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Remote work opens the door to higher productivity

Companies are reaping rewards by embracing remote work

Current trends signal a future where work from home options become the commonly accepted standard over the 9-5 office jobs of the past. While almost all workers across the nation and globe are elated by this movement, companies and organizations have high expectations for output as an outcome, and for good reason.

A study featured in Harvard Business Review looked at call center workers who worked from home versus those in the brick and mortar. The work-at-home arrangements led to higher productivity, which generated an estimated savings of $1,900 over the nine-month study. While the dollar amount might not sound like much, the hours add up to an extra workday a week.

“We found that people working from home completed 13.5 percent more calls than the staff in the office did,” said Stanford University Economics Professor Nicholas Bloom. Bloom, quoted in the article.

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The people working from home “also quit at half the rate of people in the office—way beyond what we anticipated. And predictably, at-home workers reported much higher job satisfaction,” Bloom said. He attributed the productivity increase to a quieter environment where processing calls is easier. “At home, people don’t experience what we call the ‘cake in the break room’ effect,” he said.

The home-based workers also worked more hours. “They started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day. They had no commute. They didn’t run errands at lunch. Sick days for employees working from home plummeted,” Bloom said.

With these realities in mind, a number of companies are creating policies to support flexibility.

Cedric Savarese, founder and CEO of FormAssembly, has more than 50 employees across seven countries and most work remotely. Soon after starting the company, Savarese said it became a remote-first organization.

“The most immediate benefit to hiring remote workers is access to a larger talent pool,” Savarese said in a Q&A by Entrepreneur.

“If you don’t limit yourself to your local job market—and to your available office and parking space—you’ll find it much easier to attract exceptional people and grow your team,” he said.

San Francisco-based Zapier, developer of online app connectivity tools for workflow automation, has an all-remote workforce of approx 150 people (as of 2018). In 2017, the company took its flex-work mentality one step further when it announced a plan to pay talent to move away from the city. So far, no one has accepted, but the company reports the volume of job applications increased 53 percent.

It’s not just small companies and techies embracing the remote mindset.

John Scribante as CEO of Orion Energy Services knew he had to make a radical change in order to lead his company in the right direction. Beginning in 2013, Orion stopped limiting its search for talent to people within close geographic proximity.

His team made the “radical shift to become what they call “ZIP code agnostic,” hiring the best candidates, regardless of where they lived, to work remotely,” according to an article in Inc.com.

At the time of the article, nearly 20 percent of Orion’s 185 employees worked outside its headquarters in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Scribante credited the hiring strategy with helping the company attain its goal of becoming a leading producer of LEDs.

“We ripped the rug out because we had to,” Scribante says. “We had to turn this company around, and that meant finding the people who would get the new vision and come along for the ride.”

Even Richard Branson evangelizes remote work:

If you still need proof, Google “Flexible work” and “Richard Branson” and you’ll get quite a few hits of stories capturing Branson’s stance.

“I just think you should treat your people in the same way that you treat your family,” Branson said in a podcast earlier this year.

The company has many policies supportive of this. Including letting people work from home and take unlimited leave, according to a message from Branson on the company site.

“We treat our employees like the capable adults they are. This is one of the reasons why we attract such brilliant staff: It’s easier to attract top talent when you are open and flexible,” Branson said.

Making a case against remote work is tough after considering Branson’s laundry list of benefits:

“Many of our employees who work from home are extremely diligent and get their job done smarter to spend more time with their loved ones. By embracing modern technologies our staff are able to spend time away from their desks interacting with a broad range of people, while always being accessible,” he said.

But why does telecommuting increase output?

There are a few common sense reasons as to why working from home, or virtually outside of the office leads to heightened productivity:

  • Reduces distractions
  • Eliminates commute times
  • Needing to prove you’re working harder (according to this Forbes article)

Like all work environments, flexible workers do need to put effort into staying on target. Hear it straight from the source in our recent article, How top work from home professionals stay motivated.

Shelly Strom

Shelly Strom

Shelly Strom is a writer for Liveops. With a background in business journalism and corporate communications, she specializes in researching the call center industry to uncover key trends, news and analysis.