Remote work is growing in popularity, and more and more companies are adopting the mentality and practices of hybrid teams: Offering employees the option to work from the office, remotely, or alternate between the two. Working remotely is not only comfortable (can you say no commute?) but it also provides flexible hours, more ability to focus, and opens opportunities for people around the world to find interesting work regardless of their location.
Allowing this kind of flexibility gives individuals the option to choose what works best for them at any given time. For example, in the Owl Labs 2019 Global State of Remote Work Report, they found that remote workers say they're happy in their jobs 29% more than on-site workers
At Owl Labs, we support remote employees and do our best to keep up with remote trends. Here is the latest information about how people work remote, what has changed from last year, and what you can tell your manager when you ask for a flexible remote work policy.
Trust us—it’ll be hard for them to say no.
The Previous State Of Remote Work
In 2019, we ran a report to learn more about remote work practices in the United States. We asked employees how often they worked remotely, if remote workers felt like they were treated the same as traditional office employees, challenges for hybrid teams, and more.
As a company with technology that supports remote teams, we wanted to see how other teams were tackling remote work and what that could mean for the future of the industry.
The 2019 State of Remote Work revealed that nearly half of U.S respondents work remotely at least once a week.
We also learned how tech affects remote teams. Our survey showed that sales departments are the most likely to hire remote employees.
This makes sense—many companies use technology like chat software, video conferencing platforms, email, and shared documents to enable sales reps to do their job from wherever they please.
Think about it like this: Jim wouldn’t have had to come into the office every day to sling paper. He could have even followed Pam to NYC while she went to school, but then they never would have had the years of office banter… What a world to imagine.
Remote work not only benefits the employee, but also the organization. Surprisingly, we found that small companies (like Dunder Mifflin) are twice as likely to hire remote employees than larger companies.
While it may appear that larger companies have more resources to support remote employees, remote workers actually save companies money. With less turnover, a shorter hiring time, and lower company costs for office space and equipment, it’s a no-brainer to expand the hiring pool to virtual workers.
Working Remotely, Globally
For many employees, remote work may be a new mindset that requires a new way of thinking about work.
Our VP of Marketing at Owl Labs, Rebecca Corliss, realized how much she personally valued in-person interactions when she began working on a hybrid team herself. She also learned about her own biases when it came to remote work. While there were days that she would work remotely (whether it be from home, on an airplane, or a coffee shop), she learned she consistently felt more productive while working from an office environment. But others may not feel the same way.
In the 2018 Global State of Remote Work, we found that more than half of global employees work remotely at least once per week, but 44% of companies around the world still don’t allow it.
South American companies are leading the way with far more fully remote companies than the average, and it’s also the region where people are most likely to always work remote. For employees in many regions, remote work brings better job opportunities. In regions where the economy may be failing, or certain industries aren’t represented, remote work can be a game-changer for folks globally.
We also found 68% of global employees work remotely at least once per month. Of those who work remotely, individual contributors are 20% more likely than the average to work remote full time, which is a decrease from responses in our U.S survey last year.
The takeaway? Globally, or over time, management is a growing segment of remote employees.
Remote Work Motivations
So why do people choose to work remotely?
The main reason that respondents choose to work from home is increased productivity and better focus. The second most popular reason to work remote is no commute, which remained the same priority from the 2017 U.S survey.
Interestingly enough, more time with family/work-life-balance was the third highest reason in 2018, down from the main reason in last year’s study. The least important reason for respondents to work remotely is to save money. Respondents in Asia were the most likely to choose decreased stress as their reason to work remotely.
The shift from work/life balance to productivity and focus shows that working remotely is becoming more accepted and less an exception to the rule.
In the past, many employers had rigid remote work policies, and employees had to get special privileges to work remotely. Perhaps childcare was a reason to request, family scheduling, or difficult commutes, but now with more autonomy and employers trusting employees, simply having a heads-down day to finish a blog post is a good enough reason!
Remote Work Opportunities
While creating this global survey, we wanted to know if remote work provides job opportunities in areas where there may have not otherwise been options available. In recent years, online education has expanded its reach due to remote technology, and we were curious if the same was true for remote employment.
In 2018, 35% of global respondents agree that remote work provides more opportunities for quality employment. Specifically, those in South America and Asia were the most likely to agree with this statement, and those in Europe were less likely to agree.
When examined by respondents’ industry, we were surprised to learn that individuals in technology and marketing feel that there are fewer remote opportunities and more in-person opportunities. With modern hybrid team technology and remote work capabilities, industries like marketing should be able to keep up with the demands of the remote workforce.
An Increase In Employee Happiness And Productivity
We were glad to learn that more than half (53%) of employees worldwide consider themselves to be happy and productive in their job, no matter the work location. Those who are 18-24 years old and thus new to the workforce were the most likely to feel happy in their roles, with those aged 65+ a close second.
One theory to support this might be that those fresh into the workforce kids haven’t become burned out yet (and are excited to get their first paychecks), and the 65+ community is (hopefully) preparing for retirement. Remote work helps decrease stress and burnout, though, so maybe next year another age segment (remote workers of all ages) will climb in the happiness ranks.
According to a study from Ernst and Young, millennials will make up 75% of the global working population by 2025. Keeping this population motivated and satisfied at work will be a major part of every company’s strategy for employee productivity.
Last year, we learned that one of the major challenges for hybrid teams is building company culture, which requires the unique task of remote team building, video communication, and technology built for hybrid teams.
Remote jobs can bring opportunities to regions where industries and career paths otherwise may not have been available. For companies considering expanding to a hybrid model, consider the business implications, cost-saving, and increased employee happiness by offering these options.
The remote workforce is growing and companies with flexible policies will soon surpass those without.
How To Support A Remote/Hybrid Team
If you work for a company that offers flexible work schedules or has fully remote employees, here are a few simple tips to get your hybrid team off the ground.
- Encourage remote work: Lead by example and show employees who have never worked from home before that it’s ok to stay in without feeling guilty
- Ensure that your technology setup is adequate. #WFH doesn’t work if you don’t have a good wifi setup, video conferencing tool, camera (like the Meeting Owl), headphones, and a good place to set up for video calls
- Last year’s survey found that video meetings are better than audio-only for remote teams, so get your team the tools they need to be successful!
- Keep up communication. Use tools like Slack, Skype for Business, Google Chat, or other chat software to keep your team in the loop. Remote work has the potential to silo employees, so make sure to check in and keep up team culture and communication.
The Road Ahead For Remote Work
Remote work creates opportunities that prove that location doesn’t matter when it comes to finding excellent employees. As the modern workplace continues to grow and develop, employee autonomy is becoming more and more important to company success.
Happy employees = better business, and remote work is proving to positively impact many companies and employees worldwide.
The next step? Maybe we won’t even use the term “remote-friendly” in a few years because all companies will have flexible policies.
Editor's Note: This piece has been updated as of March 2020