5 Ways Remote Work Benefits Employees—and Their Employers

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, political divisions, the climate crisis, and a slew of other challenges we’ve faced over the past few years, one thing remains the same: One way or another, we still have to bring home the bacon. But when it comes to how—or more specifically *where—*we get the job done, times are changing.

Over forty million Americans are expected to work entirely remotely in the next five years, with even more employers adopting a hybrid work model. Of course, the pandemic has played a major role in this shift, with the number of at-home workers leaping from 6 percent in 2019 to 33 percent in May 2020.

As the lines between work and home continue to blur, both workers and their employers may have valid concerns about the new normal. Yet, there are also plenty of reasons to celebrate. (Bye, bye, rush hour! See ya never, suit pants!)

We’ll take a look at the ways employees and employers can equally benefit from

remote or hybrid work models—today and in the years to come.

1. Achieving Work-Life Balance Just Got Easier

Flexible work practices like remote and hybrid work models are proven to be positively associated with work-life balance, especially for women looking to maintain a career after childbirth, or for parents of preschoolers.

These patterns ring true for the majority of employees who have started working from home during the pandemic. According to a 2021 Gallup study:

Workers who said they prefer remote work cited the following as the top three benefits of remote work:

Another study by talent agency Robert Half revealed 60 percent of working professionals say their work-life balance has improved without a commute. Since the average daily commute clocked in at about 55 minutes in 2019, many workers have gained back an hour of their day to spend as they please.

2. Employees Can Work from Home—or from Bora Bora

Without the ties of physical office, many fully remote employees are taking advantage of the freedom to work from anywhere—whether it be their hometown, a more affordable suburb, or the beaches of Bora Bora.

A 2021 study from FlexJobs revealed that the ability to move is one of the biggest reasons workers want to stay virtual after the pandemic. Study respondents cited a host of reasons they’d be tempted to move, including:

Relocations from big cities to midsize and small metro areas rose by 23% in 2020, with remote workers citing affordable housing, proximity to family, and retirement as the top reasons for their move. Many of these workers maintain their big-city salaries even after moving to a more affordable area, which increases their disposable income—and makes remote work vacations to Barbados, Bermuda, or another exotic destination more plausible.

3. Everybody Saves Big

There’s no denying this one: Both employers and their employees save big when they make the switch to remote work. A recent BambooHR survey found that the typical worker spends 32 percent less on work expenses when working from home compared to working in the office.

Obviously, savings on gas and/or public transportation are a major factor here. But there are less obvious savings, too. When workers aren’t spending money on lunches out, nice work clothes, and those random trips to the store on the way home, the change quickly adds up.

Likewise, employers enjoy serious cost savings when they allow employees to work from home—especially if the company is based in a major metropolitan area. By hiring workers in cities with a lower cost of living, employers can spend less on wages without sacrificing talent. Upwork estimates that employers in the top 15 most-costly metros could save up to $37,000 annually per employee by hiring remotely.

But these savings aren’t reserved for companies in expensive cities—or for fully remote employees. Based on conservative estimates, Global Workplace Analytics reports that the typical U.S. employer could save $11,000 per half-time remote employee. Companies can save on rent, utilities, cleaning services, and even reduce their tax burden by switching to a remote or hybrid work model.

4. Planet Earth Is Happier, Too

Climate change is one of the most pressing matters of our day, and many employers are scrambling to reduce their carbon footprint and increase sustainability. To those companies, we say: Good news! Remote work is one of the most effective ways to do just that.

Employees who work from home won’t have a daily commute, meaning there will be fewer cars on the road—and fewer emissions out there polluting our air. In fact, key air pollutants fell to unprecedented levels during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, with particulate matter falling by up to 40 percent in many parts of the world.

While the practices of early COVID-19 lockdowns are unsustainable, there are plenty of ways remote work can continue to have an eco-friendly impact. Nearly 40 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from residential and commercial buildings, along with a major portion of our country’s energy use, and building materials. But remote work can drastically reduce the need for paper documents, electricity, water usage, and other practices that harm the planet.

5. Meaningful Benefits Are More Accessible

Remote work also offers employers the chance to reimage employee benefits. By moving away from ping-pong tables and office snacks, companies can shift to more meaningful benefits—that employees actually care about.

Ninety-eight percent of corporate leaders say they plan to offer new or expanded employee benefits because of the pandemic, focusing on benefits their employees say they want, like:

These benefits help companies increase employee engagement, boost loyalty, and attract top talent.

For the vast majority of employees, meaningful benefits are so important, they even trump a higher salary. Eighty percent of employees say they’d prefer additional benefits to a pay increase, and 88 percent of survey respondents would prefer a job with a lower salary and a flexible schedule over a job with a higher salary and a fixed schedule.

Embracing the New Normal

Remote and hybrid work models are here to stay—even when masks, social distancing, and rapid antigen tests are a distant memory. Fortunately, the new normal offers plenty to get excited about. With thoughtful planning, companies and their employees will save money, enjoy greater work/life balance, and positively impact the environment. So next time you’re tempted to groan about another Zoom meeting, think of the extra cash this arrangement is putting back in your pocket—and cherish those comfy sweats that would never slide in the office.