Is flexibility and remote working really all it’s cracked up to be?
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Is flexibility and remote working really all it’s cracked up to be?

1 Oct 2019295 Views

New research from Airtasker weighs up the pros and cons of remote working, after surveying more than 1,000 employees in the US.

Productivity platform Airtasker recently published findings on its research into the benefits of remote working.

It surveyed 1,004 full-time employees across the US, half of which complete their work outside of an office setting. In a bid to gain some inside knowledge into the increasingly popular phenomenon, it compared the productivity, spending habits and health of respondents.

Commuting

Length of worker commutes were found to have a substantial impact on respondents, causing one in four of those surveyed to quit a job at some point in their careers.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that remote workers don’t necessarily have any commute to get through – at least, not beyond whatever route they take to their laptop.

As a result, time and financial costs were drastically different for both groups analysed. Airtasker’s study found that, compared to office employees, remote workers saved an annual average of $4,523 on fuel alone, as well as 17 days of extra free time.

Health

The benefits even extended to the physical and mental wellbeing of workers.

Remote workers gained more exercise, squeezing in 25 extra minutes of physical activity every week in comparison to their office-bound colleagues.

Business is better when its people are healthy. Obvious reasons for this include fewer sick days being taken, but benefits also arise in improved concentration levels, and encouraging a company culture that can help attract new hires and, ultimately, elevate productivity.

Productivity

Airtasker also took a deeper look at productivity, given its integral role in bolstering business.

It suggested that people working outside the office get more work done, clocking in more than 16 additional days each year and accomplishing more within those days, too.

Main drivers of this disparity included less distractions, allowing remote employees to lose 10 fewer minutes to non-work-related time-drains every day and taking more official breaks, leading to higher productivity rates.

Distractions that were described included interruptions from bosses and talking with peers about aspects of their lives not related to their jobs.

Nearly a quarter of office employees said their boss distracted them from doing their work, but only 15pc of remote workers, on the other hand, reported the same.

Perhaps the most insightful finding, however, was the suggestion that many remote employees’ secrets to productivity were the same principles that most office employers try to enforce.

For example, 33pc of remote employees said that having set working hours was the most effective way to stay productive. Another 25pc stayed productive by choosing to work in the same location every day.

And the number-one thing remote workers suggested for staying productive was taking breaks.

Downsides of remote working

Remote working clearly has a significant catalogue of upsides, but its potential challenges can’t be ignored.

Airtasker found that many at-home workers could present flight risks for businesses, with 50pc wanting to some day be their own boss instead of traversing the corporate ladder.

Additionally, without a traditional space to carry out tasks, remote workers struggled more in attaining a healthy work-life balance, with 29pc reporting this problem compared with 23pc of office workers. Millennials were the most impacted by this, with almost a third finding difficulty in striking that balance.

On the back of that struggle, it was suggested that anxiety and stress tended to surge during working days outside of the office. More than half of those working remotely said they had dealt with excessive amounts of stress throughout their day, with 45pc experiencing higher levels of anxiety than on-site employees.

The importance of work friends

Airtasker’s research presents further proof of the perks that flexible working can bring, but it’s also a good reminder that there are potential challenges that need to be considered.

A possible antidote to many of them is cultivating and maintaining friendships at work, which experts agree can have a positive impact on your stress levels, productivity and even happiness.

That’s why it’s recommended that business owners reinforce a culture that welcomes friendly conversations and allows casual chat to flourish.

In light of the future of work, it appears that newer members of the workforce are especially embracing this. The study found that millennials understood the importance of office relationships the most. More than one in 10 agreed that work relationships were more important than their workload, and actively prioritised those bonds with their co-workers.

Flexible working may be satisfying and valuable for many, but fostering friendships will likely carry ample weight if you’re interested in maintaining that work-life balance.

By Lisa Ardill

Lisa joined the team as senior Careers reporter in July 2019 having worked previously in communications for a digital content technology research centre and in media for Science Foundation Ireland. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. In no particular order, her passions include feminism, human rights, literature, her bichon frise and proper use of the Oxford comma. She likes to both read and write poetry.

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