Is working remotely becoming the office of the future?
Yes — and for many good reasons — says Scott Mautz, a former executive at Procter & Gamble who writes about business.
“When you stop and you look at the data available to us, in almost two thirds of the cases, every leader that granted the work from home option has found productivity has increased by as much as 50%,” he tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.
Mautz says that on top of increased productivity, working from home boosts employee retention. On average, he says, turnover decreases by 50% when the work from home option is available.
Here’s another bonus: no commute.
Commuters in the metro areas of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C., Atlanta and San Francisco spend at least 30 minutes on average getting to work every day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
“In San Francisco, over a lifetime, if you commute three to four days a week, you’re talking about giving up 500 days of your life to commuting,” Mautz says.
Based on research, Mautz suggests working from home three days a week, then giving yourself two days in the office. This allows a happy medium between being present in your workspace, but also having the flexibility of working from home, he says.
On how common working from home is
“Ten million people today work from home, which is about 6% of the workforce. And that’s qualified as if you work between two to three days at home. And if you just work one day, it’s even higher than that, so you’re closer to the 40 to 50 million people that are now doing at least one day a week at home these days. So it’s really grown in popularity. That 10 million is up from 4 million in 2000. So it’s growing in leaps and bounds. It’s becoming the way of work.
“The number of employers that offer their work from home option, it’s increased 40% in the past five years but still, it’s only approximately 10% of all employers offering that. So the upside for working at home is something we’re just beginning to tap [into] right now.”
On why employers might be hesitant to allow their employees to work remotely
“My research has found really four core reasons. Number one, a misconception that productivity is going to be lost and the data simply does not support that. Number two, the leaders have a little bit of the ego at stake. When they don’t have all the employees in front of them to lord over, it hits the ego a little bit. It makes them feel like a less perceived ‘real leader.’ The third is frankly from the leader side, a lack of imagination and the leaders feeling like, ‘Yeah I get you want to work from home but this job can’t be done that way.’ And quite often, they’re incorrect, unless it’s a sales job where it requires you being literally physically at the customer. There are many, many jobs that with some imagination can in fact be done just fine. And the last thing that holds the leaders and the companies up themselves is technology. They’re afraid that they’re going to have to make too great of a technology investment to keep the employees connected properly with HQ. Now there’s also another side of the equation of why individuals don’t ask more for the flexibility.”
On why employers might not ask for the option to work from home
“It’s a two-sided coin. So we went through why leaders don’t want to grant it but we’re part of this too. Number one, there’s a real factor of FOMO — people fearing that they’re missing out having that valuable face time. We have a fear that if we’re not present, our performances are [not] perceived as being as high as someone else that might be in the office.
“So the fear that employees are feeling, in many cases, is very, very real and it keeps them from not wanting to [work from home]. They also miss the social connection. People think like boy, this option is available to me, that’s great, but I really think I’m going to miss my friends. And one of the only downsides we see in the data from working from home is that sense of isolation and loneliness. But there are ways around that. It’s a shared issue of why we don’t do more of this, both from the employee themselves and the companies.”
On productivity levels when employees work from home
“There are all kinds of studies now showing that on average, if you allow an employee to work at home four to five days a week, you will get back a full day’s worth of productivity. Not to mention that turnover decreases on average by 50% when an employer is working from home. You can attract talent. 68% of millennials now say they expect a work from home option to be part of the package before they’ll sign with a company. Not to mention the reduction in stress. I’m sure your producer friends will tell you, their stress goes down on the days that they’re working [from home] and they are in fact far more productive.”
On the biggest benefit of having employees present in the office
“For sure it’s connection and this is where most leaders will glean onto this. They’ll say, ‘OK, but if my people are always there, if I don’t allow [working from home], it’s easier to build a team, I have more oversight over my people to help them grow, I get more opportunities to see them live, to help them become better versions of themselves.’ All of that certainly makes a lot of sense. But there’s things you can do to help to help implement and overcome that. I don’t suggest a work from home regime of five days a week.”
On commuting to work
“A ‘commuting in America’ study has shown us [that] half of all people that have to commute hate it. One in five commuters say that they would give an entire paycheck if they wouldn’t have to commute anymore. And by the way, some of the bigger cities, it’s getting to be a real problem. Your hometown city of Boston, that is the worst city out of all of the top five worst cities for commutes. 56% of people that commute in Boston say they absolutely hate their commute. No. 2 on that list is San Francisco — 55% say they hate it.”
On how employers can save money by allowing employees to work remotely
“On top of productivity and retention — and we’re starting to see this trend now — companies are starting to do the calculations for themselves on other things like cost savings. On average, a study has shown that we’ve saved almost $5 billion in just 2018 alone from allowing people to work from home part time. That means you have less rental space for offices, you don’t need as fancy as food preparation needs for people that are in the office. The cost savings is tremendous, in addition of course to the ability to attract and retain where people are coming from. So to get into a job right now, we know we’re in the middle of the great talent wars and I can promise you, greater flexibility is going to be a major weapon in winning the talent wars moving forward. More and more companies are realizing that, that this is now the cost of doing business. It’s not just a nice to have that sounds sexy in a company brochure. This is going to have to be a part of the way we’re getting work done moving forward.”