Business Has Problems and Remote Work is the Answer

Research shows companies that embrace flexible work models can close the widening talent gap and boost business productivity

The gap between jobs and skilled workers continues to grow– killing productivity and growth at companies large and small. Korn Ferry recently forecast that by 2030, there will be a shortage of 85.2 million workers globally, and that it will result in lost revenue opportunities of $8.452 trillion. That’s a serious problem. But there is a way to overcome it.

Casting a Wider Net

While it may be scarce, there is talent out there. It just may not be near a traditional office. Work is no longer a place, but a dynamic activity that people expect to be as adaptable as they are. Companies that leverage technology to enable flexible work models can not only attract hard-to-find talent, but also increase employee engagement and boost their productivity. And research proves it.

The Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr) recently conducted an online survey of more than 2,500 US knowledge workers to determine the potential value of the adoption of a more widespread flexible working culture to the US economy. It found that by offering remote work options and providing the tools to enable them, companies can go where the talent is and bring people on board as needed to unlock innovation, engage customers and move their business forward.

Tapping the Home Force

They can also, for instance, dip into untapped pools of talent such as the “home force” and bring back parents who’ve put their careers on hold to care for children or people who left jobs to tend to aging relatives. They can set up Baby Boomers who retired, but still want to work a few hours a week. They might even entice part-time, contract and gig workers — who make up a larger percentage of the workforce than ever — to take on more hours.

Of those who participated in the Cebr study, 65 percent of respondents working part-time said they would be inclined to work more hours if they could work remotely. And of those surveyed, who are currently unemployed or economically inactive, 69 percent said they would be encouraged to start working if given the opportunity to work flexibly. If they did, Cebr estimates it could drive an upwards of $2 trillion in economic gains across the US economy and an increase in GDP of 10.2 percent. Those are some big gains. But not many companies are reeling them in.

Changing Perceptions

If given the chance, 95 percent of the knowledge workers polled who are currently employed say they would work from home 2.4 days per week, on average. And between 60 percent and 70 percent said they’d do so from local coffee shops, shared workspaces and other remote locations at least one day per week. But, according to the Cebr research, only one in four companies make flexible work an option for all employees. What’s holding them back?

In many cases, it’s the perception that remote workers aren’t as engaged and productive as their office-based peers — that they work in slippers and do laundry while on conference calls. But data suggests otherwise. Respondents to the Cebr/Opinium survey say virtual/remote working would actually make them more productive. Of those polled, 93 percent of all workers said it would allow them to manage their time more effectively and devote extra hours to work tasks, while 68 percent of part time workers indicated they would get more work done because they would spend less time commuting.

Striking a Balance

The Cebr study further found that flexible work models can help employees strike a better work-life balance by freeing up 11.9 billion hours a year — or 105 hours per person — that can be devoted to personal and leisure activities. Which pays dividends too.

Life happens. And people need to manage it — even during work hours. By giving employees the flexibility and tools to work when, where and how they want, companies can help them to better integrate their work and lives and ultimately, improve their engagement. And as Gallup reports, engaged employees are 21% more productive than their peers.

Reaping the Rewards

The benefits of remote work are clear. But to reap them, companies need to rethink what “workplace” means. Traditional models where work is organized around a hub, like a call center or office building, are dead. The future of work is dynamic and decentralized. Businesses that create flexible digital environments in which employees can access the tools and information they need to be and perform at their best, can deliver it today and rack up the rewards that come with it.

Tim Minahan is the executive vice president, business strategy and chief marketing officer at Citrix, a leading provider of digital workspace solutions.

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