Jimi Smoot Entrepreneur / Software Engineer

Remote work isn't just for virtual assistants

When we started Vesper it was important that we develop a culture that had remote work at its core. This is one of the reasons why, in our video, the last phrase is when your life is your work, the world is your office.

This believe is a bit contrarian given that much of the business world thinks that employees who work from home tend not to work as hard as those in the office. It turns out, however, that as more of the workforce becomes remote, there is more research that shows remote workers can be extremely effective.

It seems that while in-office workers may put in long hours, according to a number of studies, including this one in the journal of Personnel Psychology, remote workers are often more productive.

Forward thinking CEOs are accepting that sitting in an office for one particular 8 to 12 hour window is no longer necessary (nor effective) in such a busy and globalized world.

It would actually serve businesses of all sizes to allow some form of remote work into the culture of their company, as the benefits extend well beyond the immediate productivity.

But before we delve into them, let’s first consider what exactly a remote worker is.

A remote worker (also known as a telecommuter) is any worker that does their job either part-time or full-time, outside of the office. It is a fast growing trend with a 2015 Gallup poll finding that 37% of workers now telecommute at some point. This is four times greater than the 9% reported in 1995.

Remote work improves productivity

The most obvious benefit, and that which is most likely to dictate whether or not remote working is accepted, is the direct influence it has on the bottom line of the organization.

One survey by ConnectSolutions showed that not only do 77% of employees that work remotely report greater productivity, but 52% were found to be less likely to take time off.

Other advantages included 45% of remote workers reporting getting more sleep, 35% more physical exercise, 53% having less stress and 42% eating healthier.

It seems that remote working can quite simply result in healthier and happier employees.

Remote working employees save time commuting

Many people that work long hours feel starved for time as the vast majority of their day is taken up by work, commuting, and domestic chores.

This leaves them with very little freedom to focus on creative projects that reinvigorate them, and when they do have the time, the stress of the long work hours leaves them too depleted to be able to engage.

With remote work they will save time commuting, which can be 1-2 hours or more particularly in major cities. When they redirect that energy towards work or personal projects, even with just an hour a day they’ll end up a lot more satisfied and reinvigorated for work.

Get you access to people at their best

People have individual energy cycles and tend to perform at their best at completely different times. Some may be more effective between 6 and 8am, others 12pm, and others late at night. This is particularly important for anyone involved in creative work as creativity cannot always be accessed at will.

In a nationwide survey of more than 2060 professionals by Harris Interactive, 86% preferred to work alone to hit maximum productivity.

Remote work gives businesses access to a wider talent pool. That means the new found productivity may not be just as a result of increased employee satisfaction, it may also be because businesses are allowed access to more competent employees.

Reduce turnover with virtual workers

It’s better to try and stick with a good, proven, and reliable employee than it is to look for and train a new one. Offering telecommuting also gives you the option to keep workers who may look to leave for personal reasons, such as if their spouse is offered a job in a new city.

Employees who are given autonomy and flexibility will also appreciate the company and are more likely to be loyal. Half of the workers in the above mentioned ConnectSolutions survey said that being able to work remotely at least some of the time makes them more likely to stay with the company.

Working virtually can mean fewer distractions

Despite the stereotype that remote working leads to a number of distractions, the reality is that distractions you face when you choose your work environment are a lot more controlled than those that come up in the office.

In fact, another surprising statistic found in a Gallup survey was that remote workers logged 4 more hours a week than those who work in office.

So how can you get the most out of remote working?

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and remote working is no exception. With these great benefits comes a novel and unique set of challenges for both project managers and employees. Often remote working will require a transition period as workers get used to the new model of work and learn to better manage their time and self-motivate.

Here is some advice to consider if you are looking to integrate remote working in your company.

  • Phase it in gradually. Remote workers should be phased in over time, an employee that is used to working 5 days a week in an office will obviously struggle to switch to 5 days a week working remotely. Some people just perform better with constant supervision. Start with 1-2 days a week, allowing the individual to make adjustments and see whether they are suited to the model.
  • Ensure the right person for the job. This is kind of an obvious suggestion but it is appropriate nonetheless, whether or not your employees are productive or engaged will first be contingent on whether they are the right person for the job to start off with.
  • Teach productivity. It’s surprising that most firms still don’t actually teach basic productivity principles. When they’re left to work unsupervised, this knowledge becomes even more valuable. Try to offer some guidance or even book suggestions so that the telecommuter can best understand how to manage their time.
  • Have the right software. Making sure all of your workers are familiar with the same software, and you’re using software that’s appropriate for your operations, is another key to success with remote workers.
  • Encourage collaboration often. This is one of the major concerns from managers who are reluctant to accept remote working as a model; how will my team collaborate creatively? While this is a barrier, there are many ways to foster collaboration with cloud based platforms in real time. For example you can set up digital chat rooms with organized breaks for employees to interact for example.
  • Make sure they feel part of the team. It’s easy once the worker is outside of the office to feel that they’re no longer as connected to the group. This can actually be very discouraging. Keep them in the loop by constantly updating them. It’s also good to check up on them at least semi-frequently as some accountability is still effective.

Remote working is a trend that’s unlikely to go away any time soon. Understanding how to make it work for you now will give you a leg up on competition who fail to capitalize on its potential for employee productivity and satisfaction.

The key to making telecommuting successful is having a consistent flow of information between remote workers and physical office. However, remember that using digital means to communicate is a supplement to real relationships, not a replacement of them.

Tags: assistants and remote work