The End of Telecommuting and Working Remotely?

The End of Telecommuting and Working Remotely?

Is working remotely on the decline and in peril? If you consider two recent indicators, you might think so. Back in May, IBM made headlines when it joined the ranks of Bank of America, Aetna, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard and other major corporations that are recalling their remote workers back to the office.

In late June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data showing that the number of U.S. workers who work partially or fully from home dropped from 24 percent in 2015 to 22 percent in 2016. On the surface, these developments seem to point to a trend away from remote working arrangements toward a return to traditional office employment. But the reality is that unique corporate cases and a singular statistic don’t reveal the full story of remote work and where we’re headed in the future.

The Real Story Behind the Numbers

Let’s start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, which are based on its America Time Use Survey (ATUS). This survey includes temporary telecommuting arrangements in its scope, such as bringing work home at night or on weekends, as well as freelance and part-time work that people do remotely in addition to their office jobs. Thus, a one-time dip in working from home doesn’t necessarily reflect a decline in long-term or permanent remote working arrangements within companies. There are still many other reliable surveys and statistics pointing toward an increase in remote work.

In addition, the recent moves by major corporations away from remote working arrangements are unique to the companies involved, their performance and their culture. A big driver of the move to recall remote workers is an attempt to improve financial performance and foster more innovation. At IBM and Honeywell, both companies cited these factors when announcing their decisions to employees and investors. Many traditional companies and large corporations like IBM and Honeywell have struggled to adapt to changes in industries they once dominated, where startups and younger companies, such as Google and Apple, have been significantly more agile and nimble.

In nearly all cases, major corporations that ended or curtailed remote working arrangements have cited a desire to encourage closer collaboration and more teamwork with an expectation that agility and innovation will follow. If you’re part of a company facing similar challenges, a reduction or elimination of remote working arrangements could be in your future. If you’re somehow suffering from less innovation and agility due to remote work arrangements, it might even be a successful move.

It's important to ensure that team members work collaboratively and communicate seamlessly, so they can be as nimble and responsive as possible. However, as we’ve seen in helping major corporations and firms of all sizes at Graphite, effective collaboration, teamwork, innovation and agility don’t necessarily require a physical presence at the company office. In the end, it’s all about culture and having the right talent.

Why Remote Work Isn’t Ending & Will Keep Growing

Using our Graphite service, employers regularly hire pre-vetted and highly qualified business talent, including remote workers, and our professionals become key contributors to successful product innovations, growth initiatives, financial transactions, and other projects. This is part of an overwhelming trend toward hiring remote workers online, which helps companies access a global talent pool of qualified and experienced candidates, with greater flexibility and less overhead cost.

As with a number of online portals for freelance business and creative talent, employers can hire our professionals on a part-time or full-time basis, for any length of engagement, and often at a significantly lower cost than hiring direct employees. Our talent pool includes thousands of professionals with a proven track record of outstanding performance in remote and traditional work arrangements, as documented by our vetting process, their work history, and evaluations from Graphite employers. Thus, employers can hire our professionals with the confidence in knowing that these workers will collaborative effectively and be innovative and productive in any work arrangement.

The Millennial Factor

Importantly, this plays into an undeniable and unstoppable demographic trend that has already driven much of the move toward telecommuting and remote work at corporations and firms across the U.S. and around the world. Millennials, who are a big part of the innovation and agility at many forward-thinking companies, demand and expect flexibility in their workplace and schedules. They even favor it over a higher salary. Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey revealed that 64 percent of millennials now have “flexible locations,” which underscores the magnitude and importance of remote work for engaging and employing these individuals.

In a previous blog article, we highlighted the additional facts that Millennials are now the largest age cohort in the workforce, more than a third of them are already employed as independent workers, and 32 percent of them expect to be working “mainly flexible hours” in the future. Quite simply, with the impact of the growing freelance marketplace and Millennials comprising a crucial core of today’s business talent, the prevalence of telecommuting and remote work arrangements will almost inevitably increase.

The Risks of Ending Remote Work & Telecommuting

Companies that curtail or eliminate telecommuting and remote workers could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Many will lose out on attracting talented Millennials and other professionals with the skills and expertise to drive innovation, agility and improved performance. They may also fail to close the gap on competitors, many of whom have already embraced remote workers successfully and will enjoy the benefits of attracting the best talent by offering workplace flexibility. Only time will tell for these companies, but, at Graphite, we’re glad to be part of the freelance and remote working revolution, and we're confident that we’re on the right side of history.

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