By Sam McCue
“Oh, you work from home? That must be nice.”
This is a phrase that, arguably, all remote workers have heard during their tenure. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard this phrase after telling someone I work remotely, I would be halfway to a month’s rent at a local coworking space. For individuals outside of remote work, the idea of working from home paints the picture of sitting on a couch with a laptop, wearing one’s pajamas, holding a cup of tea, and quietly streaming a show on TV. The reality is far from this.
I have the pleasure of working with some of the hardest-working individuals in the industry. I know this because our organization has complete transparency, checks and balances, and a system in place to empower our remote workforce to take advantage of the fact that there is no brick-and-mortar obligation. Instead of organizing the company in spite of physical limitations, SmartBug® plays to its strengths and uses this geographic diversity to allow team members to take charge of how they organize their week. The result is not only a more productive workforce, but more resilient team members leading richer, fuller lives.
Researchers have also set out to tackle this emerging question of physical Vs. remote worker productivity, and the results didn’t disappoint. In a special study, Stanford Researcher Nicholas Bloom found massive increases in productivity among people working from home.
Because I have firsthand experience working both from home and in an office, I want to share five reasons why remote workers—when organized for success—are more productive than your typical office workers.
1. The time savings are good for morale
Think of all the things traditional office jobs require every day: commute. The minutes spent on these things add up to hours. If you remove someone’s commute into a city, you could save them a couple of hours every day. What would a remote worker do with this time? Perhaps they’d sleep in or spend extra time with their family. Some will take advantage of this time to get more work done early in the day. A commute is a necessary evil of the brick-and-mortar workforce, but when you transition to remote work, you see it as more of a barrier to higher productivity and morale.
Being the first one in the office and the last one out used to be the indicator of a hard worker. With a remote workforce, there’s no way to tell who is the first/last one working for the day, so the focus shifts to the delivery dates of the projects employees are working on. In sales, quota becomes the sole measure of a dedicated sales rep. Performance should be the only performance metric. This pushes people to do their best, and it also gives them the freedom to do it whenever suits them best. Both the clients we work with and our staff gain from this enhanced flexibility.
2. Less time at the water cooler and fewer distractions
With remote work, creating a distraction-free environment becomes the responsibility of each individual worker. If you’ve hired personnel you can trust to effectively manage their days, it’s up to them to make sure they are working in an environment that’s conducive to their productivity. Unwanted, idle chit-chat no longer gets in the way of accomplishing tasks. If you have a pressing deadline, you can choose to decline random calls and ignore personal chat messages, which in the past might have been unavoidable stops by your work station to see what’s up.
Remote working is the antithesis of the open office environment. Although open offices were designed to promote collaboration and creativity, adverse effects came out on the tail end. A study done by Harvard Business School researchers concluded that workers in open office environments were less productive and had a lower quality of work.
Remote work also leads to interactions being more meaningful. When I speak to a coworker over Zoom, I want to know how they’re doing, what they did last weekend, maybe where they are working from that particular day. We also set up virtual happy hours. We are starved for the interactions that brick-and-mortar employees take for granted. I’ve seen this key aspect of our lives create some of the coolest imaginable friendships among coworkers. Employees fly across the world to visit each other, co-work, and have fun together. This beats simply going to lunch any day of the week.
3. Healthy lifestyle—it’s not all work and no play
My supervisor Sarah has a mantra that I take to heart: When the mind is tired, work the body, and when the body is tired, work the mind.
Remote workers have the option to work when they are at their best. For some, this might be right after going to the gym, or outside, or from a yurt. As long as it doesn’t prevent us from meeting a client’s expectations, we’re free to work how we work best.
I take midday bike rides to revitalize my mind, get my blood pumping, and wrangle my thoughts. Most often, it’s down to a coffee shop a couple of miles away. .The change of scenery and moderate physical exercise serve as a ramp-up in my afternoons. Remote workers don’t have many excuses for not making healthy choices. They can’t blame it on their job or the circumstances—it’s entirely in their hands. And you’ll find that, nine times out of 10, people want these options.
4. Everything has a digital trail
Every time a decision is made, an idea gets brought up, or a new project is proposed, you can expect there is an essay to accompany it. Because a remote workforce lacks physical space to share ideas, those get shared in Google Docs, shared folders, or chat channels.
Having extensive knowledge bases and training programs also helps decrease ramp-up time for new team members. When someone gets onboarded, they have all of the documentation, training videos, and information at their fingertips, making for a seamless transition. At SmartBug, they also have the knowledge of more than 75 experts at their fingertips.
5. Everyone is on the same playing field
I’ve worked in companies with semi-remote workforces before. Unfortunately, I was on the brick-and-mortar side of things. It created an atmosphere of privilege. Working from home became this lofty goal for employees to work toward, an honor for management to bestow upon them. As you can imagine, the remote work staff had the advantage of being held to the same expectations as the physical staff. Being online at certain times of day was expected; immediate replies to emails and IMs were anticipated. If these two things were not met, there was a perception that the remote work staff wasn’t performing.
On the flip side, the remote work staff always felt out of the loop. They weren’t privy to the water cooler conversations, impromptu meetings, and sidebar conversations that can spontaneously happen in a physical office. People had to make a conscious effort to keep them in the loop, a step that was almost always forgotten.
At SmartBug, we have multiple processes and software set up to enable communication. Because we’re fully remote, it’s crucial that we include all of the proper people in the right communications. There is no expectation that everyone will be online at the same time. SmartBugs show up for their regularly scheduled meetings, we over-communicate, and if we need an hour to take care of a personal matter, we have the freedom to do so. We all share that special privilege.
The remote lifestyle simply isn’t characterized by sitting in one’s pajamas all day. In a word, it's empowering. The level of self-reliance, determination, self-control, and grit that it takes to work from home is good for the growth of any business professional. At the end of the day, week, and quarter, the results speak for themselves—and for SmartBug, that graph is constantly trending upward.