Working Remotely Makes Employees Happier and More Productive



Technology has changed the way we work. According to Gallup, 37% of of U.S. workers say they have telecommuted, a dramatic increase from the just 9% who reported the same back in 1995. And, as the number of remote workers increases, a new study from TinyPulse finds that employee reports of job happiness and productivity are rising as well.

While there are many factors to consider when assembling your workforce, the trend in remote work has three critical advantages for small businesses:

  1. Find talent anywhere in the world. No longer limited by geographic location, small businesses can theoretically source top talent from around the world, without having to worry about relocating employees to a company headquarters.
  2. Avoid top-tier salaries required by candidates in big cities. When your talent pool consists of anyone with an internet connection, it’s likely you’ll find a candidate with salary requirements in line with your small business budget.
  3. Boost productivity. Remote work makes it possible for the employee to choose the environment they prefer working in. This might explain why remote workers report they’re substantially more productive than their in-office counterparts.

In addition to the potential advantages of a remote workforce, communication and collaboration tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Trello have become fixtures in the modern workplace, making it easier than ever to have remote employees. But, as it turns out, there are a few other factors to consider before making a decision about hiring a remote workforce.

Happier Employees… Eventually

TinyPulse surveyed 509 U.S.-based remote employees and made a surprising discovery:

Those employees who have been remote in their role for 3-5 years are 11% happier and feel 14% more valued than those who have been working remotely for less than a year. While this may indicate that remote work pays off more over time, it could also mean that employers can do better acclimating their new remote workforce. One of the best ways to do this is by implementing a strong onboarding program as soon as you hire a remote employee. If you have a mixed workforce comprised of both on-site and remote employees, onboarding is a good time to familiarize new remote hires with your company culture and attitude towards your distributed workforce.

A Bump In Productivity

Whether it’s a home office or a coffee shop, working remotely gives employees the freedom to create the environment they’re most productive in. That could be why 91% of those respondents in the TinyPulse survey reported they’re more productive working remotely. In addition to the freedom to choose a specific work environment, remote employees also have the ability to be more deliberate about team member interactions, perhaps even using their meeting time with other team members more effectively.

Connectivity At Risk

There are downsides to hiring a remote workforce. According to the TinyPulse research, 27% of respondents reported having experienced a work-related problem because they weren’t in the same location as the rest of their coworkers. The best way to combat this? Set the tone for how to communicate with team members early on in the onboarding process. Whether that means providing guidance about how on-site teams interact with remote workers, or how remote workers should interact with one another, it’s wise for managers to collect feedback and set expectations early on. That could mean communicating the hours remote employees need to be available or providing a code of conduct for common challenges facing remote teams.

Top Companies With Remote Employees

If you’re curious about hiring remote employees, you need not look far to find companies with entirely remote workforces or a small chunk of distributed team members. Here are a few companies that are partially remote or 100% distributed:

Buffer – The successful social media tool boasts a mostly distributed workforce around the world and shares best practices on their blog.

Trello – The makers of the popular project management tool have remote employees across the United States, but their headquarters is in New York City.

Zapier – With 21 team members located around the world, Zapier has built a high-functioning distributed team. You can see how they implemented this approach in this helpful blog post.

Quicksprout, KISSmetrics, CrazyEgg – Co-founders Hiten Shah and Neil Patel work with a variety of outstanding teams around the world.

Help Scout – A huge proponent of hiring remote teams, the company explains why distributed teams are the future of the workforce.

A Remote Workforce Isn’t Right for Every Company

There are many advantages to hiring a remote team, particularly if you’re a growing company: access to talented people around the world, lower cost of labor, and many more. But it’s definitely not for every company. If you’re not sure you’d be able to go the extra mile to leverage the host of communication technologies to make the experience more robust, or if you put a premium on face-to-face interactions, you may want to re-think hiring a remote workforce. As with everything, trial and error is key. Over time, and with refinement, a remote workforce may be worth the investment for your business.

This post originally appeared on Zenefits, the HR, payroll, and benefits software for small to mid-size businesses. Zenefits is also an integration partner with Lever, allowing customers to move from candidate to hire in seconds. 

About the author:

Sonja Jacob writes on company culture, employee engagement, and growth. With an M.A. in sociology and a background in business, she’s fascinated by people, art, and social movements.