Former Journalist, Current PR Guy (wielding an MBA)
It may not come as a surprise to many readers that last year the London Business School projected that by 2020 up to 50 percent of workers will be working remotely a majority of the time.
What might be a bit more astonishing, however, is a recent survey by FlexJobs and WorldatWork which found that only 3 percent of the organizations surveyed were actually trying to quantify the return on investment for job flexibility or remote work.
“That’s shocking to me, because it says loudly and clearly that employers and management believe flexible work only benefits the employee; they don’t even think it will benefit the broader organization,” Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, said of the survey’s findings. “If management valued it, they would be tracking and monitoring it.”
The CEO went on to point out that remote work was already happening widely — if not formally.
“Employees are working from home,” she said. “They’re working during their commute. They’re working on their smartphones, mobile devices and tablets. [Remote work] might be 5, 20 or 100 percent of their job, but the vast majority of companies don’t have a formal process or method in place to track the value of remote work.”
According to the study, top management tends to be more of a barrier than middle management, and often acts as an obstacle to telework programs. The reasons for this resistance? The top reasons given by more than half of the organizations surveyed included:
- Some jobs are not conducive to flex time or remote work (54 percent).
- Part-time schedules are a confounding variable (53 percent).
- Lack of expressed interest from employees is an obstacle (39 percent).
- Phased retirement is a barrier (38 percent).
Despite these expressions of reluctance, companies would be wise to acknowledge the beneficial opportunities remote work poses for any organization willing to formalize it for employees.
“There are obvious short- and long-term economic benefits for employers of remote workers,” Sutton Fell pointed out. “Things such as smaller office space, lower utility costs or back-office overhead are all examples of savings that can easily be realized from a flexible work model.”
Beyond expense reductions, another key advantage is the ability to maximize access to quality talent regardless of market rates or geography. “Whether you’re in a rural area or in a highly competitive talent market, such as San Francisco, you can access high-quality, affordable talent even if you don’t have a large, deep pool of candidates locally,” the FlexJobs founder said.
Obviously, not every job is or should be eligible for 100 percent remote work. Regardless, savvy companies will recognize that building a path to accommodate remote workers might actually be a road to their future success.