When it comes to workplace flexibility-allowing employees to work from somewhere other than the office, or at times other than from 9 to 5-companies are all over the map. If yours is one that still mandates everyone shows up in person Monday through Friday, Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of job platform FlexJobs, wants to know why.
"A lot of employers are relying on the antiquated view that if somebody shows up at 8:30 a.m. and they're dressed nicely, on time and physically in the office all day long, they're productive," she says. "And that simply is not a remotely reliable measure of productivity in this day and age."
Here's her rationale for promoting remote working, a practice she says is good for the bottom line on several levels.
1. Remote workers are more productive and stick around longer.
She cites a Stanford study that found call center workers working from home outperformed peers in the office because they took shorter breaks and used less sick leave. They also reported higher levels of happiness and quit less often. One caveat: Some workers didn't do as well at home due to loneliness so it's important to make sure remote work is a good fit according to each employee's personality.
2. Employees who work from home are more engaged.
She also points to a Gallup study which found not only do remote workers log more hours, they're slightly more engaged than their office counterparts. Specifically, the research showed people who worked remotely part time were the most engaged due to their ability to enjoy the best of both worlds-the opportunity to have in-person relationships with others in the office, while also being able to reap the benefits of working from home, such as fewer distractions.
3. Remote workers are less stressed.
Office distractions aside, not having to deal with the friction of simply getting into the office is huge for some employees who are less stressed not having to commute. "They are aren't sitting in peak traffic hours, or they're able to work from home occasionally so they're able to handle things in their life better," she says. "[Being] less stressed and more happy can contribute to being more loyal to the company and being more engaged."
4. You can save money on real estate and utilities.
This one's a no-brainer. Fewer people in the office means you need a smaller one. "When a company moves to more of a remote or flexible scenario, they tend to put things more in the cloud," she says. "That also has some nice implications from an environmental standpoint but also from utilities and costs like paper, recycling, trash, which are small, nominal costs in a lot of ways, but certainly add up." Just look at Aetna, which Sutton Fell says has 47 percent of its workforce is working remotely, which has translated to 2.7 million square feet of office space shed at a savings of $78 million. Similarly, she says American Express has saved between $10 million to $15 million annually in real estate costs thanks to remote working.
5. You can hire from a wider talent pool.
Not only can you access people with better skills and experience, you may be able to pay them less, particularly if you're in an area with a high cost of living. "[Hiring locally] might be anywhere from 10 to 50 percent more than if you hired [someone who] lives in Kansas."
6. You can reduce your carbon footprint.
Not only will remote workers not be using environmental resources in your office, they won't be contributing to the pollution that comes from commuting. "Even if you allow workers to work from home one day a week, that's a 20 percent reduction in the carbon footprint of that employee base and their work-inspired activity," she says.