Recruitment, Background screening, Software development, Travel agency, Law, Digital security, Tutoring, Sport Association, Custom stickers, Analytics for process manufacturing data.
What do they have in common? The answer is they are all examples of companies that operate entirely without offices.
They are all businesses on a list of 125 companies that not only survive, but thrive, with no bricks and mortar infrastructure, and a remote workforce. The list is published by Flexjobs, who not only operate without an office themselves, but whose business is to help others find remote working opportunities.
The notion of remote working is certainly not new – flexible working, with one or two days from home has long been accepted. But the companies in the list don’t offer remote working as an option, an alternative to coming in to the office every day, for them it is a 100% commitment. They don’t have any form of physical office.
So what are the impacts, financial and cultural, of not having an office? Can businesses truly thrive without a physical base?
Financially, there are massive savings to be made. Not only on the real estate itself, but on heating, lighting, parking, security and all the peripheral costs of running an office environment. Companies who have ditched the office, or never had an office, report that they have more funds to invest in development and growth of the business than those who still have their cash tied up in real estate.
With no commuting, no distracting lift lobby chats, no spreading of coughs and colds, employers and employees say that more work gets done by remote workers than those who are office based. In a study conducted for a web-based payroll provider, 86% of respondents said that working remotely generated greater productivity and 66% of managers said that their remote employees get more done.
There are some pre-requisites for this higher level of productivity; collaboration technology plays an important part, but so too does hiring the right people, those who can work without close supervision and who will repay the trust that remote working places on them.
Wider talent pool
Other benefits to the bottom line are perhaps less obvious, but none the less real – remote working opens up a much wider talent pool than if you are simply recruiting from the population who can travel into your office. An organisation can literally take its pick of the best people anywhere in the world, making for strong and culturally diverse, teams. Older people can remain in the workforce longer, sharing their knowledge and those with a disability need not be excluded by physical access issues.
So the financials seem to stack up – but what about cultural impacts?
A study carried out by collaboration software providers PGi reported that over 80 % of telecommuters reported lower stress levels, and higher morale when working from home, and 69% reported lower absenteeism. Part of the increase in morale seems to be connected to an increased desire to be responsible environmental citizens, and to contribute to reduced fuel costs and emissions.
A Harvard Business Review study showed that, contrary to intuition, remote workers actually feel more connected than their office counterparts. Again, technology played an important part, with another study showing that video conferencing, in particular, led 87% of remote workers to feel more connected.
Isolation is an issue for some though, with Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2018 study reporting that loneliness was the biggest remote working issue for 21% of workers. Remote worker communities, which pair up remote workers for virtual coffee chats, are springing up to address this, and some organisations have conferences or team meetings to try and balance remote working with face to face interaction.
The opportunity to work remotely is seen as a positive by candidates, especially millennials, with 68% of job seekers in that age bracket saying it would greatly increase their interest in an employer.
Companies without offices are here to stay, and the trend is growing. The evidence seems pretty clear that there is a very positive impact on their bottom line. Culturally, whilst there may be some downside, it is significantly outweighed by the benefits.
Looks like a win win!
How does Australia stack up? What does it say about us as a workforce?
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