In my research to make sure I covered all the bases in this piece, I found a Forbes article written by Sam Rad back in 2018 that claimed 50% of the United States work force would soon be remote. Sam’s a futurist and emerging tech specialist, but I doubt she was predicting a global pandemic. I personally think she was overshooting a bit. The tech was in place, but the employers were not. At least not until March of 2020 when they were forced to be, nearly across the board.
It’s hard to believe that was only a year ago. Harder still to believe that after 12 months, so many people still don’t have a handle on things like Zoom, Basecamp and Google Workspace. But we’re getting better. Inch by inch we’re creeping along towards what we jokingly used to call “the new normal.”
Texas and Florida are flinging open lots of doors. California calls those states reckless while navigating their own political minefields, as a significant portion of the state GDP comes from stuff related to the entertainment world.
The fact is, normal is an evolving, moving target. It just moved too slowly for most of us to notice, until we had nothing but time to notice. We will never go back to the “old” normal and we will never reach the “new” normal. We can just hope to make the best of the existing normal.
A huge part of the existing normal is that we’re still, for the most part, working from home. Sam Rad’s prediction came true. Not as she imagined it, but as we shift down the path of the existing normal, adapting to vaccines and new strains of COVID-19, remote work will still be a prominent factor for companies’ business models. And that’s a good thing.
Good for Employees
Flexibility or freedom is probably the most often cited reason for employees preferring remote work. And that makes sense, if you consider that was the original reason most workers shifted to remote work before the pandemic struck. Being at home means you can take care of your kids, get a package or handle a doctor’s appointment without feeling guilty and more easily work around other people’s complicated schedules.
Being at home usually means fewer meetings, something we definitely support here at Grow the Dream. Apparently, this was one of the biggest pandemic revelations – many occasions for in person meetings can be handled over email, Slack or Basecamp. And while most companies started still having too many meetings, just over Zoom, it seems to have slowed. If your company is still insisting on it, or if your job really does require that many meetings (some do!), check out these tips for easing Zoom fatigue.
The huge benefit remote workers have embraced for years is flexibility in schedule and location. As long as you get your 8 or 6 or 4 hours required per day, you can often do them at any time of the day. Not a morning person? No more gulping gallons of coffee to keep your eyelids peeled. You can sleep in and work later when you’re more focused and efficient. Want to go on a trip? Maybe you need to care for your elderly parents (especially during a pandemic)? No problem. As long as you’ve got a solid internet connection, you can work from anywhere – even Starbucks if they ever open up the indoor tables again.
2. Work/Life Balance
I’ll be honest, I was hesitant to mention this one, cause it’s the double- edged sword of remote working. Being at home means you can spend more time with your kids, significant other, and/or just relax with a good book. But for some people, work was a refuge from being at home all the time. They’re not having issues with their family, they just want the separation. And then there’s the folks who lean towards overwork. Their issues aren’t going away because they’re stuck at home instead of stuck at the office.
Then there are the folks who would rather be home all the time, or find their important work interrupted by kids or pets. I can’t imagine there have been more than one or two of ALL Zoom meetings in the past 12 months that haven’t been interrupted by a child, a dog barking, a cat trying to snuggle, or even a bird piping up for attention. It’s just too easy when we’re all in the same space, and the more we see it, the more comfortable we get with it.
Regardless of which side of your work/life balance is out of whack, remote work can only do so much. Working from home does generally make it easier to find equilibrium. But it doesn’t just happen. You need to make it priority. So take advantage of this time to find rest or efficiency – whichever you need.
3. More Time & Money
While some employers want to reduce wages for employees that work from home, thankfully that seems to be rarer, or at least more reasonable. Being at home means you’re not headed out for an expensive lunch, and nobody looks at you weirdly for brown bagging it. No paying for tolls or parking meters either. And as much as we don’t want to think about people in Zoom meetings sitting in their pajama bottoms (or less, shudder!), doing remote work requires less dressing up and fewer dry cleaning bills.
The average work commute across the country is 30-45 minutes. That can be much longer in major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, especially if you live on the outskirts where it’s more affordable. A recent study estimated that just by not enduring the average commute, remote workers saved more than $4500 on fuel costs alone. Not to mention vehicle maintenance and wear and tear.
Doctors say commuting just 10 miles to work each day is associated with a bunch of health issues, including higher cholesterol, chance of diabetes, heart conditions and an increased risk of depression. That’s not counting the time spent -an average employee spends 17 days worth of sitting in traffic every year. Not only does not having a commute give you more time, it reduces stress considerably.
4. Healthier & Happier Life
One of the downsides to not having a commute, is losing hours of business owner audio school. Many business owners and entrepreneurially minded folks use that drive to listen to the latest podcast or audio book. But that can just as easily be done by popping in the earbuds for a brisk walk or workout.
In fact, remote employees are generally healthier in terms of exercise and diet. Again, you’re at home all the time, so it’s easier to skip the fast food and you have more time to cook healthier. You can turn your commute time into your exercise time. Suddenly walking the dog isn’t a chore you have to try and squeeze in, but a fun jaunt that can last longer. Trust me, your pet will be happier too.
Working remotely not only makes it easier if you need to go out of town suddenly, you can also live farther away from the office. In the bigger metropolises, this means you can get nicer, more affordable housing. Especially if you’re one of those folks in New York that maintains an apartment during the week and comes home on the weekends. You get to be with family and have a nicer space.
You’re also not limited by jobs that are close to you. I work for Grow the Dream, with our main office in Sarasota, Florida, from Los Angeles. The time difference cramps my style from time to time, but not horribly. I write for our clients and freelance for companies all across the United States – from Florida to Texas to Montana, and more.
Good for Employers
5. More Productivity
There’s a long-gestating belief that when you give your people permission to work from home, that they’ll be less productive, care less and be disconnected from work. Thankfully, while there are exceptions, the pandemic has proven that most employees are more productive at home. Someone who’s a workaholic is still going to be a workaholic at home. Obviously, that’s an extreme example, but the fact is, most hard workers aren’t that way simply because they’re in the office and afraid of being caught slacking off.
In fact, a study published last March (completed before the shutdown) shows that for most workers, it’s harder to stay focused in the office than working from home. On average employees are 10% more productive from home, and nearly 20% less distracted.
And that’s not even counting the fact that remote workers are less prone to call in sick. Even if they wake up feeling bad, they’re more liable to jump back into work if their headache or whatever improves during the day. Or they can start and work later, without feeling guilty about it.
6. Find & Keep Higher Quality People
By opening the door to more remote workers, you’re also opening the door to more remote workers. I know, profound, right? My point is that the pool of available workers opens up. You have more options, from more places. If you’re casting about for part-time freelancers, instead of requiring a full-time commitment, you have access to an even wider, more experienced pool of candidates. For a lower price. You can even hire multiple, high performing freelancers for the cost of one employee sitting around the office all day.
Because of the lower costs to the employee, you can also throw a broader net. Inclusivity is a big buzz word right now, but the truth is, the more varied your employees, in many cases, the easier it is to reach your customers. Depending on your product or service, employees spanning multiple racial, ethnic, sexual and skillsets or abilities can be to your benefit.
7. Fewer Expenses
Not only does working remotely help your employees save on their expenses, but it can benefit you as well. Global Workplace Analytics estimated that employers who allow remote work save about $11,000 a year PER employee. Which is why they issued a report that predicts 25-30% of all jobs will stay remote after the pandemic is behind us. And those percentages will continue to grow every year thereafter.
The little things add up. Smaller offices require less electricity, a lot less furniture, rent at lower rates, and require fewer employee subsidies, like clothing, parking, etc. Those reduced costs can go to the bottom line, or to lowering product prices which can lead to more sales.
Even before the pandemic, AT&T estimated they saved $30-million a year in rent and other real estate costs by transitioning a portion of their workforce to remote. Since the pandemic, one study estimates that combined, US companies are saving $30-Billion per day using remote workers.
8. Better for the World
I put this one last only because I know it’s not a priority for many companies. I’m not looking for arguments, so I’ll just state our position. Grow the Dream believes we are called as God’s representatives to steward the earth and preserve it. Even setting our religious beliefs aside, we want this planet to continue and be there for our grandchildren and our grandchildren’s grandchildren. Allowing your workers to be even partially remote is the easiest thing you can do to help that. And as I’ve already pointed out, it saves you beaucoup bucks in the process.
In just the first nine months of the pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions from people and school busses not driving were reduced by the equivalent of removing 600,000 cars from the freeways for one year. And if we continue on the trend, with just 25% of people working remotely… that measures out to 6-million cars off the road. It’s the air quality equivalent of planting some 91-Million new trees – and that’s just in the United States. It’s no wonder the Los Angeles skyline was clear for longer than any time since 1980.
Plus, you’re using less electricity, cooling or heating smaller locations, and using less paper.
Another benefit of workers not being in the office is if a hurricane threatens or an earthquake or tornado strikes. There’s no need to evacuate or worry about your employees. They’re safe at home or already headed away from the storm.
Normalizing Remote Work
While the global pandemic forced our hand, as you can see, there are several very clear benefits to continuing to utilize remote workers even after everyone’s vaccinated or we’ve reached herd immunity. In fact, that’s an additional benefit I didn’t mention. Healthier, less stressed remote workers will be going fewer places – less chance of catching any strain of the virus. But they’re bound to take to the vaccine easier as well. And the rare complication or side effects won’t keep them out of work.
We’ve been doing remote work for several years now. We’re a stronger company. And we have access to spectacular human resources we might have lost as people moved to be with family or pursue their dreams. We heartily endorse giving people the freedom to excel at home and benefit us and our clients.
If you have any questions, please reach out. We’ve built our business helping small businesses build theirs. Let’s Grow the Dream together!