In 2016, most of us know all about the benefits of hiring a remote workforce. As an employer, you end up saving a lot of money, reduce the risk of losing workers to life events (that prompt moves) and get to work more often from home yourself.
But what about remote workers themselves?
Aside from the obvious perks — like doing away with the daily commute — what long-term benefits does remote work offer? And what characteristics does remote work encourage and nurture?
Here are five of the biggest virtues of remote workers:
1. More Productive
In a study published in Harvard Business Review, the founders of Ctrip, a Chinese travel website, gave half of their staff the option to work from home for nine months. The rest remained in the office as the control group.
At the end of nine months, the remote workers were happier, less likely to quit and 13.5 percent more productive than their office counterparts (as measured by sales calls). That's an extra day of productivity each week.
There have been plenty of other studies that back up the benefits of working remotely.
For example, it's been shown that taking regular breaks improves productivity and creativity. Some experts have concluded that most office workers should take breaks every 50 to 90 minutes for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
Yet, despite having more breaks, remote workers tend to work even harder than office workers. In fact, they're twice as likely to work beyond 40 hours a week, and not just on menial tasks.
2. More Entrepreneurial
By offering remote workers more free time and flexibility, employers are actually empowering them to get more creative and tackle bigger and more challenging projects.
Without a manager looming over their shoulders or the daily distractions of the office, they can take the breaks they need and deserve and focus on the things they're really passionate about.
Remote workers also save a ton of time just by not commuting. The average American spends $2,600 and 200 hours a year commuting. Assuming you work for 44 years, from the age of 21 to 65 (although many Americans start working in high school), that's about 366 days spent commuting by the time you retire.
Clearly, working remotely has huge time-cost savings. So, it really comes as no surprise that many remote workers often have multiple jobs, or start their own businesses.
3. More Family-Oriented
But even if a remote worker doesn't spend all that extra time on a side gig or their own business, they get to spend more time with family and friends. According to a poll on family happiness, enjoying time together tops a list of over 30 factors that also include sharing chores, watching TV and films together and family meals.
It's not that office workers don't enjoy spending time with their families or make every effort to do so. It's that there are only so many hours in a day.
Remote workers have the advantage of having more free time, and that means choosing to spend more time with family and friends if they want to.
A lesser-known benefit of remote work is better health. Not only are remote workers less stressed and mentally healthier (because they feel more empowered), they're often physically healthier, too.
Office posture is terrible for health. According to a study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, sitting for extended periods of time leads to a 21 percent increased risk of lung cancer, a 24 percent increased risk of colon cancer, and a 32 percent increased risk of endometrial cancer.
Not to mention, it's bad for your neck and back.
On top of that, commuting is absolutely awful for your health. The daily stressors associated with a commute can raise blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety and the risk for depression.
And simply because you have fewer hours in the day to devote to restful sleep, you end up sleeping less, too.
When it comes down to it, remote workers tend to be happier, just like the ones in the Ctrip survey.
The happiness you experience when working remotely comes from a synergy of multiple positive factors:
- You have so much more flexibility. - You get to be an early bird or a night owl. - You get to see your family and loved ones more. - You get to pursue your interests without feeling guilty.
So, what's the best remote workspace?
Working remotely doesn't have to mean working from home.
Maybe you have a big family with rowdy children. Or maybe, when you're at home, you feel the unavoidable tug of household chores and distractions.
It could be that you don't have a really good office space, and you end up trying (but failing) to focus in the living room or bedroom.
Whatever your situation, your environment matters.
If home isn't the right work environment for you, then you need to find a quiet space where you can focus on meaningful work. This doesn't have to be a coffee shop or library, either. There are plenty of better options if you know where to look.