The widespread ability to work remotely is one of the biggest transformations to the corporate world in recent memory. What would you have said 5 years ago if you heard in 2023, according to an article in Forbes, almost 30% of people would be working from home? I can imagine something along the lines of, keep dreaming!

Employees feel largely positive about remote work. People have said they love working from home because of engagement, productivity and work life balance as the reasons. Whether you decide to build a wholly remote, hybrid or exclusively in-office workforce, remote work will continue to have a significant impact on company culture. Not to mention bringing in a new form of competition for finding talent, employee engagement, hiring processes and overall employee retention.

Employees feel more engaged.

Surveys show that 74% of employees feel happier when they work remotely. Whether it's because they avoid a long and uncertain commute, appreciate the time flexibility or gain more time with their family, there's no doubt that remote work is popular. Since many employees reported round trip commutes of two or more hours, it's not surprising that the extra time alone has an impact.

An article by Forbes said 98% of current workers want to work remotely at least some of the time. Being able to work from home is so popular, in fact, that 50% of employees would take a pay cut to have the option of continuing to work remotely at least in some way. And 97% of people would recommend remote work to others.

Employees are more productive.

Employees that work remotely find they get more done. Around 95% of people who work from home say they are more productive while working remotely. These people said this is because they have more control over their work environment. Let's face it, it's easier to be more productive throughout the day when you're not being interrupted while in the middle of a project or task.

A productive remote or hybrid arrangement often means:

  • Fewer interruptions allowing you to focus better
  • More focused time to get tasks done
  • An overall quieter work environment
  • More comfortable workspace catered to what you need
  • Avoiding the day-to-day office politics

Employees highly value improved work life balance

Time saved and enhanced flexibility means an improved work life balance is a primary and compelling reason for the popularity of remote work. Around 87% of employees believe a remote or hybrid job would or has already improved their work life balance. It's a high value benefit to employees. Multiple surveys show that employees value work life balance so much that they would choose it over better pay and chances to advance their career.

According to a Gallup survey, the biggest advantages substantially outweigh challenges to a fully remote or hybrid work arrangement. Employees have found some of these challenges such as having fewer development opportunities, more challenging company culture, less recognition and coordinating shared workspaces.

Employees are more loyal.

According to one research study, 81% of participants mentioned a more flexible work arrangement and environment would cause them to be more loyal to the company. This strong loyalty can help to overall improve the company culture organically. While 57% said they would consider looking for a new job if they couldn't continue to work remotely, at least in some capacity.

Let's face it, hiring costs are rapidly increasing. This means retention is more important than ever. Offering your employees to work remotely can be a great way to reduce turnover while also attracting new talent and building a loyal and engaged workforce.

(Almost) everybody does it — or wants to

Employees of all generations, ethnicities, ages and education levels work remotely today. Most employees who are offered the opportunity to work from home, take it.

At every income level, younger workers are more likely than older workers to have remote work opportunities. Older workers — over 55 — are less likely to take remote work opportunities and lower income workers are less likely than higher income to work from home.

An article by Forbes says the age groups that are most likely to work remotely are 24 to 35 years old. Within this age group, around 39% of people work remotely full time and 25% work a more hybrid schedule. The article then suggests that younger people in the workforce tend to value the added flexibility and freedoms remote work offers. We might even see these things impacting businesses that are trying to attract and retail people within the Gen Z and younger Millennial generations.

Some workers choose to work in the office because they prefer the environment, or their home environments are not suitable for work. Maybe they don't have room in their homes for a designated office space. In other cases, some employees find it hard to be productive and stay on track while working from home and believe there is an advantage to being in the office.

Not without challenges

As popular as remote work is among employees, it can be difficult if it isn't managed and implemented correctly. There's a fine line between knowing your team members are effectively doing their job every day and being a micromanager and checking their Slack or Teams status all day. A company culture that embraces and respects remote work is very critical.

A common mistake that can hijack hybrid work plans and negatively affect teamwork is not developing a policy that coordinates in and out-of-office days to foster collaboration. Employee engagement as a team and within the company structure is becoming more important as remote work becomes more of the norm.

And as much as employees like remote and hybrid work, some managers are still skeptical at how effective and productive remote workers can be. Sixty percent of bosses indicated that if they had to make job cuts, they'd start by cutting their remote team members first. Some managers feel that not interacting with their employees in-person every day can sometimes draw a hard line in being able to connect with them. This can make cutting remote employees easier since there's less of a personal connection there.

Onboarding and orientation, especially for junior or younger staff members, can be challenging in exclusively remote or poorly managed hybrid environments. When onboarding someone within a remote role, it's important to have a strong onboarding process and experience ready prior to a new hire starting their first day. Onboarding is often more effective in the office, where people can get a clearer sense of the company culture, meet colleagues face–to–face and have easier access to people who can answer questions and offer advice.

Remote work does not prevent burnout.

While remote work can help some employees reduce burnout and improve their mental health, it's not a cure-all and can even create its own challenges. Some employees might begin to feel isolated.

Uncertainty about shared workspace and scheduling space in a hybrid environment can be stressful. Remote or hybrid work employees also have concerns about connecting with teammates, peers and colleagues as well as maintaining a sense of belonging with a virtual workforce. Based on employee feedback, 53% of US employees continue to feel burnout regardless of whether they work from home or not, finds an Eagle Hill report.

And working remotely makes it easy to work all the time. Some employees find it hard to find a hard stop to their workday. A Buffer report says 27% of remote employees rate not being able to unplug as their biggest struggle while working from home.

Benefits to the community

Working remotely can have impacts outside the brick and mortar and virtual workspaces, affects the employees feel positively about.

Working remotely can be greener than returning to a central office that requires a commute, according to an Alliance Virtual Offices report. This is an impact many employees and candidates can appreciate.

  • Companies could save 247 trillion sheets of paper (roughly $2.76 trillion (about $8,500 per person in the US) per year by allowing their employees to work remotely.
  • Though numbers vary, remote workers can reduce their carbon footprint by 1,800 pounds (worth $90/person) by working from home.
  • Employees who work from home on a hybrid schedule (2–3 days a week) can decrease their greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons.
  • By working from home, employees can lessen the deterioration of our highways by more than 119 billion miles.
  • On average, Americans drive 37 miles (55 minutes in the car) to and from work every day. This means employees are spending over 55 minutes each day on their commute.

It’s very likely that the future workforce will include more remote workers. Overall, employees consider remote work a significant opportunity and a better way of having a work life balance. Employees feel it helps address some common workplace stressors like work/family challenges and commuting. It’s an attractive benefit to candidates and can help employers stand out in a competitive marketplace.

While remote work is a great benefit to implement, it’s not a magical cure-all for different issues or problems a company might be facing. It brings its own, newer stressors that smart employers will address as they plan for the future workplace.