Every now and then, scientists like to announce that the results of their studies have proved something which the rest of us felt was blindingly obvious. Recent examples are that going bald makes men unhappy, full-time working moms are more stressed, and sword swallowing can be dangerous. We eagerly await their thoughts on the Pope’s religion, and where bears do their business.
Following on from this trend is a recent study that shows, wait for it, that telecommuting positively impacts job performance. Yes, you read that right. The good folks at Florida International University have discovered what we’ve been saying for years. Remote workers are more productive.
Just to reel the sarcasm in a little, the study is actually quite an interesting one, and useful if you’re considering going remote. Whereas past studies into remote work have looked at things like overall productivity, employee health, or staff retention this one breaks down the types of work that can be done remotely instead.
The study followed 273 staff who worked on roles where voluntary working from home was an option. The staff were picked across a range of careers, with most being programmers or engineers and the rest made up of marketers, accountants/finance specialists and sales people. The staff themselves filled out a questionnaire and so did their supervisors.
What Did the Study Prove?
Rather than looking at work/life balance or employee satisfaction as other studies have, this one actually tried to quantify if remote work was better suited to certain types of job. They looked at how complex a job was and looked at the elements of problem-solving in particular. They also considered the social support that was available.
That’s an area where one of the surprises in the study was discovered. If your office is an unsupportive work environment, you will do better working alone, at home, regardless of the type of work you do. Staying clear of bad vibes is now a scientifically supported option.
The bottom line was that working from home didn’t negatively impact performance for anyone, so there really is no reason to tell your staff that they can’t work from home, at least part-time. For certain jobs, like software development, being able to get away from the office to a place with fewer distractions has a huge benefit on performance.
All in all, this was nothing new. We know that while some tasks are better done in isolation, other jobs are better done together. That’s why creatives tend to work well in open plan, shared offices spaces like those pioneered by Google. But (and it’s a big but) technology is moving at a rapid pace to support remote working. There are now collaboration tools available that mean you can work together, without being close enough to suffer from Barry’s bad breath. (Sorry, Barry, but you had to find about it some way, right?)
Where Does the Benefit Come From?
Remote workers scored higher than their office-bound counterparts in two key areas. Firstly, they were praised for working well with others. Secondly, their bosses rated their dedication to the job highly. Which flies in the face of some of the most persistent remote work myths.
The stereotypical digital nomad is a shut-in with no social skills. It’s someone so introverted, or so damaged, that being around other people is just not an option. Of course, the reality is very different. People work from home for all sorts of reasons.
Communication skills are vital for remote working. If you’re going to be working with others, but you’re not sharing office space then you have to put extra effort into staying on the same page. Good remote workers (and remote team leaders) will be those who make sure they stay connected with the rest of the team.
And of course, there’s that old remote work chestnut about staff slacking off and spending the day in their PJs watching sport or Netflix. Anyone who works from home has been accused of that at some point, but research has shown that remote workers are more likely to put in extra hours, work when they’re ill and put in time over the weekend.
Other experts have also weighed in to say that they’re not sure where the benefit comes from. It could be that, because remote workers are healthier and happier, they outperform their colleagues. It might be that the ‘perk’ of working from home and having a better work/life balance makes staff more loyal and engaged. It could just be that remote workers are putting in more hours
The DistantJob Take
Despite the sarcastic take on this study, it’s always great to see ‘proof’ that remote working is as awesome as we know it to be in practice. But, of course, we’re not surprised to find out that remote is the way to work. We see it in action every day for ourselves and for our clients.
As to where the difference really comes from, our guess is that it’s a combination of all the different factors. To work well from home, you need to be motivated and self-reliant. You need to be a great communicator. And working from home gives staff the flexibility to put in the hours when it best suits them, whether they are early birds or night owls. And yes, being healthier and happier is bound to contribute.
We don’t need scientists to tell us that remote is the right environment for development, because we place rockstars with companies every day and they go on to contribute to the success of those organisations regardless of where they are in the world.
If you’d like to be a part of this remote work revolution and cast your talent net across the globe, then please get in touch. We’d love to help you see the remote work difference for yourself.