Since the 18th century, managers and designers have been thinking about how to use space to foster productivity. This is especially important for large organizations where small improvements can add up to a big difference.
As a business culture, we’ve come from the manufacturing-inspired open layout, through the cubicle farms of the ‘70s and ‘80s, to the flexible workspaces lauded by many organizations today. Flexible spaces don’t have fixed desk assignments: employees “hot desk” with their laptops to sit where they can collaborate or where they can get some quiet to focus.
Which leads us to remote working, AKA telecommuting. As more millennials enter the workforce, their desire for greater personal freedom has led to the increased use of homes, coffee shops, and shared offices as work spaces.
Some organizations have already embraced flexible office design and remote working, and have discovered that there are some attractive benefits of working from home for employers.
1. Reducing Distractions and Stress that Can Hamper Productivity
As of 2017, 70% of companies had open plan offices according to The Washington Post.
But many employees, especially introverted and high-performing ones, find that the noise and other distractions of open plan offices can hamper productivity. Most people would agree that it’s not easy to get something done if another group is loudly collaborating on unrelated tasks nearby.
A survey by SurePayroll found that 86% of employees prefer to work alone to hit maximum productivity. 61% said that loud colleagues were one of the biggest distractions of open offices.
Further, strategist and software designer William Belk, who has been researching what makes high performance employees tick, has found that 62% of them find their offices too distracting.
There have been several studies connecting open plan offices, stress, and increased sick days, including a PGI study found that 82% of telecommuting workers experienced less stress.
2. Reducing Overhead Costs
If, say, 20% of your workforce is working remotely on any given day, that means you need less space to heat, cool, clean, and otherwise maintain.
There are a number of companies who are successfully saving on real estate thanks to remote working. Dell reports that (as of 2018) it’s been saving $12 million annually in real estate costs thanks to remote work. American Express did similarly well, saving between $10 million and $15 million annually.
3. Attracting and Retaining Employees – Especially Millennials
As most managers know, slowing employee turnover reduces training and other HR costs, and leads to fewer interruptions and delays while new employees ramp up.
Telecommuting has been shown to improve work-life balance and job satisfaction. This 2013 study by architectural firm Gensler found that employees who were able to decide when and where they worked were much happier. Numerous other studies since then have echoed their findings, and supported the premise that remote workers are less likely to quit.
There are many reasons why employees like remote working options, and it goes beyond the need to focus. For some, the ability to better meet both work and family commitments is significant.
For others, it’s about getting relief from long commutes to the workplace. According to a Regus survey, 20% of workers have considering quitting a job because of long commutes, and 27% consider their commutes a waste of productivity. The greenhouse gas emissions savings and cleaner air are another fringe benefit.
4. Fostering Innovation and Creative Thinking
For employees in creative or strategic roles, a change of scenery can stimulate new ideas. Traditional office environments don’t always inspire, but the chance to pick up the laptop and head out to the backyard, a local coffee shop, or around the world can provide fresh perspective.
New locations also open up additional networking and collaboration ideas as well. One of the main benefits of coworking spaces is the chance to meet more conveniently with colleagues from across town, or take a break and talk about ideas with someone new who might provide fresh perspective.
More companies are looking for a chance to leverage these benefits, and there are increasing numbers of remote workers. The number of coworking spaces is also growing and is projected to continue growing.
5. Accessing a Wider Pool of Employees
Telecommuting allows organizations to take advantage of larger talent pool – possibly even a global one. This can be especially helpful when seeking top level talent.
Recent statistics confirm that the “gig economy” is growing, and more organizations are taking advantage of bringing in hired guns to solve key problems and get through work backlogs.
Planning for Productivity
Employer and manager opinions on remote work are divided. Some companies are clearly in favour, including Hubspot and Netflix, whose CEOs who are ditching their offices entirely.
Others, like IBM and Yahoo, have tried it and have brought work back into the office. Google discourages telecommuting, but has famously invested in flexible office designs that provide plenty of visual stimulation and unique spaces for employees to collaborate or to focus as tasks require.
When deciding whether or not to allow remote work, the key thing to remember is that it’s not all or nothing. Employees could work from home or take advantage of coworking spaces occasionally or a few days a week. Redesigning spaces to suit tasks requiring either collaboration or undivided attention can also play a beneficial role.
One thing is clear: decision makers in charge of facilities are looking for ways to improve workspaces. In the 2019 Verdantix global survey, 92% of respondents said that improving the experience of building occupants is a high or medium priority.
Horizant’s Building Management Solutions Can Help
A partially remote workforce can create challenges in tracking a fluid workforce and ensuring productive, effective support for performance.
We offer enterprise integrated work management systems to help you manage your facility or facilities and your workforce. With our solutions, employees can use their phones to book spaces, find teammates and resources. Via interactive floor plans and QR codes, team members can better interface with their environment to support dynamically evolving project needs.
Our solutions also allow you to discover what spaces are used and how often, find cost savings when planning facility updates, and help create a happier, more dedicated workforce.