esteem and higher grades.
Making Healthy Choices
In addition to having more time for family and yourself, the remote work lifestyle supports healthier choices in other areas of life as well. For example, the extra time allows for taking walks outdoors or maybe a power nap when needed. Working from home also offers the opportunity to make better food choices by cooking more dinners at home and avoiding take-out and fast food meals.
Get More Sleep
At its most basic, a remote work lifestyle allows for more sleep, which can provide employees with a psychological lift. Lack of sleep was a chronic problem before the pandemic. And although the current research is all over the place regarding sleep patterns during the pandemic, more time for sleep is always helpful. With the average American commute clocking in at a 52-minute round-trip, employees can use some of that time for a little more shut-eye.
Financial Reasons for a Remote Work Lifestyle
Reduced Transportation Costs
With gas prices rising, a remote work lifestyle can substantially cut costs related to commuting including tolls, maintenance, and parking costs. In addition, commutes take time, which also costs in terms of lost wages. A recent analysis by Lending Tree found that full-time workers in the 10 largest U.S. cities lose an average of $5,679 in wages annually due to their commutes.
Lower Rents and House Prices
Perhaps one of the greatest perks of working remotely is the freedom to choose where you live. No longer do the home choices of employees depend on where the office is located. This means they can move farther out of town, change states, or even leave the country. Recent research indicates that 14 to 23 million Americans plan to move to another city or state.
Improved Standard of Living
As with the cost of housing, remote workers can also choose to relocate to an area with a lower cost of living. Money can be saved on everything from groceries to electricity, leaving your wages to go a lot further. In addition, money is saved on the usual costs of going into the office, such as business attire and lunches out. These funds can then be used on other priorities that can improve their quality of life.
There are also many indirect financial incentives to pursue a remote work lifestyle. This can include the opportunity to undertake additional education to get ahead in their career field. Remote work offers the extra time and money needed to pursue these opportunities. In addition, the pandemic has given rise to a wide variety of free or budget-friendly online education and training options.
Practical Reasons for a Remote Work Lifestyle
Flexibility to Run Errands
Sometimes work gets in the way of life. Anyone who’s struggled with juggling grocery shopping, family dental and medical appointments, kids school activities, and getting the dog to the vet understands this. When employees work remotely, they have the flexibility to schedule errands and make appointments whenever is most convenient. No more rushing to make the last appointment of the day!
Ability to Choose a Work Schedule
The regular 9 to 5 does not work for everyone. Whether it’s due to variations in natural circadian rhythms or more practical reasons, such as caring for a newborn, having the ability to choose the working hours can be a big perk. In addition, work can be scheduled around important activities, such as spending time with pre-school children or enjoying more daylight hours outside.
Meet Personal Obligations
Almost everyone knows what it’s like to say, “I can’t help you with that because I have to work.” Sometimes work hours cause employees to miss important events or make them unable to assist family or friends when they need help. The flexible schedule of a remote work lifestyle allows employees to prioritize their personal obligations and make up the hours later.
There seems to be a new productivity study every week. However, overall productivity statistics are showing that productivity levels are staying the same or increasing with employees working from home. A variety of factors are contributing to these findings, including working more minutes each day, increased job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism, and lower employee turnover.
Reduce Pollution & Waste
In addition to direct benefits to the employee, there are also practical benefits for the planet with remote work lifestyles. These include lower vehicle emissions and improved air quality, reduced electricity usage, less plastic waste, and more time to engage in recycling and reuse activities and initiatives.
Regardless of the business choices made regarding remote work, it will be much easier to navigate any changes if you understand how your employees are feeling. The best way to get honest feedback is to conduct anonymous surveys to gain insights into common concerns. Don’t assume that your employees will speak up regarding the reasons behind their preference. Hesitancy, to be honest, can arise from wanting to be seen as a team player or fear of losing out on promotion opportunities.
Using the survey results, employee concerns can be addressed directly. For example, if finding childcare is a widespread difficulty, a policy allowing remote work during childcare emergencies might resolve the problem. If housing costs mean employees can’t afford homes within commuting distance, setting up a satellite office might be a solution.
Communicating clearly with your employees about the policies and procedures you are adopting and including the “why” will also help get them on your side. Acting without consideration for their feelings, especially if they endured the pandemic with the business, can leave them feeling forced into another situation, not of their choosing. Allowing employees as much freedom and flexibility as possible will improve the acceptance of new policies and help smooth the transition.
What benefits of the remote work lifestyle help you improve your work performance? How did remote work transform your life? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!
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