The topic of working remotely is more important than ever, as more than half of employees surveyed report working from outside the office at least one day a week. As more employees prioritize flexibility in their job search, we wanted to know how the shift to supporting remote work affected both management and the individual contributors in this new environment. The findings were truly fascinating.
Collecting data from 1,097 workers based all over the United States, our survey found that job performance is the most important factor for managers when considering an employee’s request to work remotely.
Meanwhile, managers of distributed teams reported that the biggest challenge they faced wasn’t measuring performance, but cultivating company culture. In fact, tracking productivity and performance ranked lower than coordinating activities, sharing common knowledge, and supporting career progression, when it came to quantifying the challenges of supporting remote work.
The truth is, remote workers actually have slightly higher levels of investment in their work, and on average the study found that they performed equally to onsite employees. Since 51% of remote employees reported working remotely to improve work/life balance, it’s possible that the better engagement in remote workers comes from the clearer boundaries and work habits required to successfully work remotely.
When you consider that companies that support remote work have a 25% higher retention rate than companies that don’t, supporting remote workers seems like a no-brainer. The study also found that even among employees who don’t work remotely today, 65% of them would like to work remotely at least once a month in the future, meaning this trend is probably on the rise.
While there are challenges to working remotely, our research suggests that most of those challenges are handled by the remote workers, more than by management. Of those surveyed, remote workers reported having 25% fewer career growth conversations on average than their onsite counterparts. Remote workers also responded that their biggest challenge was staying in the loop, and that conversations and celebrations were things that they missed most when working remotely.
Since we already know that employees are 10% more likely to stay with their organization if there are professional growth opportunities to be had, it’s important for managers with distributed workforces to put aside time for those conversations with their employees, and for employees to take the lead on initiating these conversations when they are needed.
If you combine the retention benefits of consistent hands-on career coaching from management and leadership, with the increased engagement that natural occurs when employees have some schedule flexibility, and you might find that you’ve unlocked better employee engagement for your organization.
One interesting find in this new report is related to companies that had entirely distributed workforces. According to the research, these companies were able to hire 33% faster than other companies. This suggests that without geographical limitations to hiring, fully-distributed companies can more effectively expand their talent pool, finding the most skilled and experienced candidates faster.
Small businesses are also more likely to hire distributed workforces; respondents reported being twice as likely to hire full-time remote employees as larger companies. Especially in a competitive job market, small employers can compete with larger organizations to find and acquire high-talent potential when they can offer flexibility and support to prospective employees that want to work from home.
Of those employees that do work onsite exclusively, 57% of the them reported that the nature of their job didn’t allow for remote work. Far fewer respondents reported working onsite due to personal preferences.
Combined with only 25% of all respondents saying that they would not like to work remotely, the data suggests that there’s a large number of employees who would like more flexibility, but just aren’t getting it in their current positions.
There’s already data that supports the theory of a remote-work sweet spot, where engagement and productivity are at their highest—and it’s not an onsite-only ratio. Understanding the challenges and features of a remote workforce can help empower managers to change behaviors and protocols to support these talented team members, and to make smart choices in managing their human capital.