In a professional landscape that is rife with change, conscious businesses must stay abreast of the most modern approaches to hiring, as well as the experiences they offer their employees. Just as we reject our fax machines for email and shirk paper checks in favor of direct deposit, we must also keep up with the convenience and conscience of today’s workplace culture.
Companies at the forefront of sustainability and social responsibility are making a shift to greener offices, diverse work-station ergonomics, and careful protection of the rights and desires of their people. This paradigm shift motivates jobseekers to apply, retains and satisfies existing staff, and makes a positive impact on the company and the observing world. These intrepid companies are also those carving out the new normal for work in America, and one trend could have arguably the broadest impact of all: remote employment.
According to a recent Gallup report, just under half of all working Americans have the flexibility to work from home some of the time. Though many industries haven’t secured the technology to make this possible or wouldn’t be a fit for remote work — food service, hospitality management, and brick-and-mortar retail, for example — white-collar companies are finding fewer and fewer reasons to resist telecommuting. The idea that remote work is an excuse for employees to wear sweatpants and scroll Facebook on the clock is erroneous. As more companies are learning, remote work carries a ton of benefits, including these.
1. Remote work is better for the environment.
More remote employment means fewer cars on the highway — lowering emissions and relieving traffic woes during peak hours (more on that below).
2. Remote work helps you relieve gridlock in your city.
The chance to avoid traffic stress makes your employees happier people (you know, because you just gave them two or three hours of their lives back at no cost to you). But they’re not the only ones who benefit.
Fewer drivers desperate to compete for road space and feverish in the race to make it to work at an arbitrary, but enforced, start time means less potential for careless accidents and needless road rage. And when more people who can feasibly work remotely are allowed to do so, it frees up the roadways for everyone else.
3. Remote hires salvage revenue often lost to overhead costs.
Hiring remotely is affordable for companies and reduces overhead. Reducing your costs to operate will free up money to hire more staff, invest back into your company, or donate to a worthy cause. Modern cost-cutting mechanisms like remote hiring can even open the door for entire industries to reduce status-quo product and service costs to customers, allowing the economy to flourish nationwide. Some companies – marketing agencies, software-as-a-service companies, and design firms, for example – are in a position to go 100 percent remote and avoid wasting precious dollars to decorate, heat, and light brick-and-mortar offices.
4. Remote work is inclusive.
Your next perfect-fit hire could be someone who is in a wheelchair and finds it difficult to travel to your office or uncomfortable to operate there. The brilliant mind you need could be bed-ridden due to illness, body dysmorphia, or even pregnancy, rendering him or her unable to physically serve your company when all you need are ideas.
Individuals with disabilities, medical conditions, social anxieties, mobility concerns, or needs that are difficult to accommodate become a buffet of smart, conscientious talent the moment a company opens itself up to virtual employment. Even a parent or family caregiver who would otherwise find your hours of operation difficult to match can work odd or flexible hours to further your goals and their own without much friction. By supporting inclusivity, companies can reduce HR bias and invite skill into the workplace, regardless of circumstance.
5. Remote employees are often more productive.
Remote work promotes a work-life balance that is motivating for employees. Imagine being able to control your temperature, the sounds you hear, and the smells you enjoy. Imagine having more flexibility in the lunch you eat or the way you sit — or even being able to work outdoors. Imagine working the hours that suit your life, so you can always pick the kids up after school or get your workout in when the gym isn’t packed. And as a reminder: The three hours you spent in commute each day are yours now.
It’s only natural that these built-in, cost-free perks yield higher employee retention, better productivity and acuity, and more energy. Employee lives are returned to them with one swift company protocol decision.
6. Healthy companies allow remote work.
Over 60 percent of us go to work when we’re sick. For many, that’s because we don’t have sick days to use or fear we can’t afford to use them. In any case, that 60 percent of people are contagious to the other 40 percent and to each other. Working at home allows people to work while stuffed up and sneezing if they so prefer without spreading illness. Even the non-infectious ailments such as a bout of food poisoning, heinous menstrual cramps, or another private condition can be better tended to at home, providing less distraction to colleagues.
A flexible working life also promotes personal wellness among employees: They can stand up at their desks, take yoga breaks, go for walks during conference calls, and eat and drink on their own schedules. This, coupled with the reduction in stress that comes with lower commute time and the ability to afford a vacation with your days off, is an enormous shift in the way we view and do work.
7. Hiring is easier when remote work is an option.
How can you guarantee that the best fit for your open position lives within 20 driving miles from your office? You will field more resumes by opening your talent pool nationwide and offering to cover moving expenses, but if your goal is a good fit who will stay long-term, remote work offers an alternative.
Remote work opens up better opportunities for companies and job-seekers, and it also has a larger, more systemic impact: If companies don’t have to be in cities to hire great talent, they can afford to start up in cheaper areas and bring commerce to smaller towns. Likewise, if employees don’t have to live in cities to work for great companies, they can choose to live in more affordable areas and require less to live. People born in more rural or residential areas would then have greater access to better jobs and more money, eliminating job deserts and promoting a more balanced economic landscape.
As this paradigm becomes a norm, the obvious disparity between overcrowded cities with money and no space and ghost towns with space and no money will fade. Everyone will be less limited by circumstances.
8. Interpersonal issues take a backseat for remote workers.
Small conflicts and irritation are inevitable in crowded offices — from turf wars over the break room refrigerator, to the colleague who wears too much cologne or perfume, to copy machine anarchy and restroom barbarism. But remote employees can create their own work environment — free of loud radios, off-putting smells, and pointless gossip. When employees are happy and their environment is conducive to safe, comfortable work, they’ll work better and be better people after work, too.
The bottom line
Part of being a conscious company is knowing when the world is begging for change. Remote work requires a few new tools and an overhaul of some company policies, but the benefits far outweigh the requisite transition. By allowing remote work at your company, your impact can extend beyond your walls and into the community and country you serve.