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The Remote Workforce Is Larger than Ever (and Why that’s a Good Thing)

It’s estimated that “regular telecommuters will total 4.9 million by 2016.” In addition to that, some “50 million U.S. employees hold jobs that are telework compatible, although only 2.9 million consider home their primary place of work (2.3 percent of the workforce).”

A fundamental change in the workplace such as this one can have a profound impact on the economy and job market. But what is driving this trend and why should we be kosher with this latest development?

Contributing Factors

There are several factors responsible for such a radical shift in the workforce:

  • Few would argue that technology, especially the rise of mobile and tablet computing, has been one of the single greatest contributors to the telecommuter. Thanks to the ease with which tablets and mobile devices can be used, as well as the increased capability of such devices, employees have a freedom of movement that previous generations could only dream of.
  • Increased cost of real estate, not to mention ever-increasing fuel and energy cost, have been a significant motivating factor for companies to embrace telecommuting. Here in Austin, IBM has a number of vacant buildings, not because IBM is hurting or laying off employees. In fact, IBM has more employees in the Austin region than ever before. Those employees, however, are increasingly working from home and thereby saving IBM an untold amount of money.
  • “Continued pressures on companies to reduce their carbon footprint” will be an ongoing drive toward telecommuting.

On an Upward Swing

While there can be no doubt that telecommuting is here to stay, the main thing most owners, managers and employees alike want to know is: what’s in it for them. Why is a remote workforce a good thing?

  • Writing for TechRepublic, Nick Hardiman highlights one of the biggest benefits. He quotes Daryl Wilkinson, of National Building Society, as he discusses the benefits his company experienced: “There’s less stress in the office and the workplace — people feel empowered to work in a way that suits them and suits the business.”This becomes especially apparent when comparing telecommuters with, well, commuters. According to a report by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, “commuters have lower life satisfaction, a lower sense that their daily activities are worthwhile, lower levels of happiness and higher anxiety on average than non-commuters.”In short, remote workers tend to be happier, less-stressed workers. This in turn can result in higher quality work and better retention rates.
  • All the same, there’s a very strong correlation between happy workers, and an overall increase in productivity. According to Paul C. Boyd, PhD, “employees who telecommute (and their supervisors) have reported that they are more effective at home than when they work out of the office.The primary reason given is that the multiple (seemingly endless) interruptions at the office create a work pattern that is subject to repeated restarts.”Boyd also highlights the benefits that telecommuting can have on the continuity of the work being done. “Telecommuters are less likely to use sick days for their own minor illnesses.  Rather than take sick time and be unproductive for the entire day, telecommuters often find that the opportunity to work at home allows projects to proceed (and without risking the health of their office mates). Telecommuting is also useful in minimizing the impacts of other occurrences, such as extremely inclement weather, highway construction, or special events (e.g., the Olympics).”
  • Closely related is the ability to attract more talented employees. According to CIPHR, “providing the option to work remotely makes your job proposition more attractive and, as a result, means that a wider range of talent will be attracted to your brand. Many people now expect to be able to work away from the office at least a couple of times a week, and consider this type of flexibility a high priority.”

As a trend, telecommuters are becoming an increasingly important part of the modern workforce. By understanding what they bring to the table and by using them effectively, your company and employees can benefit greatly from this shift in the modern workplace.

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About Curt Finch

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Journyx is not your average software company. We strive to be relentlessly creative and to build tools that help you spend your time on things that matter. After all, time is all we have. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to reach the highest levels of…