If people with telework-compatible jobs were allowed to work remotely 50% of the time, the economic benefit would total more than $700 billion a year through reductions in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and increases in productivity.
This is according to Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), an organization that helps employers optimize remote and hybrid workplace practices. Their estimates are based on findings that about half of the global workforce holds a telework-compatible job, and 79% of individuals want to work from home at least part of the time.
GWA used a hybrid/remote work savings calculator to calculate the impact, a tool they developed that even the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) has referred to in reports to Congress as “comprehensive and based on solid research.”
GWA further predicts that as much as 30% of the global workforce will work from home permanently for at least a couple of days a week even after the pandemic has ended.
During the pandemic, employers were often surprised to discover that switching to telecommuting was a successful way to work. They also found that adopting work hours that differed from the standard 9-to-5 didn’t damage productivity as anticipated.
The Benefits of Workplace Flexibility
Many U.S. employees now consider work-life balance and flexibility the most important factors when considering job offers – surpassing even salary. In fact, in a 2020 study by FlexJobs, 79% of workers said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.
Flexible work arrangements provide numerous benefits to employers and employees alike. These include:
- Improving talent recruiting and retention
- Enhancing employee morale
- Reducing worker absenteeism
- Boosting employee productivity
- Improved work-life balance for employees
- Minimizing harmful effects on global ecology
- Enhancing business continuity during emergencies
Offering one example, Unilever, the consumer product powerhouse with over 400 brands worldwide, instituted a policy that allows more than 100,000 employees to work at any time and from anywhere as long as business needs are met.
In making the case for its new policy, the company’s leadership identified the potential benefits. These included:
- Greatly reduced travel expenses through using conferencing technology.
- Technology upgrades to help the company stay competitive and build its brand as the best workplace
- Reduce real estate requirements by about 30% by converting cubicles and office space to communal facilities
- Using part of the communal space for onsite fitness facilities would increase employee satisfaction, reduce illness, and cut insurance costs
- Workers would experience enhanced work-life balance and greater job satisfaction
- Sustainability would increase dramatically by reducing the company’s environmental footprint through reduced travel, energy usage, and paperwork
The Future of Hybrid Work
As evidenced by Unilever and GWA’s research, physical location is less critical than operational efficiency, and there are a number of advantages to be gained from allowing workers a more flexible mode of work.
Hybrid working is ultimately best suited for jobs mostly comprised of independent work with measurable outcomes and output-based monitoring.
Workplace flexibility had begun gaining traction in HR circles even before the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily as an incentive to help attract and retain talent. Thanks to the pandemic, workplace flexibility has been transformed from a desirable perk into a powerful people management practice that will continue to be a priority for employers and employees alike long after the pandemic is over.