For many employees, the workplace used to be more rigidly defined by central offices and a strict nine-to-five schedule. In recent years, though, there have been new attitudes and policies offering more flexible working arrangements. Whether it’s to counter long commutes or just to work in a more relaxed environment, searches for remote work, work from home, and telecommuting jobs on Indeed are up 19% from last year in Canada.
Flexible policies let employees choose when and where they will feel most productive and that can mean substantial cost-savings for the employer. A number of employers are on board with this trend. In fact, just two years ago, global tech giant Dell reported saving about $12 million US per year in real estate costs by encouraging employees to work from home. The policy has been such a success that the company aims to see 50% of its employees working at home at least a few days a week by 2020.
However, while some companies see benefits to remote work, others still prefer employees to gather at a central physical location. Another global giant, IBM, though an early adopter of remote work, reversed its policy in 2017 by bringing thousands of workers back to the office, citing the need for teams to be in the same space to be successful.
To learn more about the perceptions and experiences regarding remote work, we surveyed over 500 Canadian employees and 500 employers across a variety of industries. We found that most employees and employers see the advantages of remote work (both in terms of productivity and employee happiness), but agree that there are also upsides to making their way to the office. Let’s take a deeper dive into the data.
47% of employees wish their employer offered the option to work remotely
According to our survey, 62% of Canadian employers offer their employees the option to work remotely. Almost half (47%) of respondents who work for companies without a remote-work policy feel frustrated, and wish their company offered this benefit, so much so that 33% have considered looking for a job at a company that offers a remote work, and 14% are actively looking. Strikingly, over a third (36%) of employees would consider taking a pay cut to have the option to work remotely, with 7% saying that they definitely would.
Given the growing importance of flexibility in the workplace, it’s no surprise that job seekers are keeping their eye out for companies that offer flexible work options. When searching for a new job, 60% of employees say that it’s either important or very important to them that the company has a remote-work policy (work from home or telecommute).
Remote workers cite work-life balance as the top benefit
Employees noted that the ability to work remotely offers a wide range of advantages. Among employees who are given this benefit, the overwhelming majority (80%) believe that it has provided a better work-life balance at their current company; 65% think it has reduced stress; 60% state that remote work led to them taking fewer sick days; 56% say that it has improved morale at their current company, while 52% believe it has reduced absences.
Consequently, many would not want to lose this benefit and 50% of employees would consider looking or actively look for another job if their company were to eliminate the remote-work policy.
Employers that offer telecommuting options to employees also see a number of other benefits: 62% say that improved morale is the greatest benefit, followed by reduced absenteeism (59%), operational cost savings (55%), reduced employee turnover (50%), and reduced health insurance costs (28%).
Employees think they are more productive when working remotely
Almost all employees (90%) believe they are at least equally productive working from home as they are in the office, with 55% stating they are more productive when they work from home. Only 5% think they are less productive at home.
Not only do workers feel more productive, but their employers also agree: a staggering 96% of companies with remote-work policies believe it doesn’t impede productivity, with 65% saying it makes workers more productive.
Still, going to the office has its perks
That said, Canadian employees are also aware of the potential downside of remote work. More than a quarter (28%) of respondents think that it contributes to less visibility and access to leadership at their current company, and 25% think that it leads to less collaboration. Almost one out of 10 (9%) believe working remotely stunts career growth at their current company.
Avoiding some of these perceived drawbacks could be why, even when given the option to work remotely, many people (33%) still go into the office every day.
A recent Stanford study of workers at China’s largest travel agency supports this: Researchers compared a control group of employees at company headquarters with a test group of employees who volunteered to work at home full-time. The study found that employees working from home gained the equivalent of an entire day’s worth of productivity. However, half of the remote employees ended up changing their mind about working from home full-time because they felt too isolated.
Making remote work ‘work’ for your company
Both employees and employers experience benefits from remote work, with productivity ranking high with both surveyed groups. However, there are instances where they agree it can be a hindrance to collaborative work.
Paul Wolfe, SVP of Human Resource at Indeed, shared a few tips to minimize those problems and maximize your chances of success:
- Hire carefully: Independence and self-discipline are even more important for remote work, so make sure you screen for that capacity and trust the people you’ve hired to do their job.
- Make sure everyone feels involved: Use processes to maintain good communication between team members, including weekly update meetings, regular one-on-one meetings with managers, and a weekly “pipeline” report to make sure projects are on track and employees are on the same page.
- Leverage technology: Use technology, such as video conferencing, group chat rooms and document sharing platforms to keep remote workers looped in. One of the most important aspects to successfully offering remote work is having the right technology, and most agree, as 91% of employers say that their company has invested in technology to enable remote work. Fortunately, 82% of employees surveyed feel they have the necessary technology to be effective in working remotely.
Striking a balance
Remote-work policies are popular with many employees, who cite an improved work-life balance among its many benefits, and employers who gain from a more content workforce and reduced operational costs. However, other companies think workers perform and collaborate better when they are in the same physical location and employees who work exclusively remotely tend to feel isolated.
Each company must decide what works best, and striking the right balance for employers and employees is crucial. For example, limiting the number of days employees can work from home can help foster in-person teamwork, but providing the option of remote work can be a powerful differentiator for employers looking to be more competitive in the labour market and attract top talent from anywhere.
The survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed among 501 randomly selected employed respondents and 500 randomly selected employers in Canada between October 26, 2018 and November 1, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 4.4%, 19 times out of 20.