The shift that 2020 has brought in the workplace has shown many companies that remote work is indeed the future. Many employers have been forced to implement the remote work experiment, but many of them are considering a switch to a distributed workforce.
Distributed teams are not a new concept, but they have become more prevalent in recent years. Technological advances have made it easier for employees to work from anywhere in the world where they can get access to the internet. As such, running a fully remote workforce makes sense for many companies looking to improve their business model while offering their employees a better work-life balance.
Remote work has lots of advantages for employees, and that topic has been covered ad nauseam in recent years. But what about the perks a distributed workforce has for companies? Let’s look at the main benefits of switching from an office-based workplace to a fully remote company.
1. Cutting Costs — And Not Just Office-Related Ones
Perhaps one of the most attractive selling points of a fully remote company is the chance of cutting costs significantly. Offices and office equipment are expensive, and for many companies, they are some of the highest annual expenses.
Even those companies who decide to provide their employees with equipment so they can work from home can see significant savings. Not paying for huge office spaces, sometimes in multiple parts of the world, surely adds up. And with high-speed internet available almost everywhere, just about any desk job can become a remote one.
However, there are still some companies that prefer having office spaces designed the way they want. These companies have to send an interior design brief to the agency they’re working with so that the latter can give them the desired outcome.
But cutting costs related to office spaces is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to potential savings when going fully remote as a company. With the costs of living being significantly lower in different parts of the country and globally, employers can hire from a pool of candidates that spreads beyond the big, expensive cities.
Attracting and retaining top talent by expanding your hiring pool leads to a well-rounded team and slashing costs. Let’s say you’re a company based in New York, where the average salary of a software engineer is $102,346. If you manage a distributed team, you could hire someone from Boise, Idaho, on the same position for an average of $79,287. Or even better, cast your net further away and hire a software engineer from Delhi, where the average salary is $6,693.
You can also outsource some activities and hire independent consultants as remote workers instead of full-time employees.
2. Improving Diversity and Inclusion
Being able to hire top talent from all corners of the world is not just about cutting costs, though. Fully remote companies find it easier to embrace diversity and inclusion as they can hire people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
This leads to a well-rounded team with different perspectives, which is something rather difficult to accomplish when you’re restricted to a single city.
Moreover, people who may have a hard time finding employment at a brick-and-mortar job, such as those with disabilities or caregivers in need of a flexible schedule, can get the opportunity to follow their career goals with a fully remote company.
By hiring employees who can work in a community where they feel comfortable and supported, without having to worry about commuting back and forth, companies can choose to support community and family as well as diversity.
3. Reducing Environmental Impact
More and more companies are concerned with reducing their environmental impact, and going fully remote is an excellent way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions simply because employees don’t commute to work. In fact, Global Workforce Analytics estimates that working remotely for only half of the workweek could reduce gas emissions by 54 million tons every year.
Besides skipping the commute to work and thus lowering gas emissions, distributed teams also reduce their carbon footprint by heavily reducing the use of paper and plastic consumption. Nearly 700 trillion sheets of copy paper are used annually in the United States alone, and online working eliminates almost a third of that number.
When working from an office, many employees choose to buy coffee on their way to work or a packed lunch from the supermarket, resulting in increased consumption in plastic. Remote workers are highly likely to prepare their meals at home most of the time, which decreases the number of disposable utensils and cups used every year.
4. Increasing Performance and Productivity
The majority of remote workers are more productive when they work from home, and that is partly because they don’t have to deal with the stress of a daily commute to work. But there are also other reasons for which productivity increases once an employee switches from a cubicle job to a remote one.
Many employers believe that keeping an eye on employees in an office where they can see them at all times means that they can keep productivity high. In fact, even though it is easier to keep track of what employees are doing in theory, there are lots of downsides to working in an office.
Both small and large companies experience a loss of productivity simply because offices provide many distractions, ranging from frequent trips to the break room to chatty co-workers. Not to mention illnesses that spread quickly around the office — when one person gets stick, it’s almost guaranteed everyone else will catch it as well, which hurts productivity.
By switching to a distributed team, the focus is on the results, not on the hours an employee works. Most remote companies allow their employees to work whatever hours suit them, allowing them to fit work in a schedule that works for them. This approach also lets employees determine the times of day during which they are more productive and use them to their advantage.
5. Getting Work Done Around the Clock
When a company is based in a single location, everything needs to happen during office hours at that particular location. However, in the case of a distributed team, the team can work around the clock. This could be hugely beneficial for companies with a large customer service base that needs to cover several time zones.
Having a team spread all over the world can make scheduling meetings difficult, but having a global support team is essential for many businesses that want to provide their customers 24/7 support without forcing a single employee to work a night shift.
In his book, “The Year Without Pants,” Scott Berkun recounts that the American and Indian teams at Microsoft would work on a “Follow the Sun” system, which meant that work never stopped. When a team would go to sleep, sometimes frustrated by a missing puzzle piece, it was not uncommon for them to wake up and find the solution in the inbox, courtesy of the team covering the other shift.
6. Increasing Employee Retention
Keeping employees happy is important for any company, as this leads to better employee retention rates. Companies that allow workers to work remotely either part-time or as part of a distributed team enjoy higher retention rates simply because employees don’t have to leave when they move to another city or when their personal circumstances change.
Retaining top talent is essential for companies, mostly because it takes time and resources to train new employees. Moreover, employees tend to become more productive the longer they are with a company, according to Dan Pickett, CEO of Nfrastructure, a managed services and network services firm.
Even in office-based companies, it’s not necessary to micromanage talented employees. Remote working encourages employees to take the initiative, which is always a path for growth and success.
7. Technology Failures Won’t Affect Productivity as Much
A power failure or the internet going down in an office environment almost always spells a sharp decrease in productivity for the entire team because no one will be able to work. In the case of a fully remote workforce, technology failures are but minor hiccups, as it is highly likely the other team members can cover for their colleagues until they’re back up and running again.
8. Team Meetings Are More Efficient
Everyone who has ever worked in an office environment knows that regular meetings and micromanagement are two factors that contribute to a decrease in productivity. Team meetings are necessary to help everyone stay connected, get help with tasks, and brainstorm, but often, they are too long and not always focused on the subject.
In the case of online conferencing with employees from all over the world, there are fewer chances of banter taking up half of the meeting. Remote team meetings are often more concise, and they can be over quicker if all relevant materials are shared between the meeting.
This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any small talk before remote meetings — this helps people feel connected. But remote team meetings are often more to the point and not as frequent as in-person ones, which contributes to an increase in productivity. Plus, they’re a great way to minimize attendance, as you don’t have to invite the entire team every time.
9. Better Mental Health for the Entire Team
Opinions differ regarding the mental health of remote workers, with many articles mentioning the loneliness and isolation these workers face. While this is true, remote working comes with multiple perks that contribute to better mental health for everyone involved.
A study by Owl Labs has actually found that full-time remote workers are happier than employees who never work remotely. When asked whether they’re happy with their job, full-time remote workers responded yes 22% more than office-based workers.
Among the reasons cited by respondents were avoiding a commute, less stress, increased productivity, better focus, and better work-life balance. All these factors contribute to better mental health and, in turn, leads to increased loyalty and enhanced productivity.
Perhaps one of the things that remote working appreciate most about their lifestyle is the work-life balance. By having no set hours and no commute, they can enjoy more time with their family. Moreover, the flexibility a remote job offers means employees don’t have to miss important family events and milestones because they have to be at work. Happy employees are better workers, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
10. Lowering Work Absences
Work absences cost the U.S. economy alone $200 billion losses every year. It is one of the problems that most companies need to deal with, and even though many offices have an absence management strategy in place, it is often challenging to reduce absenteeism.
Absenteeism still exists in the case of a distributed team — after all, employees will get sick or have to deal with personal emergencies at some point. Nevertheless, because employees are allowed to set their own hours, they ar e likely going to juggle their responsibilities in a way that still allows them to get the job done.
Many absences in traditional work environments are caused by difficulties employees face with commuting. When you eliminate the need for workers to get up in the morning, dress up and face the traffic to get to the office, you eliminate lots of things that could go wrong and result in absenteeism.
The remote working revolution is well underway, with some big names already reaping its benefits. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, Appen, a technology services company that supports almost 1 million contractors around the world, and Buffer, a highly successful social media management start-up, are just some of the companies that are fully remote and enjoy the benefits of a global workforce.
Switching to a fully remote workforce makes sense for a lot of companies. The flexibility this business model offers everyone is likely to improve productivity and lead to a happier workforce. While it is not always easy to set up and operate a fully distributed team, the long-term benefits are likely to be a game-changer for companies who decide to take the leap and leave their traditional offices behind.If you’re interested in learning more about the future of work or you’re looking for a remote job, head over to Search Remotely and unlock your potential.