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Remote working is a boon of the modern age that has allowed the world’s workforce to fully explore the possibilities ‘work/life balance’.
Two decades ago, just 9 per cent of the US work force occasionally worked from home, but today that has risen to 37 per cent, and those telecommuting has gone up by 103 per cent over the last decade.
Today’s professional can be in a conference call to China while sending time-critical documentation to clients in New York, without ever leaving the comfort of our own homes; our ability to be in many places at once has increased while our need to be chained to a desk in one location has almost disappeared in some industries.
But does remote working and the work/life balance it puts in our hands accelerate us towards self-actualisation and happiness? Or do workers find a soulful satisfaction in the gloom of the commute, the office and the daily grind?
If a more productive worker is a happier worker with a better work/life balance, then remote working is the way to go. In the US, remote workers are nearly twice as likely to work over 40 hours a week, becoming 20 per cent more productive when they are given creative projects to work on remotely.
The same study found that 91 per cent of all workers surveyed felt they got more work done when enabled to work outside the office.
Similarly, ConnectSolutions research found that 77 per cent of respondent employees claim to be more productive when working remotely, with 30 per cent of respondents saying that they got more work done in less time.
Furthermore, employees who work remotely also feel more valued and generally happier in themselves, which would certainly be among evidencing factors of a good work/life balance.
Remote working also halves the likelihood of people taking time off through sickness and actually increases well-being, improving diet, sleep patterns and an individual’s inclination to exercise; each fundamental components of a healthy work/life balance.
Admittedly, remote working might offer these benefits for people who rely on routine, but with no physical meetings to go to, and without the need to take care of a personal appearance or adhere to timetabling, some workers might lose discipline, drive and productivity.
Furthermore, working from home usually means social isolation, which can starve individuals of interaction and mental stimulation.
An official argument running against remote working is that it erodes the traditional office environment, which has negative implications for the working side of the work/life balance.
A study by Gallup has reported mixed results when it comes to determining whether telecommuting (remote working) increases workers’ engagement on its own, while their research does show that companies with a more engaged workforce perform better in a “variety of business outcomes, including productivity, profitability and customer engagement.”
It turns out that most of those who work remotely do so on a limited basis, with 45 per cent of those who work from home doing so less than five days per month and 24 per cent telecommuting over ten days a month.
If remote working has given us the chance to strike the perfect work/life balance, then Gallup’s research serves to underline the adage ‘everything in moderation’.
Remote working does not have to restrict work/life balance or bring negative impacts for staff and organisations alike. If treated with care, working remotely will engage workers to bring all associated positive effects, but only when distributed with consideration across an office-based calendar.
One thing we can be certain of, is that what was once a trend is now a culture, revealed by the increasing number of major US firms that are moving to accommodate remote working into daily operations.
As Millennials come to the fore, work/life balance through remote working looks set to become a priority, rather than just a possibility in a global workplace where happiness is recognised as a key driver of productivity.