The Argument for Working from Home: Embracing Remote Work, Boosting Productivity, Sustainability, and Employee Happiness
You might have seen that Dave is writing a blog about the argument against hybrid working. Being the elder statesman of the company, we felt he’d be best placed to argue that case, but, to be fair to him, he is a lot more modern in his way of thinking about work, so I’ll forgive him.
I actually advocate for some sort of Hybrid model myself, for reasons that I won’t go into in great detail but it’s all of the usual stuff like the mental health benefits of socialising, face-to-face contact, arguably greater levels of collaboration and camaraderie etc. All of that being said, I’m here to defend the case for 100% remote working and to paraphrase the Enlightenment era French philosopher and intellectual, Voltaire:
I may not agree with 100% remote working, but I will defend to the death your right to work from home!
In recent years, the concept of working from home has gained significant traction, and the Covid pandemic further accelerated its adoption. Working from home was definitely a “thing” before Covid. I remember working from home a couple of times as early as 2015 and though it was the exception rather than the rule, it definitely existed. It was definitely also massively frowned upon. People would scoff at you; they’d throw cheap jibes your way, and it certainly wasn’t the “done thing.” My first employer was actually one of the big, old British recruitment firms; very traditional, very old-fashioned and looking back, it was a wonder I was able to get any time working from home at all. At my second employer, a more non-conforming, more liberal (in the old sense of that word) organisation, working from home was definitely accepted as part of working life and it was something that I didn’t have to blag as I had done so in my prior company. I was eventually able to get Wednesday as my unofficial but widely accepted working from home day.
So now that I’ve outlined my personal history with WFH (working from home), let’s get stuck into this blog in which I’m going to present a compelling argument in favour of remote work. We’re going to explore the advantages of working from home for both employees and employers, emphasizing its positive impact on productivity, work-life balance, cost savings, and environmental sustainability.
Enhanced Productivity and Performance:
Numerous studies have shown that remote work can boost productivity levels. According to a Stanford study, remote employees tend to be 13% more productive compared to their in-office counterparts. The elimination of commuting time, reduced distractions, and the ability to create personalised work environments contribute to improved focus and efficiency.
Improved Work-Life Balance:
Working from home provides employees with greater flexibility in managing their work and personal responsibilities. A survey by Owl Labs revealed that 77% of remote workers reported better work-life balance, leading to increased job satisfaction and reduced burnout rates. This flexibility is especially beneficial for caregivers, parents, and individuals with specific needs. My old commute when I was down in London was pretty much an hour to work and another hour back to my apartment and there’s definitely something there around less stress killing yourself fighting with people for that spot on the tube, not to mention the two hours lost of your day.
Increased Employee Satisfaction and Engagement:
Remote work has been linked to higher levels of job satisfaction and employee engagement. A Gallup study reported that remote workers experienced higher levels of engagement compared to those who worked on-site. The flexibility and autonomy afforded by remote work contribute towards employees feeling more trusted and valued. This point is closely aligned to the two points above and from personal experience I can absolutely agree with the argument for higher engagement and trust. Let’s be honest, there have been a tonne of days when I’ve worked from home and done Sweet-FA, but nothing has ever slipped, nothing has ever been missed nor will this ever happen. In my role I’d often do 16-hour days leading up to deadlines, sometimes even missing the odd night’s sleep, to get things over the line, so having the flexibility to not be expected in the office the next morning at 9am and having an easy day or two was part and parcel of the role. This trust element works both ways and I, being the way I am, would never abuse anyone’s trust or take advantage of an employer that gave me such trust and autonomy. But I’m also not a robot. I remember at both of my old companies, there would be days when there was nothing on, let’s be realistic, this is going to happen. However, regardless of that, you’d be pushed onto another project or expected to do something “extracurricular” (that’s actually the term they used) or you’d make work for yourself knowing that someone’s eyes were burning holes into the back of your skull. Well, no more! If there’s work to be done, do it. If not, take a breath, don’t worry because there will be work to do!
Cost Savings for Employees and Employers:
Remote work can lead to significant cost savings for both employees and employers. This is the big one that I always try to get across to employers and let’s face it, if you tell any FD that they can save x amount of £s by doing anything, and I mean anything (!), they’ll definitely listen! But this one is also a win-win situation for everyone. Employees can save on commuting expenses, work attire, and dining out. Employers, on the other hand, can reduce overhead costs associated with maintaining physical office spaces as well as potentially certain utility bills. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that employers can save up to $11,000-per-year per remote employee through reduced office space and operational expenses. As I said above, show that to any finance director or business owner and they’re very likely to soon change their tune.
Talent Attraction and Retention:
Offering remote work options can significantly enhance an organisation’s ability to attract and retain top talent. A survey conducted by Buffer found that 99% of remote workers would like to continue working remotely, even after the pandemic subsides. The flexibility of remote work is increasingly becoming a sought-after perk, especially among millennial and Gen Z job seekers. Again, from my personal experience as well as anecdotal evidence from my peers, this is certainly something that my generation are looking for when job-searching and I wholeheartedly agree with the statistics presented by Buffer.
Positive Impact on the Environment:
Remote work can play a pivotal role in reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint. A study by Global Workplace Analytics estimates that if the U.S. workforce worked remotely at least half of the time, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road for an entire year. I’m an honest bloke and I rarely, if ever, mine my words – quite frankly I couldn’t give a monkeys about the environment and you may disagree with me – but that being said, it’s still something I’d happily use to beat my employer over the head within order to get more days working from home!
Geographic Diversity and Inclusion:
Remote work allows companies to tap into a diverse talent pool beyond their immediate geographic location. Hiring remote employees can promote diversity and inclusion by reaching candidates from different backgrounds and cultures. This diversity enriches team dynamics and fosters a broader range of perspectives and ideas. This novel approach no longer requires people to be chained to their desks like we were in the old day’s and so allows for a broader spectrum of employees.
Business Continuity and Resilience:
The pandemic highlighted the importance of business continuity and resilience. Organisations with established remote work policies were better equipped to continue operations during lockdowns. A survey by PwC revealed that 83% of employers believe remote work was successful in maintaining or improving productivity during the pandemic and thankfully, a lot of WFH practices and behaviours have bled into our BAU work lives, and for the better!
Working from home offers a myriad of benefits for employees and employers alike. Supported by evidence from various studies and statistics, remote work has proven to enhance productivity, work-life balance, cost savings, talent attraction, and environmental sustainability. Embracing remote work as a viable and flexible work arrangement can be a strategic advantage for organisations in today’s dynamic and ever-evolving work landscape. A combination of remote working and office work is probably the sweet-spot, or so I seem to think, but if I had to choose one over the other, just based on my experiences, I would bat for working from home all day long!
So why should you consider it for your business? Well even if you disagree with the research and any of what’s written above, the fact is your competitors either are or will be offering increased flexibility. This could have a significant impact on both your attraction and retention of staff in the future, that could look like candidates self-deselecting from a process in favour of more flexible conditions, or your talent pool only holding the candidates the other employers haven’t offered. You can think of it like a pension, when that first came into the world of work, imagine the faces of leadership at the cost and admin burden. Now it’s common place, everyone has access to either a company or state pension to pay into, and flexible working will be no different.