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Remote work, or telecommuting, is becoming the norm in modern business. The 9-5 office as we know it is rapidly changing, perhaps even on the verge of extinction, particularly as younger, more tech savvy employees join the workforce.  

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Despite the move towards telecommuting, many companies continue to feel wary about remote work. They fear a lack of commitment, an inability to properly oversee workers and the possibility of lost production. They also worry about maintaining a high level of engagement with their remote staff. And while these fears are reasonable, studies have shown telecommuting can positively benefit businesses and employees in many ways.

1.    Limits Distractions

Office life has its benefits—it’s great for developing teamwork, company culture and employee visibility. But, on the flip side, it can also be distracting. In 2013, The New York Times reported that the average office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes, but that it takes on average around 25 minutes for them to return to their work.

Remote work reduces distractions. Employees who work from home note that they can maintain focus for longer periods of time, which increases productivity. One study from Stanford University found employees who work from home were more likely to work a full day—meaning they produced more work than their in-office counterparts, who’s days might be disrupted by commuting delays, long lunches, or having to leave early for any number of reasons.

2.    Reduces Stress

Remote work reduces employee stress in many ways. As we’ve already stated, it limits distractions and interruptions—but it also enables employees to steer clear of office politics. Employees who work from home can easily control the noise level in their work environment and they can personalize their work space—adding plants, playing music and adjusting lighting to suit their needs. Personalizing the work space adds comfort, putting employees at ease and keeping them relaxed and capable of maintaining focus.

3.    Lessens Company Overhead

This is a big one. Businesses that provide remote work opportunities save money. Remote work is considerably less expensive than office work. In large cities, the costs for renting one office can be astronomical, particularly if a company is hoping to set up in an easily accessible area. Consider this, the cost per square foot for office rental space in Toronto sits at $35.37, in Vancouver it’s $37.20.

Canadian companies can save upwards of $53 billion if they allowed employees to work remotely part-time.

4.    Lowers Absenteeism

Remote work means employees are spending time commuting into an office. The average commute to work in Canada is around 60 minutes—that’s right, one full hour. Is it any wonder employees consistently feel tired and run down? Long commutes are draining both physically and mentally. Stressful commutes can increase blood pressure, the risk of heart attacks and depression, not to mention they can increase lateness and absenteeism in the workplace. This doesn’t even account for the economic impact long commutes can have on employees.

Employees who work remotely—even if it’s only one or two days a week, report higher overall workplace satisfaction and lower levels of stress. They’re also known to start work earlier and work longer hours as they don’t lose time travelling.  

5.    Improves Work-Life Balance

Telecommuting provides much appreciated flexibility to employees with busy lives.

Working from home simplifies life for employees with families, particularly for working mothers. Women offered remote work opportunities are more likely to work longer during pregnancy, take less time for maternity leave, or even continue working (at limited hours) after giving birth.

6.    Broadens Your Talent Pool

When you remove the constraints of a commute by providing remote work opportunities, you’re broadening your talent pool and opportunities for a more diverse workforce. Remote work makes it easy to hire outside of your regular commuting distance. This is particularly beneficial for companies seeking employees with special skills that may be difficult to come by. The ease with which companies can now enable telecommuting, (thanks to improved technology) means organizations can open job opportunities up to talent in other cities, provinces and even countries.

7.    Attracts Younger Workers

Millennials are known to look for job opportunities that provide a better work-life balance, and for them, this includes working from home. They are more likely to accept job offers that include telecommuting opportunities.

Remote work also increases Millennials long-term commitments to a company. Younger generations value flexibility in work location and hours—it’s a great bargaining chip for businesses looking to bring in younger employees.

Remote Work—a Growing Trend

50% of Canadian employees now work at least 2.5 days remotely. Changing technology and an increased focus on work-life balance have forced companies to move away from the standard 9-5. Despite concerns, remote work continues to prove valuable to companies and employees, financially, physically and mentally.

Of course, the key to successful telecommuting is improved technology. Businesses using an HRIS that streamlines administrative tasks, and provides automated leave management, accessible and modern benefits, makes it easy to meet the demands of employees, whether they’re in office or remote.

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Margaret Reid

Margaret Reid

As the senior vice-president of Apri Insurance Services Inc., Margaret is a benefits consultant and manager of technical support. She has almost 40 years of experience in employee benefits as well as processing health and dental claims, benefits administration, and client service and groups sales. Margaret worked at Crown Life, a major insurance carrier, for 20 years, then worked at CG&B as the manager of their group department. She moved to B.Comm Financial Insurance Solutions in 2007, which merged with several other benefit consulting companies in 2011 to create Apri Insurance Services Inc. Margaret has unintentionally followed in her father’s footsteps. He was a group sales rep with Crown Life when she was a child and helped her get her first job in group insurance, which led to her current career path.