Saturday Spark #32
By Susan Hunt Stevens, Founder & CEO
This past Monday was a “sorta” holiday in Boston. Schools, banks, and government were closed, but many businesses were not. As a worker in a city that has “the worst traffic in America,” the benefits that day were palpable. You got a seat on the train, didn’t sit in traffic, wait for elevators or queue for lunch. The invisible benefits included cleaner air and a significant drop in the carbon normally emitted when nearly 250,000 private vehicles drive into the city.
If emerging macro trends regarding flexible and remote work accelerate, it’s just possible that soon every day could be like Monday. For example, Dell had a 2020 target of 50% of employees embracing flex work and just hit 58%. What are the key factors driving this trend?
Remote workers are more productive and healthier
One of the biggest concerns about telecommuters was that they’d be goofing off. In fact, according to a two-year study by Stanford, the productivity benefit of remote vs. office workers is equal to a full day’s work each week. Just one factor was that remote employees are sick a lot less and significantly less stressed.
Increasing flexwork saves companies and employees money
Estimates are that companies save nearly $10,000 per year per remote employee just in office space and related costs, and also experience 25% less turnover. Employees who work remotely save an estimated $7,000 per year. Flexwork is less but still substantial.
Increasing flexwork is one of the fastest, low-cost ways to drop emissions
19% of passenger miles in the US are work trips. While not every job is doable remotely, if you can increase even just one day of remote work per week for half the US workforce, that would cut emissions by nearly 2% for basically no incremental cost.
Flexwork is really important to employees
51% of employees wish their company were more flexible, and 84% of working parents cite flexibility as the most important factor in a job. A lack of work flexibility is the number one reason a millennial would quit a job.
Better tools drive community and collaboration
While fully remote workers cite isolation as the key downside, tools like Slack, Yammer, Zoom, WebEx, and Skype are beginning to improve digital collaboration and community. Opting for flexwork, a mix of remote and in-office also solves most isolation concerns.
Increasingly, I believe that purpose-driven businesses will see flexible work as a key part of their culture strategy. Purpose-driven professionals should also see working from home, or the nearby coffee shop or coworking space, when feasible, as a key part of their personal wellbeing, sustainability, and effectiveness strategy.
I will also admit that I didn’t always feel this way. It took the invention of Zoom, Slack, and culture guidelines for remote work to believe that working remotely was just as effective as in person. We now hire people from all over, including an island in Maine and Uruguay. We’ve supported employees participating in Remote Year, where they travel and work in cities around the world. Based on our own success, I wasn’t surprised to learn recently that “remote first” cultures are the norm at some of the highest performing companies in our industry segment.
What were some of the keys to success? People need good home set-ups. We instituted “everyone on video” for meetings, so sound and picture quality is good when half the people are together, and half are separate. We have a “here’s where I am today” channel on Slack. We fund access to local co-working spaces if desired. We bring everyone together a few times a year.
With so many benefits to the business, to the environment, and employee wellbeing, we should all do everything we can to embrace and accelerate this transition to flexible work.
Quote of the Week: “We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” — Richard Branson
What is Saturday Spark:
As the leader of a purpose-driven company, I’m challenged daily to ensure our company is “walking the walk” and that I’m personally leading with purpose and impact at the forefront. The result is that I read, think, and learn a lot about the intersection of purpose, impact and leadership and have a few successes and a lot more “lessons learned.” I realized that my own insights may be helpful to other purpose-driven professionals if I took the time to reflect each week. If you find this inspiring, practical or helpful, I’d be honored if you shared it with your colleagues, your families and your friends.
Read Previous Week’s Spark: 3 Ways to Cultivate Courageous Helpers