The ability to work from home is no longer just a fringe benefit for a handful of employees, new research finds.
Indeed, telecommuting is commonplace in today’s technology-laden work environment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, before the coronavirus pandemic, up to 25% of U.S. employees worked remotely. This number includes people who consistently worked remotely and those who worked from home only occasionally.
The number of employees who are working or have, at one point in their career, worked at least one day a month from home has grown by more than 300% in the past two-plus decades. A Gallup study states that in 2015, 37% of employees reported working remotely at one point in their career, compared with 30% in 2006 and just 9% in 1995.
“Technology has made telecommuting easier for workers, and most companies seem willing to let workers do their work remotely, at least on an occasional basis if the position allows for it,” the 2015 study’s authors wrote.
The rise in telecommuting could be partly due to an increased belief that remote employees are even more productive than their in-office counterparts. In a 2020 McKinsey & Co. study, 41% of respondents felt they were more productive working at home than in an office. It also reported that many employees have grown more confident in their ability to work from home since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Complementing McKinsey’s results, a study from WFH Research found that only 13.5% of people working remotely believe their efficiency levels have decreased.
Previous Gallup research found that employees who spend at least some time working remotely are more likely than those who never telecommute to be engaged in their jobs.
“It is unclear from those relationships whether telecommuting increases engagement or [if] workers who telecommute (and tend to be more highly educated, white-collar employees) are more likely to be engaged in their work in general,” the study’s authors wrote. “Regardless of the causality, Gallup research has consistently demonstrated that companies with a more engaged workforce tend to do better in a variety of business outcomes, including productivity, profitability and customer engagement.”
Many employees want to work from home on a limited basis. Among those currently telecommuting, 60% want to work from home one to five days per week, and 30% of telecommuters prefer to work from home always. Only 10% want to work from the office all the time.
“Those who telecommute do not do so on a very frequent basis,” the authors of the 2015 Gallup study wrote, and to some extent, that notion remains true in 2022. The 2015 study was based on surveys of 1,011 adults age 18 and older in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. [Read related article: How to Decide if Telecommuting Should Be Permanent]
To help your remote employees maintain – and possibly increase – their productivity levels while telecommuting, an effective work-from-home policy is key.
When developing your policy, you should begin with an idea of how often you want your employees to work remotely. This way, you can balance their work schedules while keeping adequate staffing levels and ensuring your team achieves its goals efficiently. You should also have conversations with your employees to make sure everyone has the proper resources and space to work without distractions.
To help your workflows run smoothly, you’ll need to ensure your team can maintain its current communication levels. You can use one of the best video conferencing solutions, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, to run collaborative meetings.
You can also use the best time and attendance software to keep track of all your employees’ hours worked, or the best employee monitoring software to keep tabs on their productivity if you’re really concerned about it. If you choose the latter, though, brush up on the laws and ethics of employee monitoring first.
With these tech resources and other collaboration tools, you keep the lines of communication open and foster teamwork among your employees.
As your team transitions to remote work, you should set specific standards and guidelines – even written ones that require signatures to confirm that employees understand the expectations. Make sure employees know their start times, break periods, and who they should contact with questions about their work or any technical issues. You want to give your employees just as much support when they’re working remotely as they have in the office.
Allowing your team to work remotely can benefit your company in some big ways.
Chad Brooks contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.