What Do Remote Work Statistics in 2019 Really Mean?

Remote work statistics show many benefits of telecommuting

According to Flexjobs, opportunities for remote work have spiked 44 percent over the past five years. And that is not all. The statistical case continues to mount for the benefits of remote work. In a 2017 Stack Overflow survey, 53 percent of developers surveyed reported that the ability to work remotely was a priority during a job search. A recent two-year study conducted by Stanford University shows that telecommuting provides a productivity boost equal to a full workday each week and brings a 50 percent reduction in employee attrition. 

It has also been widely reported that remote work improves worker satisfaction while reducing the frequency of productivity killers like sick time, being late to work, and long lunches. Given that today’s advanced technology allows more types of work to be performed remotely than at any other time in our history and yet only 40 percent of U.S.-based companies offer remote work as a choice, these positive remote work statistics appear to still be falling on deaf ears. Why isn’t a larger segment of the business world listening?

Fighting the Pajamas Stigma with Remote Work Statistics

Anyone who has seen someone throw up quotation marks to talk about a colleague “working from home,” knows that there’s still a stigma around telecommuting. The misconception that there will be a loss in productivity when an employee stays home to work for the day persists despite data proving otherwise. The federal government has also chimed in with some telling numbers around the benefits of employing a remote workforce. In 2014, Washington D.C.-based federal workers saved the U.S. taxpayer $32 million in costs over the course of four snow days. Procter & Gamble CEO Scott Mautz told Here & Now podcast host Jeremy Hobson that, in his experiences, he has seen a 50 percent boost in productivity in two-thirds of the cases he has examined.  

Reducing resistance to the concept of remote work starts with providing data to management decision-makers and creating assurances that they will not lose control over the employee’s workday once that employee departs for the home office. This is often complicated by stereotypes about job roles. 

For instance, since sales is synonymous in many peoples’ minds with handshakes and reading body language, sales roles would appear to be one of the areas in business seemingly impervious to the remote work trend. However, this could not be further from the truth, especially with the availability of highly capable video conferencing and collaborative software. Moreover, many sales positions are actually in sales support, and while they may involve a lot of client interaction via the phone or email, face-to-face time with the customer is rarely required or expected. 

Developing a remote work action plan is perhaps the best way to allay the fears of management over telecommuting. This plan should include a methodology for tracking productivity, including any applicable metrics, and a communications system, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom video conferencing, to ensure that those working out of sight are never out of mind.

A Remote Worker Is a Happier, Healthier Worker

Remote workers operate with a better work/life balance, leading to important benefits that in turn provide companies with a more effective workforce. According to an Early Bird survey, over 80 percent of remote workers reported finally achieving a sense of job satisfaction and on average are 57 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their job than their office-bound teammates. Additionally, 80 percent of workers also report a reduction in job stress once they are based at home, and they pocket a salary that is, on average, $4000 higher than that of nontelecommuters.

With over 75 percent of survey respondents stating that flexible scheduling and remote work are key to their decision to stick with a job and 85 percent of remote workers stating that they chose remote work because it offers better quality of life, businesses are in a dangerous position. Competing for talent is never easy, and businesses that fail to offer the option of remote work may soon find themselves looking at second-tier or lower talent when hiring. As older employees seek to extend their careers by reentering the workforce and younger employees focus on the work/life balance gained via remote work opportunities, the future of remote is now.

Translating Traditional Jobs into Remote Jobs Is Easier Than You Think

While in the past some companies have backtracked on their policy to allow working from home (Yahoo! is one), we think the winds of change are blowing in favor of telecommuting. Tech giant Dell Computers announced that it plans to make 50 percent of its positions fully remote by the end of 2020. As other Fortune 500 companies, such as Amazon, GE, and CVS, make a push toward embracing the telecommuting movement, more businesses will presumably feel the pressure to fall into line. This year, Logitech is again celebrating National Work from Home Week; the 2019 version is called #WorkFromAnywhere Week.

While some still argue that only a handful of job roles are suited for telecommuting, a wide range of traditional roles have adapted to the home office quite well over the past several years, including foundational positions in office administration and customer service. According to Flexjobs, the most common remote jobs are ordinary occupations such as accounting, bookkeeping, speech pathology, and account management. Virtual nursing, also referred to as telenursing, is gaining traction as it hurdles legal and regulatory issues in various states. Enrollments in online education grew to 15.4 percent in 2017, and the increase in online learning has generated demand for remote teachers and trainers. Ultimately, the numbers don’t lie; as the demand for remote work and services grows, so too will the number of traditional office jobs moving into the home office.

The Day of the Remote Worker Is Here to Stay

Modern technology has made it possible for many in-office jobs to transition to home-based ones. Telecommuting provides a litany of benefits for employers, such as cost savings due to the reduction in office space, less time at work missed due to illness, and higher levels of productivity. And employees that are already able to work from home aren’t interested in giving it up; 55 percent of respondents to an OWL Labs survey indicated they would leave a position if remote work privileges were revoked. Telecommuting is here to stay. 

As collaborative and video conferencing solutions continue to evolve, the excuses for keeping staff in the office are eroding. Remote work statistics show that telecommuting is a trend that has morphed into an expectation, especially for younger workers. As more workers seek a better balance of career and life, companies that do not offer the option will soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to talent, and, ultimately, business. 

Subscribe to VC Daily