Country music star Dolly Parton may have been on to something when she wrote the song “9 to 5” in 1980 — the lyrics “barely getting by, it’s all taking and no giving” became somewhat of an anthem for office workers around the country. The traditional 8-hour workday and 40-hour workweek, both relics of the industrial revolution, put workers at desk jobs through the wringer. Every morning, they’d get up, sit in rush-hour traffic, clock in, clock out, and sit in more rush-hour traffic — just to do it all again the next day.
Now, four decades after the hit tune won a Grammy for “Best Country Song,” the American workplace looks drastically different. Remote work, which was exceedingly rare even 10 years ago, has shifted from a highly coveted benefit to a successful business strategy. Major advances in technology have made it possible for people to work from anywhere for anyone — with some companies running smoothly with fully remote teams. And, millennials — who currently make up 50 percent of the workforce and will be 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 — seek and prioritize work-life balance in their careers as well as jobs that align with their values.
Holistic well-being survey research came back with all generations seeking flexible/remote working options. It's not just a millennial thing.
Source: Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
But, it’s not just millennials who want the flexibility of working remotely. Nearly half of all respondents from a survey conducted by job-search site Indeed External Site say remote work policies are an important factor in their job search, while 40 percent would consider taking a pay cut for the option to work remotely. And, research from Gallup found that 54 percent of office workers External Site would leave their job for one that offers flexible and remote work options.
As more workers want to work remotely, and more companies are making the switch to flexible work environments, the business case for implementing a remote work policy — if you’re able — becomes a no-brainer. Here are five reasons your company should consider transitioning to a remote workforce.
Remote work increases employee productivity
First things first: Remote work often gets a bad reputation. How are employees supposed to get any work done when they have endless distractions — like TV or household chores — and no one to keep an eye on them all day? In fact, reality is quite the opposite. With fewer distractions from coworkers and the ability to take breaks when they need to, remote workers can get more work done in less time — which adds up. Remote employees actually work an extra 1.4 days per month External Site than in-office employees, or almost 17 additional days each year.
Remote working also significantly reduces unscheduled absences. That’s because 78 percent of office employees who call in sick do so because they’re distracted by personal issues or family needs, according to Global Workplace Analytics External Site. With a flexible working schedule, employees instead can run errands or schedule appointments without losing several hours during the day.
Another reason why your workforce loses an hour or two each day? Traffic. Not only do traffic jams cost the U.S. $78 billion per year in productivity External Site, they can increase your employees’ risk of burnout by adding a stress-filled commute to an already long workday.
Remote work is better for the environment
Those, previously mentioned, traffic jams account for nearly three billion gallons of gas and 26 million extra tons of greenhouse gases, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Your company’s carbon footprint, or impact on the environment, isn’t something that should be ignored. Remember, millennials (the employee population who currently makes up 50 percent of the workforce) want to work for a company that aligns with their values. Gallup found that the majority of your workforce External Site — 67 percent of people aged 18 to 29, and 49 percent of people aged 30 to 49 — say global warming is a real, man-made and serious threat.
Working from home obviously cuts down your employees’ time on the road, and even just a 1 percent decrease in vehicles significantly reduces congestion. Large companies that have implemented remote work programs, like Sun Microsystems, Xerox® and Dell, have seen five-figure reductions in annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to Gallup. Dell’s flexible work solutions External Site have also saved an estimated 42 million kilowatt hours of energy since 2013 and have helped its employees avoid 136 million miles of travel per year.
Remote work helps you attract and retain top talent
As flexible and remote work policies become more common, workers are starting to realize they can work from anywhere — and for anyone. Moving for a job is a major, life-disrupting change that many may not be willing to make. If you want the best of the best, it’s important to understand that they want flexibility — and if they don’t get it from you, they’ll head elsewhere.
Hiring a remote workforce allows you to pull talent from anywhere, not just where your offices are based. This creates the opportunity for a geographically, socioeconomically, and culturally diverse workforce that otherwise would not have been possible. In addition, flexible schedules and remote work policies attract workers who otherwise feel left out of the traditional 9-to-5, office-based environment: women who are struggling to re-enter the workforce full-time after having kids, sandwich generation caregivers, and those who are disabled.
Remote work achieves significant cost savings
Another major pro of implementing a remote work policy: It will undoubtedly save you money. According to Global Workforce Analytics, nearly 6 in 10 employers see cost savings as a significant benefit to remote work. The majority of the savings comes from not needing as much office space — which saves an average of $10,000 per employee External Site who works remotely full-time each year.
But savings opportunities exist outside of the reduced demand for real estate. If the majority of your workforce is remote, you’ll save on everything from office resources like paper to amenities like an on-site cafeteria.
Remote work ensures business continuity in an emergency
Finally, the benefit of having an established remote workforce that’s likely on everyone’s minds: it helps ensure your business continues to run in times of crisis — like the COVID-19 pandemic or a natural disaster. Global Workforce Analytics reports that 75 percent of remote workers say they could continue to work in the event of a major disruption, compared to just 28 percent of workers who don’t currently work remotely.
Though many companies — Wellmark included — were able to successfully transition to a fully remote workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak to limit the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health of their workers, it helps to have remote work capabilities already in place in the event of an emergency.
Ready to make the switch?
If you don’t already have an established remote work policy, you shouldn’t expect to be able to implement one overnight. And, full-time remote work may not be for everyone or every company. As more companies adopt flexible policies and offer remote work arrangements, it’s important to remember that these are not one-size-fits-all.
At Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we know your business, and have insight and data on your employees that you may not have in-house. Our team of employer health and well-being consultants can serve as an extension of your workforce and provide expertise in creating engaging solutions to meet the unique needs of your employee population.
Every step of the way, our team can be your go-to source for finding the right combination of solutions — including if remote work is right for your company.
If you're ready to learn what a remote work policy could do for your business, reach out to your authorized Wellmark representative to learn more about the possibilities. Or, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Send Email.