The Remote Worker Revolution is Here


There is a remote worker revolution occurring today – one that has been quietly growing over the past several years that not everyone is aware of. I am talking about the transformation occurring whereby an increasing number of work is being performed remotely. Being a remote worker is now gaining critical market momentum. Gone are the days when remote working was a “boondoggle” or an opportunity to have a day on the golf course vs. working in the office.

The truth is in the numbers. Take these, for example (source: GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com):

  • 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency
  • 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time. Two to three days a week seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office)
  • Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50-60% of the time

The second bullet is critical to understanding what is going on. As today’s workforce has transformed over the past 15 years, work responsibilities have shifted. Some work requires collaboration, best done face-to-face. When doing this type of work, the best place to do business is in the office, at the customer location or onsite, at an event such as a trade show, industry gathering or user group meeting. The rest of the work we are responsible for can be done virtually anywhere.

 

How Did This Change Happen?

Technology has had a large part. So too has the increasingly global nature of our workforce. Early labor cost advantages opened new markets in India, Poland and China, just to name a few. The reliance upon these “outsourced” labor locations forced new ways to communicate. Business interactions now were forced to occur over conference calls, video chats and email.

Over time, this type of communication was improved upon – with one critical outcome. It soon became apparent that being in the same physical location was no longer necessary to conduct business.

Advanced smart phones, computers and internet access amplified what began in the 1980s with outsources to developing countries. Now the possibilities are virtually endless.

 

Meet the New Telecommuter

Per Globalworkplaceanalytics.com, the profile of an average telecommuter is a person who is college-educated, 49 years old, and earns an annual salary of $58,000 while working for a company with more than 100 employees. 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year, putting them in the upper 80th percentile of all employees, home or office-based.

The number of people who now work at home, among the non-self-employed population, grew by 103% since 2005, based on research conducted by Globalworkplaceanalytics.com. In total, there are 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) that now work from home at least half the time.

The overall employee population grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014. During that same time, the employee population who telecommutes grew by 5.6% – a rate of increase nearly triple that of all employees. A revolution is now in full swing.

 

How Will This Impact Your Business?

If you already have a work-from-home policy or work at a company with one, then congratulations! Your employee work policies are current and up to date. For the rest of you, I suspect there may be some hurdles that have hindered a roll out of an official policy. Perhaps some of the figures in this article will help shed light on a way to proceed forward.

As you consider the impact of this revolution, here are a few more facts about what today’s teleworker looks like. This profile should help to visualize what a remote worker is today (again, thanks to Globalworkplaceanalytics.com):

  • Using home as a “reasonable accommodation” per the Americans with Disabilities Act, a total of 463,000 disabled employees now regularly work from home (7.1% of the disabled)
  • Non-exempt employees are far less likely to work at home on a regular or ad hoc basis than salaried employees
  • Larger companies are more likely to allow telecommuting than smaller ones
  • The more global a company’s business is, the more acceptable it is for remote working
  • Non-union organizations are more likely to offer telecommuting versus those with unions.

 

A few companies have embraced this revolution to the point that it has directly impacted their business model. One reason are the potential cost savings from engaging with a remote workforce. Other benefits such as delivering better customer service and having happier employees also exist, which I’ll explore in a future article.