At face value, remote work projects seem to pose as much potential as they do risk. You can probably imagine a challenge for each perk you list off. It’s enough to leave you wondering if it’s worth it.
Building a team of remote workers greatly expands your potential talent pool. Your company saves physical space, requiring fewer offices and onsite resources. And that’s before you take taxes, insurance, accommodations, and scores of other factors into consideration.
The potential drawbacks seem just as obvious. Remote workers seem like they may be more difficult to monitor. Remotely securing BYOD endpoints is another challenge; the remote work your telecommuting staff submit may be creating unforeseen and accidental attack vectors. And wouldn’t there be losses in productivity, too?
Answering these questions will require a fair amount of hard data. But once we look at the statistics and facts, we come to a few firm realizations: remote work is valuable, it’s productive, and it’s not as dangerous as it seems if you deploy the right tools to stay protected.
So just what are the pros and cons of remote work? What are the benefits for employees, and how do those stack up against benefits for the company itself? And what are the drawbacks telecommuting poses to employees and companies?
Offices are chock full of distractions, some of which can get quite frustrating for employees.
Lack of workplace engagement is costing America $550 billion per year. According to HR professionals, 38 percent of them say personal internet use in the workplace is the primary cause of drops in productivity, with Facebook alone costing the economy $28 billion in lost productivity.
Most workers (76 percent) prefer to avoid the office completely when they need to get important work done. An important 61 percent agree a loud environment (noisy work neighbors) are their biggest distraction. Also, 40 percent consider co-workers dropping by their workspace unannounced to be a major distraction.
Of course, we all do our best to thwart these distractions whenever and wherever we can. In fact, 86 percent of employees prefer to work alone to maximize our productivity, and 46 percent of workers primarily communicate with coworkers via email, IM, or phone calls just to avoid the distractions of face-to-face interaction. In all, only 27 percent believe they’d be more productive in an open room versus a private setting.
Daydreaming can be costly, too. It has been estimated that 47 percent of a person’s waking hours are spent each week thinking about things other than the task at hand.
Sometimes those distractions can masquerade themselves as bonafide work, too. We spend 3.2 hours of each work day checking work emails. It can get to be so bad that 50 percent of millennials admit they can’t use the bathroom without checking their email.
There are a great many solutions to distractionary issues, and offering telecommute options to employees is certainly one of them. Work from home jobs have become so prevalent that many websites, like WeWorkRemotely and Flexjobs, cater exclusively toward finding remote jobs for jobseekers and promoting companies that hire remote workers.
The remote work population has grown at a staggering rate, exploding by 140 percent since 2005 … nearly ten times faster than the rest of the workforce. And the telecommuter population grew by 11.7 percent in 2018, the largest year over year growth since 2008.
Globally, 70 percent of full-time professionals work remotely at least once per week, while 53 percent telecommute half of the week. And 80 percent of respondents say their employers allow employees to work remotely, too. Around 20 to 25 percent telecommute on some level.
An increased 40 percent of US employers are offering flexible workplace options more than they did five years ago, but only 7 percent of employers make remote work available to the majority of their employees.
In all, 50 percent of the US workforce holds jobs compatible with telecommuting, while 21 percent of global respondents said remote work was impossible for them due to on-site job requirements.
Where is this big boon in remote work coming from? Internet access has grown faster and more reliable.
Processors in endpoints, particularly desktop and laptop computers, have gotten stronger, while those machines have more RAM as well. All of this technological proliferation has been enabling opportunity growth in the telecommuting sphere.
And millenials are helping that along, too, bringing new managerial practices and a strong demand for remote work options into the workplace.
All of this telecommuting has already been impactful economically, both for companies individually and for the economy as a whole.
Excessive commuting is costing the economy $90 billion annually. And for those of us concerned with the environment, the greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of every person in the State of New York being taken off the road.
Employees save money by not physically commuting. Telecommuters can save between $2000 and $7000 per year. And the time they save can be put to good use as well, 65 percent use it to sleep, while 44 percent say they use it for more leisurely pursuits, like playing video games or watching television. And 82 percent of telecommuters say working remotely reduces stress.
The benefits for companies are resounding as well. Companies allowing their employees to telecommute can save $11,000 per year. And employees commit better work as well, with 70 percent saying remote work improves productivity, 75 percent of global respondents agree that telecommuting is productive, 69 percent saying it improves absenteeism, and 80 percent say remote work improves morale.
In all, remote workers believe they make more progress in their workday. Optimal engagement occurs when employees spend three to four days working remotely.
The Congressional Budget Office conducted some research into the idea of implementing telework throughout the government. They found that the cost of doing so over a five year period ($30 million) would be less than one third of the cost of lost productivity from a single day of federal offices being shut down due to snow ($100 million).
One in five workers around the world telecommute, particularly in the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. Nearly 10 percent of the global workforce telecommutes daily. India leads the world in telecommuters, with more than half of their workforce working remotely. Meanwhile, 34 percent of Indonesian workers telecommute, and 30 percent of workers in Mexico telecommute.
California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois rank as the top five states for remote work.
IT, sales, healthcare, account management, education, project management, consulting, teaching, management, and customer service rank as the top ten industries for telecommuting jobs.
The most popular work-from-home job titles include accountant, engineer, teacher, writer, consultant, program manager, project manager, customer service representative, business development manager, and account manager.
Remote work is still considered a perk offered by select employers. Corporate cultural barriers, public perception, and other factors are holding telecommute opportunities back.
It probably goes without saying that most workers would prefer to work from home if given the opportunity. Remote work is the future, and we do have hard data to reinforce that idea, too.
Approximately 80 to 90 percent of the US workforce say they would like to telecommute at least part-time, two to three days per week. And 34 percent of global respondents said they would work remotely full time if given the option, while 46 percent would be open to a flexible and remote work schedule.
Workers so strongly prefer telecommuting they’d even take pay cuts just to have the option. About 52 percent would prefer taking a pay cut over being restricted to an office, while 12 percent would choose taking a remote work option over a pay raise of 25 percent.
Not everyone has remote work available to them, though; only 19 percent say they’re allowed to work remotely. Full-time employees are four times more likely to have remote work opportunities than part-time employees.
Polling data concludes that in half of the biggest US metro areas, telecommuting is more popular than public transportation as a commuting option. And 68 percent of job seekers say remote work opportunities improve their interest in a prospective employer.
About 65 percent of respondents to one poll believe working remotely would increase their productivity. But the perks for employees as individuals add up as well. The big perks of working from home? Convenience and amenities (19 percent), quieter workplace (17 percent), the ability to work while under the weather (13 percent).
Of course, telecommuting does have its drawbacks for employees, too. About 23 percent say they get lonely working from home, and 62 percent found telecommuting to be socially isolating. Meanwhile, 29 percent say they changed their lifestyle (eating, sleeping, and shopping habits) to suit their remote work lifestyle.
A total of 38 percent of respondents say telecommuting worsens collaboration, while 30 percent say it worsens meetings. And these things can take a toll long-term, with 50 percent of telecommuters in one poll saying the daily lack of face to face interaction would harm their chances of promotion and 21 percent saying telecommuting worsens career growth.
According to Reuters, 53 percent believe working from home increases the risk of family conflict due to the blurred line between work and private time.
The biggest challenge for a company in making way for remote work tends to manifest itself in security risks. It’s difficult, if not entirely impossible, to monitor workers remotely without ample remote monitoring and security applications.
Stolen or misused privileges are the leading source of security breaches, and constesting with so many remote endpoints, some or many of which will be privately owned by staff, can be a real challenge. Only 18 percent of employees are concerned about the security implications of remote work, meaning your IT department will need all of the help it can get.
Approximately 76 percent of data breaches are financially motivated, and ransomware is the most popular form of malicious software; 39 percent of malware cases involve ransomware. Meanwhile, 4 percent of people will fall for phishing attempts.
Perhaps the scariest figures are time-related. About 87 percent of data breaches took only minutes or seconds to carry out, while a staggering two-thirds of breaches — 68 percent in all — went undiscovered for months on end.
With more and more talented workers asking for (if not insisting on) remote work options, and with so many productivity benefits waiting to be reaped, endpoint security management is quickly becoming a full time, mission-critical endeavor.
Many employers offer work-specific endpoints and remote access software to their telecommuters, the most popular of which are laptops. A total of 92 percent of respondents said their employers provided laptops for their remote work. Meanwhile, 75 percent had smartphones, 75 percent used web conferencing platforms, and 22 percent were given WiFi by their employers.
Protecting your company’s data and IP while still facilitating remote work poses big challenges for IT, and Interguard is here to help you take these challenges head-on.
We offer a wide range of endpoint security services, including remote computer monitoring, web filtering and Internet activity monitoring, data loss prevention, insider threat detection, and more. With user and file activity monitoring, user and entity behavior analytics, URL filtering, exfiltration management, sensitive data recovery, app and EXE control, remote file deletion, remote endpoint lockdown, and so much more, Interguard keeps you protected from the top down.