DISTRIBUTED: Remote Employees are Happier, Healthier and More Productive

Yep, you read that right. While it’s no surprise that remote employees are happier than their commuting counterparts, many business owners are shocked to learn distributed employees are also more productive. How could that be? It’s actually pretty simple. Psychologists have proven time and again that a happy employee is also a productive employee.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research, people who work from home at least three days a week are more satisfied with their jobs because they have less work-life conflict, lower stress levels, less time pressure and face fewer interruptions. “Telecommuting is a win-win for employees and employers, resulting in higher morale and job satisfaction and lower employee stress and turnover,” write Penn State researchers Ravi Gajendran and David Harrison in another study.

So why exactly does working from home make employees absolutely giddy with joy? Here are the top eight career perks distributed employees enjoy:

Perk #1: No More Hellish Commute

Remote workers no longer have to suffer through the twice daily excruciating nightmare known as “the commute.” According to the Department of Transportation, the average American commuter spends more than 38 hours a year stuck in traffic—and that number is much higher in the most congested cities.

When employees complain, “This commute is killing me!” they aren’t being overly dramatic. Studies show that long commutes correlate with neck and back problems and an increased risk of obesity, thanks to poor eating habits and less exercise. To make matters worse, workers with long commutes say they feel less rested and experience less enjoyment, Gallup reports.

When asked to draw comparisons, telecommuters said their stress levels have dropped and their overall happiness has increased since they started working from home, according to a Staples Advantage Survey. As an added bonus, the majority of distributed employees give their saved commuting time back to the company. According to a ConnectSolutions study, the typical employee with a 60-minute roundtrip commute will work 30 minutes longer on days she telecommutes.

Perk #2: Tailor-Made Work Environment

Unlike office-bound workers who have no control over their work environment, remote employees have the freedom to build their own workspace. So if an employee feels most inspired snuggled up in her Wonder Woman Snuggie on the couch with her cat curled around her feet, we say go for it! If another worker gets his creative juices flowing by standing in front of his laptop at the kitchen counter and blasting The Black Keys, he can crank it up to eleven and even indulge in a little air guitar action without a second thought.

On the other hand, employees who are tethered to a traditional office face countless distractions throughout the day—from impromptu meetings and tasteless music (think Michael Bolton) to the offensive odor of seafood lunches heating up in the office microwave and overly talkative co-workers chit-chatting about the latest episode of The Voice. According to Global Analytics Network, businesses incur annual losses of $600 billion because of workplace distractions.

Perk #3: Healthier Living

According to a ConnectSolutions Remote Worker Study, nearly half of respondents say they eat healthier when they work from home, 40 percent say they sleep more, and almost two-thirds say they exercise more.

“Teleworkers often eat healthier meals and are less inclined to consume fast food lunches,” note the researchers at Global Workplace Analytics. Plus, remote workers aren’t tempted daily by the office vending machine, the candy jar at the receptionist’s desk or the fresh glazed donuts in the conference room.

Because of their flexible hours (not to mention the time they save by not commuting), remote workers also have more opportunities to go for a run or hit the gym. At Intridea, we encourage employees to stay active by holding company-wide Fitbit competitions. At the end of each week, we crown the employee with the most impressive exercise stats as Fitbit champion.

Perk #4: Ultimate Flexibility

Remote work offers the ultimate flexibility. This gives parents an opportunity to spend more time with their kiddos, allows disabled workers to take a job they may otherwise be hesitant to accept and enables geographically isolated professionals to stay put in the boondocks and still land that dream job.

Because working from home allows employees to achieve a better work-life balance, they’re also less likely to call in sick than traditional office workers. Organizations that implemented a telework program realized a 63 percent reduction in unscheduled absences, according to the American Management Association. This is because distributed employees typically continue to work when they’re sick (without infecting others) and return to work more quickly following surgery or medical issues. Plus, because distributed employees generally don’t have to stick to a traditional 9 to 5 schedule, they can run errands or schedule appointments without cutting their workday short.

Perk #5: Major Savings

Remote workers save a bundle as compared to office employees—to the tune of $4,500 a year on average, according to the ConnectSolutions Remote Worker Study.

A whopping 92 percent of American employees say they are concerned with the high cost of fuel and more than two-thirds of them specifically cite the cost of commuting to work, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Remote workers not only save on the cost of commuting (including gas, tolls, mass transit pass charges and car insurance premiums). They also save on dry cleaning, business clothing expenses and meals since they are less likely to eat at restaurants during the work day.

Perk #6: Frowns Turned Upside-Down

The vast majority of remote workers report off-the-charts job satisfaction. Probably not a shocking revelation considering that distributed employees generally work in a more comfortable environment and have more personal time for family and hobbies.

The ConnectSolutions Remote Worker Study reveals that people who telework are much more optimistic than office-bound drones. More than half of surveyed teleworkers said they have a more positive attitude when working remotely. According to a survey by The Wall Street Journal, workers who telecommute report the highest levels of satisfaction with their jobs and loyalty to their employers.

Perk #7: No Drama

Distributed workers are far less likely to get wrapped up in co-worker drama and office politics. When Kathryn L. Fonner with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee associate and Michael E. Roloff with Northwestern University queried 200 workers (half telecommuters and half office-based), they found telecommuters are less aware of office politics—which seems to be a healthy thing.

“By working remotely the majority of the time, teleworkers can avoid or ignore some of the unjust practices within the organization, such as cronyism, self-interested behavior, and pressure against speaking out against those in power,” write Fonner and Roloff.

Perk #8: Killer Collaboration

Contrary to popular belief, distributed teams actually feel more connected and collaborative. According to the ConnectSolutions study, 80 percent of surveyed remote workers reported feeling more connected to their co-workers, particularly when their remote work practices were supported by unified communications.

To top it off, distributed team leaders often make better use of technology and communication tools. Here at Intridea, if we want to reach out to a co-worker or employee, we’ll simply HipChat them or shoot them an email; while our brick-and-mortar counterparts might spend ten minutes trying to hunt down a colleague in the office or even schedule an unnecessary formal meeting in a conference room.

These eight priceless perks (along with countless others) all come together to make distributed employees happier and more engaged, loyal and productive than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. In the end, these advantages pay off hugely for the employer…and even society at large.

Think we’re exaggerating? Think again! Check out our next blog to learn how the human race is benefitting from distributed work.
Does your company work remote? Keep the conversation going! We’d love to hear from you.