10 Benefits of Hiring Remote Workers in 2024
As the world moves through its third year of the pandemic, remote work is changing businesses forever. Media stories often cover how individual professionals benefit from remote work, but the rewards are not one-sided.
Although there are many more, these 10 items are among the top benefits of hiring remote workers:
- People are more productive
- Workers are more satisfied
- Businesses save money
- Talent pools expand
- Employees are more engaged
- Workforces increase agility
- Workers save on commute time
- Turnover rates decrease
- Employees save money
- The environment endures less abuse
1. Remote teams and individuals are more productive
For years, many companies believed that workers would be less productive when working remotely. However, numerous studies suggest the opposite.
At the end of 2020, during what was widely known as “the great remote work experiment,” a remote trends study by Upwork found 61% of workers said their productivity rose.
Hiring managers agreed. Nearly one-third (32.2%) said that despite the abrupt and often chaotic transition into remote work, productivity increased. A few months later, after workers and businesses got into a remote work groove, most managers (68%) said it was going better.
The findings are consistent with other studies, including a two-year study by Great Place to Work® where researchers found that most people reported higher productivity in 2020 compared to the year before.
The top reasons remote workers attribute to getting more done may not be surprising:
- No commutes. You can reinvest the time saved from commuting into activities that increase work-life balance and reduce stress (e.g., spending time with family, exercising, meditating, sleeping).
- Fewer distractions. No more co-workers dropping by your desk or struggling to focus with loud background conversations happening around you.
- More breaks. Without the pressure of feeling judged, you can take more short breaks throughout the day. These microbreaks may last only a few minutes each, but taking them is shown to increase how much gets done and how well it’s done.
- Comfortable work environments. You can design a workspace that supports how you focus, think, and create best. No co-workers to complain about your playlist, the temperature of the room, or comment on the 40 cat pictures on your desk.
2. Employees report greater satisfaction
Research indicates that remote workers aren’t just more productive, but they’re also happier. When you look at the reasons above, it’s easy to see why: Remote work enables greater life balance and reduces stress. An Owl Labs report breaks it down like this:
All of these positive feelings are great for the employer too, as more satisfied team members lead to improvements in other key business metrics including:
- Higher retention rates
- Higher customer loyalty
- Higher profitability
- Higher employee engagement
Alpine Access saw the difference with their service agents. Compared to traditional agents, remote agents closed 30% more sales than traditional agents the year before. Customer complaints decreased by 90%. And turnover decreased by 88%.
3. Remote teams are cost-effective
There are some impressive anecdotes demonstrating how businesses can save big by going remote, such as how IBM saved $50 million and Sun Microsystems saved $68 million in real estate costs. But you don’t have to be a huge company or own real estate to realize savings.
Studies show hiring remote workers lowers absences and turnover. It also increases profitability by improving engagement and productivity.
Global Workplace Analytics calculates that if U.S. professionals, with jobs that could be done remotely, did so just half of the time, businesses could save $11,000 per employee. And those are conservative estimates.
Businesses save money in several ways by shifting to remote teams. The savings that come to mind first include:
- Rent and utilities: Smaller office spaces, if any
- Cleaning services: Smaller spaces and fewer people onsite
- Food: Fewer people in the office means less food to stock
- Taxes: Shrinking office space saves on property taxes
Remote teams are also more cost-effective in other ways:
- You can hire people outside your locale. A boon for employers located in pricey and competitive city centers.
- You can access talent as needed. When you don’t need a given skill full-time, it makes sense to engage remote freelancers on a project basis.
- The business can continue operating in the event of a disaster. The world knows this one too well.
- You can avoid relocation costs. Nortel estimates that they save $100,000 per employee they don’t have to relocate.
4. You can select from wider talent pools
Remote work erases geographic constraints. This is a huge advantage in today’s tight labor market because your talent pool can stretch across the country and world, which makes it a whole lot easier to find the exact person you need.
Hiring remote workers also enables you to work with people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures, so you can make good on your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) commitments. And numerous studies show diversity improves business outcomes.
Many businesses are taking the borderless talent pool a step further by hiring freelance team members in specific time zones to create a production cycle that follows the sun. Imagine what you can accomplish with a team that never sleeps!
5. Better employee engagement
Not surprisingly, many of the remote work benefits that drive employee engagement are the same as those contributing to their satisfaction. Benefits include feeling less stressed, being present for loved ones, and having greater work-life balance.
These improvements all lead to an emotionally and mentally healthier person. So when your team members log in to work, they’re more engaged, enthusiastic, energetic, and positive.
There’s also the trust element. Employees value how you’re trusting them to manage their day. Having the flexibility to prioritize their activities as they see fit deepens their feelings of empowerment and appreciation, which is a direct line to engagement.
Having freedom doesn’t mean they want to be ignored. Remote employees still want to feel part of a team and know that the business is supporting their career development. This may be why a Gallup study found the most engaged employees were those who work remotely three to four days a week.
6. More agile teams
Before the pandemic, agility was a buzzword many business leaders talked about and made noncommittal plans toward achieving. Then the pandemic struck. The most agile businesses survived and grew. Many of those stuck in their traditional ways of doing things were too slow to pivot and either folded or are gasping for survival.
Even after the pandemic, agility will continue being table stakes for business growth. While nimble competitors are popping up overnight, technology continues evolving at warp speed. It can be difficult to meet customer demands using processes built for a slower, simpler time.
When you hire freelancers, you can work with experts who wouldn’t be accessible otherwise. You can expand capabilities by spinning up freelance teams of independent talent on demand. You can immediately scale teams up and down, anywhere in the world.
The best part is, you can do all this without ever leaving your desk, which opens you to nearly limitless potentials and possibilities. For example, when the pandemic prevented travel, Amway produced a global video series across five countries, in less time than using their traditional approach, and saved $100,000 to boot. See how they did it here.
7. Saves commute time for workers
Before the pandemic, the average commute time in the U.S. reached 49.6 minutes a day. When the pandemic ended the commute, it saved people, on average, nine days a year in drive time, according to a remote work trends report by the Chief Economist at Upwork, Adam Ozimek.
That’s 216 hours of time that employees get back to spend how they want. Whether they choose to use the time exercising, spending time with family, or catching up on sleep, having it may contribute to a happier and healthier employee.
When you factor in gas, cost of public transportation, and wear and tear on a car, Ozimek estimates remote work saves about $4,350 annually for each person, including the costs to the public from driving.
8. Higher worker retention
Offices are cautiously reopening, but professionals are not eager to go back. Findings from The Great Resignation show an estimated 9 million people who worked remotely during the pandemic would look for another job if they had to return to an office.
Remote work has become so highly valued that among those who are not excited about returning to the office, 24% would be willing to take a pay cut to work remotely, and 35% would consider it.
Short of shouting it from their rooftops, many workers are making it clear that remote is how they want to work from here on.
Keep in mind that if you don’t hire remote workers, you’re not just potentially missing top talent, but you’re also choking back diversity.
Starting with generational diversity, most of the people who quit their jobs during the pandemic were Gen Z. They’re not shy about walking if they’re not happy with the work situation. On the other end of the spectrum, remote work entices baby boomers to continue sharing their knowledge and experience. In fact, 36% of retirees say they would have continued working if they had the flexibility to work part-time or remotely.
Freelance Forward 2021 shows that for some, the only way they could work is as a remote freelancer. The main reasons: They’re primary caregivers (often women) or are disabled.
9. Employees save money, which may impact retention
Your remote job may be more attractive to top talent, and encourage employees to stay longer when they calculate how much they save working from home. In addition to the $4,350 individuals save from ditching the commute, individuals save money on eating out—up to $3,470 for some people. The costs add up each time they grab coffee on the way to work, go out for a quick lunch, or join the gang for happy hour. Plus, working remotely can help them save on other services including dry cleaning, meal preparation, and childcare.
Another huge savings is housing, as remote work enables professionals to move farther away from the office. For many, this means moving to less densely populated and less expensive areas. Research from Upwork found:
- Two in 10 (20.6%) of those planning to move were based in a major city.
- More than half (52.5%) were planning to move to more affordable housing.
Now that people are comfortable with remote work, it seems professionals are less willing to sacrifice where they’d like to live for where they need to work.
10. Better for the environment
Workers want to see companies walk their talk about protecting the environment. It matters so much that 70% of employees see their companies more favorably when it takes steps to reduce carbon emissions.
Here are a few ways hiring remote workers supports a business’s environmental commitments:
- Every 1% reduction in vehicles reduces road congestion by 3x.
- Nearly three billion gallons of gas are wasted in traffic jams, which accounts for 26 million extra tons of greenhouse gasses.
- Working remotely just part-time would save more than 1,600 lives, prevent almost 99,000 injuries, and save over $12 billion a year in direct and indirect costs associated with traffic accidents.
Common challenges with remote work
Although hiring remote workers provides employers and workers a variety of benefits, remote work has a few challenges. But they can be overcome by adopting the right technology and updating ages-old processes to support a modern way of working.
Time zone differences
The problem: Collaboration can be difficult when team members are in different time zones.
What you can do about it: Use synchronous and asynchronous communication channels to keep everyone in the loop. Synchronous communication takes place in real time, like a video call. Asynchronous doesn’t require immediate response, like email.
TIP: When setting up meetings, use apps like World Time Buddy to pick a time when an entire team can meet. Because there may be exceptions when time differences prevent everyone from attending an event or meeting, consider recording all video meetings so they’re available for later viewing.
The problem: Not everyone has a remote work environment that enables them to focus. Or they may not have the discipline to avoid distractions and manage their day efficiently.
What you can do about it: Provide a budget for members to set up productive workspaces, like a comfortable chair and noise-canceling headphones. It could also include membership to co-working spaces.
TIP: Allow for a flexible work schedule if not all of the work has to be done during regular hours. Some people may work better at night when their offsite workspaces are quieter. This may give them time to handle personal responsibilities for a couple of hours during the day, so they feel less overwhelmed and distracted when working.
The problem: When you’re mostly communicating digitally through tools like instant messaging and email, miscommunications can occur, members may feel lonely and isolated, and collaboration can break down.
What you can do about it: Use the right communication channel and provide guidelines on which communication tool to use for each purpose. Schedule regular 1:1s, get the team together for virtual non-work events, and err toward over-communicating.
The problem: Employees worry they lose out on career advancement opportunities because they’re “out of sight, out of mind.”
What you can do about it: Focus on outcomes using performance-based measurement systems. Double down on 1:1s.
Why remote work stayed popular in 2024
Enduring COVID-19 upended lives, society, and the economy so deeply that it broke down the traditional workplace, workforce, and worklife. Some knowledge workers are questioning what work is to them and how it should fit in their lives. Businesses are scrambling to add skills, yet adding headcount isn’t always the best option.
Numerous studies show that enabling employees to work remotely, and increasing agility with independent professionals, provides both employers and workers what they require to move forward with greater resilience—by putting people first.
Dive deeper into the hows, whats, and whys in The Great Work Teardown.
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