The Benefits of a Remote Workforce

Businesses around the world are seeing the benefits of a remote workforce. While at-home workers were once regarded as unproductive, new technologies have mitigated such concerns. The trend of working remotely is rising steadily all around the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not only cheaper for the employer, it has many benefits for the employees as well. Automattic famously embraced the model after much of its workforce opted to work from home rather than come into the office. If you are considering such a model for your own business, here are some important points to consider.

How it Benefits Workers

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Lifestyle
One of the greatest benefits that remote work brings to employees is an improved work-life balance. Flexible hours can make it easier for them to tend to family obligations and other errands. They also get to avoid bland office cubicles and overzealous air conditioners, instead creating an environment that suits their preferences. Long commutes and traffic jams will be a thing of the past, leaving more time to get things done. There’s also the possibility of travelling or living abroad while remaining gainfully employed.

Health
Remote workers can take better care of themselves. They won’t be as tempted to eat out or to try to survive the day on just a granola bar. They won’t be trudging through extreme weather conditions to get to the office. Stress levels tend to be lower. There’s even less chance of getting sick since they won’t be sharing an office with other sniffly co-workers.

Money
Working from home is less costly than working in an office. Employees can save considerable amounts on travel expenses, lunches, business clothes, dry cleaning, even childcare. Depending on local tax laws, they may even be able to write off some of their living costs as business expenses.

How it Benefits Employers

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Productivity
Employers of remote workers cite increased productivity as a primary benefit. Remote workers face fewer distractions than their in-office counterparts. They aren’t sitting through endless meetings; they’re not distracted by chatty co-workers; they are more engaged with their assignments. Whereas traditional offices emphasise the number of hours worked, remote workers are evaluated instead by their productivity. Businesses can create a high-performance culture driven by achievement.

Operating Costs
The absence of a traditional office space can obviously reduce a business’s overhead significantly. The savings don’t end there, however. You’ll have a larger talent pool to draw from when location isn’t a factor, and you’ll have an easier time retaining your best talent when they have the flexibility to relocate as they please. Absenteeism becomes less prevalent as well, with workers opting to continue working, even through illness. With fewer commuters, your business will also have a more positive environmental impact.

Avoid the Pitfalls

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Working from home does not suit everyone. Some people find it too difficult to stay productive while at home, or they have a hard time separating their personal and professional lives. Communication is even more important for remote teams than for in-office teams. Workers who don’t have the proper support may feel cut off and alienated from their work. These problems can cost a company, so it’s important to mitigate them from the start.

Hiring
It’s essential to hire people who excel as remote workers. Look for applicants who have worked remotely in the past or are willing to start on a trial basis. Workers need to be disciplined, self-reliant, and motivated. They also need to have the technical and communication skills to use their online tools and stay in touch with the rest of the team.

Communication
Tools like Skype and Slack make it easy for teams to communicate, even across long distances. It’s important that remote workers have the support they need and feel like they’re part of the team. Be diligent about providing lots of feedback so they’re never left wondering whether they are on the right track. Set certain hours each day when everyone needs to be reachable. Cloud storage solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive can help teams stay on the same page, but make sure to keep it organised, or you’ll all be confused.

Accountability
Task management software makes it easy to stay on top of your workers’ progress. Track their performance over time and give them regular feedback. Encourage them to provide suggestions for how their productivity or workflow might be improved.

A remote workforce will not be an ideal fit for all businesses. But if it suits yours, it may be a win-win for you and your workers.