Are Remote Workers Happier Than Office Employees?

Are Remote Workers Happier?

Thanks to technological advances, workplace culture has been permanently altered. Instead of having to recruit workers from your local region, employers now have access to a global market of skilled workers online.

The prospect of working a traditional 9-5 desk job, in a fixed location, and then retiring in your 60s is no longer appealing to the modern workforce. People desire higher levels of autonomy in their lives, and the industrial, one-size-fits-all model of employee management is no longer suitable.

In order for businesses to be competitive in the recruitment market, flexible working practices are no longer a nice bonus – they’re a necessity.

Unfortunately, there are many foundationless fears regarding remote work which prevent business leaders from allowing it. Some leaders believe that constant supervision, face-to-face team interactions and daily communications are essential for managing workers effectively – but this is not the case.

Instead of basing your company’s working practices on antiquated information, it’s more useful to analyze how workers actually feel about flexible working.

TinyPulse, an employee engagement company, conducted a comprehensive study to determine whether remote working actually benefitted businesses. One of the core findings was that remote workers were happier because they could work whenever and wherever they wanted.

remote workers infographic

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A study by the University of Warwick suggests that happy employees are 12% more productive. If you want a more productive workforce and a more profitable business, you should strive to make your workers as happy as possible.

Here are some of the reasons why remote workers are happy and productive.

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Individualized Environments

Open-plan offices were created by German engineers in the 1950s in order to break down barriers and improve communication between business teams. However, it was quickly realized that the more employees you can fit into a single office, the more money you can save on overhead costs.

While this sounds good in theory, the money you save in overheads will eventually be lost due to a decrease in employee productivity. Environmental factors play an enormous role in workforce productivity.

Workers are individuals, and as such, perform best when they’re able to customize their working environments to suit their needs. A bright, highly populated office with constant noise can be a perfect environment for some workers to thrive – but for others, this kind of environment is torturous.

If you have a jovial HR assistant working in the same office as an introverted software engineer, it’s unlikely that you can create a working environment which is optimal for both employees. Approximately one third of the world’s population are introverts – these individuals become drained after prolonged periods of socialization and require solitude in order to focus.

If introverted employees are forced to work in over-stimulating environments, their productivity and general happiness will suffer. Given the intense, distraction-ridden working environments of most corporations, it should come as no surprise when 91% of remote workers assert that they get more work done outside the office.

Location Independence

Location Independence

Remote work doesn’t only facilitate individualized working environments, but it also enables employees to work from whichever location they desire. Millennials (born from 1982 to 2004) form a larger percentage of the global workforce, year by year.

Because millennials are more interested in travelling abroad than previous generations (by a 23% point margin), restricting their annual travel time to several weeks of vacation time per year is not ideal if you want them to remain satisfied at your company.

Research suggests that by 2035, there will be 1 billion digital nomads (workers who work remotely and have no fixed location) in the global workforce. Tomorrow’s workers value the freedom to travel, so by imposing geographical restrictions on your employees, you may scare away the brightest and most talented candidates from your company.

Research suggests that travel lowers stress levels, improves brain health and decreases the risk of heart disease. Encouraging your employees to travel is recommended if you want to have a happy, productive workforce. Remote work allows your employees to travel and contribute at the same time.

Individualized Working Habits

Working between the hours of 9am to 5pm, five days a week is the standard workweek for most corporations. However, working habits are anything but standard – from one person to the next.

Some people are more productive at night, or during the early morning before 9am. Some people like to work excessively when they’re feeling productive, and not at all when they feel depleted. Some people would rather work every day but for a few hours, while others would rather perform a 40 hour workweek in 3-4 days and take the rest of the week off.

On a scale of 1-10, employees who work seven days a week for less hours rate their happiness, on average, at 8.12, whereas employees who work a typical 9-5 workweek rate their happiness at 7.88. Those who work at unusual times, such as nights and Sundays, rate their happiness at 7.82.

Choosing a work schedule which fits your specific needs is essential if you want to be happy and productive. This is particularly important in regards to what time you start and end your work day.

While waking up early is often associated with virtuousness, and sleeping in late is associated with laziness, these stereotypes don’t actually carry over to real life. In a 1998 study by the University of Southampton, it was found that sleeping patterns bear no correlation with cognitive performance or health. Additionally, sleeping patterns have a biological basis – research suggests that 10% of people are naturally early risers, 20% are late risers and 70% are neither.

If 20% of your workers are late risers, forcing them to begin their workday at 9am is a recipe for dissatisfaction and poor productivity. An individualized approach to working habits, which allows workers to pick their hours according to their preferences, will improve workforce happiness and productivity levels.

Unsurprisingly, 41% of remote workers stated that the ability to choose when and where they worked was a key factor in deciding to work remotely. 8% stated that they chose to work remotely specifically because they do not like working in an office!

Communication Benefits

While some managers are paranoid about the communication challenges of remote work, in most cases, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

Conventional management wisdom suggests that you should take your workers on teambuilding outings, check in with them on a daily basis, administer feedback personally, maintain a continuous stream of communication and get to know your workers personally to build a better relationship with them. This hands-on approach is excellent for managing some employees, but for others, it causes friction.

Some workers, particularly introverts, find the levels of communication in traditional workplaces to be excessive rather than adequate. 34% of remote workers would prefer to communicate with their direct supervisor once a week – significantly less than what’s common in most organizations.

For fields where introverts are the majority (such as graphic design and software engineering),  over-communicating with your workforce could have disastrous results in terms of employee happiness and productivity.

Fortunately, there are plenty of handy tools such as Slack, Skype, Basecamp and Asana which make running projects and communicating with multiple remote workers in different time zones extremely easy. In 2017, you don’t need to speak to someone face-to-face or on the phone in order to maintain a productive working relationship with them.

Communication Benefits

Meetings are one of the most unpopular parts of workplace culture, as they often lead to circular conversations which distract workers from real, revenue-generating work. Oftentimes, email is the most effective form of communication since all details are recorded and can be referred back to at a later date.

Counterintuitively, you don’t need to give praise to your workers in person to make them feel valued. On a scale of 1-10, remote workers gave an average score of 7.75 in terms of how valued they feel at work, compared to all workers, who gave an average score of 6.69!

In recent decades, massive improvements have been made in terms of corporate workforce diversification. Workforces are becoming more diverse in terms of gender, sexual orientation and ethnicities.

However, businesses still need to wake up and make their organizations attractive for a diverse range of personality types if they want to harness the powers of today’s global workforce.

Conclusion

A recent study, published in the journal, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that people were more attracted to job roles which granted higher levels of autonomy than ones which involved having influence over subordinates. In other words, people desire freedom more than power.

Allowing your employees to work remotely is the ultimate form of autonomy. People are no longer satisfied with compromising every area of their life in exchange for a monthly wage – remote work allows people to live life on their terms, while still delivering high quality work for the companies that pay them.

If restricting the geographical location of your workers, micromanaging them and forcing them to work at hours where they’re not at their most productive doesn’t actually benefit the long-term profitability of your company, then why do it?

Granting your workers autonomy makes them happier, which makes them more productive, which ultimately improves your profits. If you’re serious about building a business for longevity, making provisions for remote work is something you strongly need to consider.

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Greg Digneo

Greg Digneo

Greg Digneo writes for TimeDoctor.com, a time monitoring and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams. If you would like to see where you and your team are spending your time during work, then try TimeDoctor free for 30 days.

3 Comments

  • Victoria says:

    Great infographic!

    Some of our users have found that the increased productivity of remote workers has led their managers to expect a 10 – 20% increase in workload compared to their office-bound colleagues. It’ll be interesting to see if this develops into an established trend.

  • John V says:

    Hey Guys, this is a great topic. I have been working “remote” or as we called it at Elance, freelancing for the past 8 years. I have gathered mountains of experience, hugely developed my skills have glorious tales to tell and plenty of tears to talk about. 🙂

  • EmilShour says:

    Interesting stats on remote working vs working in an office. Thanks for sharing Greg!

    I see the advantages of both and the stats back it up. Office = easier to connect w/coworkers, remote = better quality of life and autonomy.

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