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April 25, 2024

5 Ways Remote Work Has Transformed the Workforce for the Better

Astronaut working on another planet with earth in the background

Despite the ongoing debate over return to office (RTO) policies, remote work isn’t going anywhere.

Why? Because it’s literally life-changing. And according to some reports, employees value remote work even more than a higher salary.

From removing barriers to entry for neurodivergent talent to expanding access for working caregivers, the ability to work remotely has opened a realm of new possibilities for talented individuals all over the world.

And while some companies can't offer remote or hybrid options due to the nature of their work, those who can – should. Here’s why.

The current state of remote work

During the covid-19 pandemic, remote work kept businesses afloat. But now that the world has opened up again, some employers are looking to roll back their remote work policies and return to the office full-time.

From building in-person relationships to staving off a recession, CEOs fall back on a few key talking points when discussing RTO. But if you ask other sources, this push for presenteeism is about reasserting control – not increased productivity.

According to recent reports, the hardline view of pro in-person work is backfiring.

“The thing that these CEOs don’t get is this: Working from the office privileges the few that look like you…When you insist on coming into the office, guess what happens to those who don’t have these advantages? Working moms, for example, now have commutes that waste the time they could be working. Then, when they have to leave to get kids or take aging parents to the doctor—because women still do the bulk of caretaking – they've been known to be penalized for their ‘lack of commitment’,” Amanda Richardson, CEO of CoderPad, writes for Forbes.

Returning to office isn’t the productivity-boosting cure-all some believe it to be. So, how can we reframe our approach to fully remote work and make it something that works for everyone?

A great place to start is by simply understanding exactly what it is that remote work brings to the table. Let’s take a closer look.

How remote work has made us better

Remote work has many benefits. But it isn't perfect. 

For one, not everyone has equal access to remote work. And those who do are disproportionately white, Asian, and highly educated.

It’s up to employers to make remote work a viable option for everyone. And for those that do, the opportunities are there for the taking.

1. Less stress, better mental health

From lazy girl jobs to the still-smoldering burnout epidemic, employees are no longer willing to sacrifice their mental health for the sake of a stable 9-to-5. In the fight for a healthier lifestyle, remote jobs are a big part of the solution.

For starters, employees can say goodbye to anxiety-inducing commutes when they have the option to work from anywhere.

According to one report, US workers gained 60 million hours of their time back thanks to remote work. Most are using those extra hours to recalibrate their work/life balance. Whether that means sleeping an extra hour or eating a home-cooked breakfast with their loved ones, simple steps towards a healthier lifestyle can reduce stress and improve employee wellbeing. 

But at its core, remote work isn’t just about avoiding traffic jams. It’s about giving individuals control over their own time. And for many remote workers, that means more time to exercise and cultivate healthier eating habits.

“Remote work changed everything for me. I could suddenly sleep more…and I learned how to actually, really cook. Remote work meant that I could make a healthy lunch at home, or walk to my local coffee shop during the day. I also started running, using a 20- to 30-minute break to get in a quick jog,” remote worker Juliana Kaplan told Business Insider.

2. More time for family and personal activities

Whether you’re running an errand or doing a load of laundry, remote work can transform downtime into personal productivity. And according to some experts, these micro-breaks can even boost your overall focus.

But above all, this level of flexibility transforms the lives of working caregivers.

Many companies drastically underestimate the number of caregivers on their teams. Research shows that a whopping 73% of all employees are responsible for some form of caregiving.

The feeling of being crushed between personal and professional pressures isn’t an isolated issue. So, how does remote work lighten the load for those pulling double duty?

As a full-time worker and mother of a son with intensive medical needs, remote work arrangements transformed Sarah White’s work-care balance. Instead of taking several trips between home, the office, and the doctor, “I can pop [my son] in my car, take him to his appointment, pop him right back to school,” White told The Atlantic.

Working from home also helps ease the strain of daily chores. “I can throw in laundry and just keep it going … because it’s right next to my office,” she added.

As “sandwich generations” like Gen X and Z continue to care for both aging parents and young children, flexible schedules and remote work options are becoming more important than ever to qualified candidates.

3. Increased focus and engagement

When it comes to tracking remote work’s effectiveness, many sources prize productivity. But between hours logged, activity monitored, and projects completed, everyone seems to track productivity differently. This leads to contradictory findings and widespread confusion about what the “hard” benefits of remote work actually are.

So what if we started prioritizing focus and engagement instead?

First, we’d see that remote work gives our brains a much-needed break from the clicking keyboards, ringing phones, and general chatter of the office. When you give employees the option to choose environments that fit their work style, it’s easier to get important work done. 

In fact, 70% of remote workers say it’s easier for them to complete focused work at home. This is especially true for neurodivergent employees who work better in an environment they can control.

But it’s not just about logging on and locking in. It’s also about finding new ways to connect with colleagues…without the temptation of office chatter. And with the rise in spontaneous Teams meetings, experts argue that remote workers are actually becoming more engaged with their colleagues over time.

4. Wear what you want to wear

Life's too short for pencil skirts and neckties. Remote work has given individuals the freedom to dress how they want to be dressed and more importantly, be seen how they want to be seen.

Whether you choose to rock athleisure or an Oxford shirt with pajama pants, it’s all about what you feel at home in. And according to one study, wearing comfortable home attire improved both employee authenticity and engagement, helping workers feel more like themselves at work.

For female-identifying employees, this come-as-you-are environment also eases the pressure of self-presentation costs.

No matter where you work, the grooming gap is real. Women face internal and external pressures to look the part, spending a disproportionate amount of income on cosmetics, expensive haircuts, manicures, and more. 

Without the pressure to report to an office, remote work has helped pump the brakes on these unseen costs of “professionalism”, creating more bandwidth for employees to choose what works for them.

5. Increased loyalty for employers who get it

With every company fighting for the same shrinking pool of talent, you can’t afford to ignore what people want. And in today’s market, that’s flexible work.

One study found that 34% of people stay at jobs because they have the option to work remotely. 

At the end of the day, putting trust in your employees makes them more likely to trust you back. Over time, that builds loyalty. And as a major byproduct, it also broadens your access to top-shelf talent.

"When you allow flexibility, it expands your talent pool," Harvard Business professor Prithwiraj Choudhury told Insider. "Whether the economy is contracting or expanding, the best workers always have outside options. And so I think if you as a company have a model that doesn't give the best employees flexibility some of them — not every one of them, but some of them — will be poached by competitors."

With nearly 55% of employers saying they depend on workplace flexibility as a key tactic for retaining employees, the competition is only getting fiercer. So do what you can to give employees what they want. Even a hybrid option can help you tap into the retention-boosting benefits of remote work.

Getting better all the time

The working world has a complicated relationship with remote work.

CEOs want people back in the office. Employees want to stay home. And everyone wants the flexibility they need to get the most out of life, both on and off the clock.

But the data is clear. The need for workplace freedom and flexibility isn’t going anywhere.

While other companies roll back remote benefits and risk losing their best employees as a result, you can create a recruitment plan that keeps you a step ahead.

When you’re ready to start building your remote recruitment process, Breezy can help. Try it free for 14 days to get started.