by Lorien Murray

This past week was spent traveling “over the river and through the woods” to grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors houses. There were feasts, presents and memories made; turkeys were carved and trees were decorated. Over 1600 miles were traveled via plane, train, and automobile with a quick stop at Grand Central Terminal’s Oyster Bar for a glass of Prosecco and a dozen oysters on the half shell.

All the while, I was checking emails in the airport, writing this blog post on the train, and working on a website re-design from a café booth. As I glanced around, I noticed that the majority of the people around me also have their heads buried in their laptops, glancing up every few minutes or so to scribble a note on a napkin or take a phone call.

This observation got me to thinking about the mobility and fluidity of the American remote workforce. As an independent contractor, I visit the corporate office about once a quarter, and spend the majority of my working hours in my home office, often times outside the “traditional” business hours of 9-5. Such flexibility allows me, as a mother, to continue to work while raising children. It also removes the stress of a work commute, allowing me to spend more time with my family, which in turn makes me a happier person, and creates a deeper sense of loyalty to my company. AMBAC is willing to work with me and my schedule, which in turn, makes me want to work harder and better for them.

The statistics show that remote jobs are trending upwards. A special analysis done by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that there has been a major upward trend in the amount of people working remotely in the U.S. In the span of one year, from 2016 to 2017, remote work grew 7.9%. Over the last five years it grew 44% and over the previous 10 years it grew 91%.

Between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work. In 2015, 3.9 million U.S. workers were working remotely. Today that number is at 4.7 million, or 3.4% of the population.

But what does the employer gain from allowing employees to work remotely?

Remote work can lead to “astonishing” productivity.
A two-year study by Stanford University found that there was an impressive increase in work productivity among people who worked from home. The study of 500 people who worked both remotely and in a traditional setting concluded that the productivity among home-based workers was equal to a full day’s work each week.

It increases employee retention.
The same Stanford University research concluded that people who worked remotely were less likely to leave the company for other employment. The study found there was an overall 50% decrease in attrition among home-based workers. It decreases sick days and employee time off.
Some employers question whether the sick day is becoming passe, given that remote workers seldom “call in sick.” But the upside for home workers is that they may be less likely to become sick in the first place, since they’re not exposed to germs from a shared office space. The federal Centers for Disease Control recommends staying home if you’re sick, so remote workers are already ahead of the game.

It helps increase workforce diversity.
If you’re looking to improve your company’s diversity, building a strong remote team can help you meet your goals. Because the talent pool for remote workers is truly global, the opportunities are exponentially greater to find talented workers who vary in gender and gender identity, race, ethnicity, abilities, and geographic location.

It reduces costs for employers.
In 2018, there was an estimated $5 billion in cost savings for U.S. companies with employees who worked remotely—and that’s just counting part-time workers. In general, embracing remote work options can help employers reduce or eliminate overhead costs, including real estate and operating expenses. The average real estate savings for employers with full-time remote workers is $10,000 per employee every year, according to stats from PGI News.

It benefits the environment.
Telecommuting’s environmental impact has been well-documented, from decreasing greenhouse gas emissions due to less commuting, to improving air quality, especially in urban areas.

It increases the employee talent pool.
Employers offering remote options often open their positions to qualified workers from around the world—in other words, the pool of potential candidates is location independent. And it’s especially important among younger workers, with some 68% saying remote options greatly impact their decisions whether or not to work for a company, according to a Fundera report on work-from-home statistics.

With both employees and employers having a highly favorable argument for the remote workforce, it’ll be interesting to see how the next several years effect the status of an employee needing to do work from a specific location. Understandably not all jobs can be performed from a home office. Take an auto mechanic for example. Or a line worker. But with increasing efficiency and innovative technology platforms, I would venture to guess that the remote workforce in the country will see extreme growth for the foreseeable future.