Want healthier and more productive employees? Adopt more flexible remote work policies.

Thank you for stopping by!  Please don’t hesitate to contact me at thenopantslife@gmail.com. 

Q: Which sort of employee is more likely to be healthier and more productive, report a higher rate of job satisfaction and engagement, and is less likely to quit?

A: Remote employees.

Remote Employees Sleep Better.  

Going 17 hours without sleep will impair your functionality in the same way as being legally drunk, at least according to one study.  Sleep deprivation can also lead to a variety of productivity-sapping behaviors, such as workplace arguments, increased irritability, rudeness, and inefficiency.

According to a 2016 study performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 35 percent of U.S. adults are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. The RAND Corporation estimates that Americans’ lack of sleep costs the U.S. economy approximately $411 billion, i.e. half a TRILLION, dollars.

Some employers, such as Aetna, have provided incentives to employees for sleeping more – using FitBit data to track hours slept, for example – but is there a simpler way to ensure that employees maintain healthier habits which, in turn, will jack up their productivity?

Pennsylvania State University associate professor of biobehavioral health Orfeu M. Buxton puts the blame for our poor sleep habits on the 9-to-5 grind.  Buxton and his colleagues researched the sleep patterns of 474 employees. 50% of this cohort worked flexible hours and could decide for themselves where they worked, whether it be from home, at the office, or another location.  The other 50% worked in a traditional, location-dependent environment.

What Buxton found was that the location-independent employees slept, on average, a total of one full hour more per week (eight minutes a night) than the location-dependent employees.  This may seem like an inconsequential amount, but when coupled with other stress-reducing factors such as elimination of a stressful commute.

Remote Employees Are More Fit And Eat Healthier. 

A December 2014 study by ConnectSolutions (a private cloud provider purchased by AASKI Technology in April 2017) polled 353 US Internet users 18 years old and over on their work habits.  They found the following:

  • 45 percent of remote workers sleep better.
  • 35 percent exercise more.
  • 42 percent have healthier diets.
  • 53 percent of respondents claim that remote working reduces stress.

According to the U.S. Census, the average commute time in the USA is 25 minutes.  That doesn’t include time spent getting ready for work – picking an outfit, shaving, starting the car early in wintertime so it warms up.  Working from home could mean that you have as much as an hour or more at the start of your day, enabling you to squeeze in that morning workout before logging on.

Working in an office can also encourage unhealthy and budget-unfriendly eating habits – many lunchtime fast-food options (such as that old stalwart, Chipotle) are less healthy than a sad desk lunch, but how often do we have the time to pack lunch?

Remote Employees Are More Productive…Sometimes. 

The same ConnectSolutions study also found that 77% of remote workers experienced productivity gains that they attributed to a remote work environment. 30% of those surveyed claimed to get more work done in less time, with 24% claiming to get more done in an equivalent timespan.

23% of remote employees were willing to work longer hours than they would if they were onsite employees, and 52% reported that they were less likely to burn a sick day as a remote employee, even if they felt ill.

Telecommuters are also twice as likely to work over 40 hours a week, according to another study featured by Inc.

These studies (like all studies) can be read both ways.  Proponents of a traditional work environment may say that 70% of those surveyed above did not claim to get more work done in less time as remote employees.  Working from home is not for everyone.  Some prefer a structured office environment, others lack the discipline to work from home effectively.

A colleague of mine once set forth the following (non-scientific) test – effective remote employees were more likely to have studied from their dorms or college apartments, whereas employees who work better in a traditional environment were the types who needed to go to the library to do their best work. As for me? I enjoyed the library if I wanted to get more ‘social studying’ done, such as class readings which I could slog through while chatting with friends and acquaintances that I ran into, but if I was studying for finals or banging out an important paper, I needed to do that in the quiet of my own room.

There are reports which suggest that employees are up to 20% more productive at performing CREATIVE tasks in a remote work environment.  As for rote and non-creative tasks? Productivity decreased as much as by 10% in a remote work environment.

Hurdles still exist for creative remote employees – lack of interpersonal face-to-face interaction, lack of spontaneous conversations which lead to AHA! moments, and decreased communication.  But, remote working tools such as Skype and other videoconference platforms can help bridge that gap, as well as instituting regular “team meetings” which can be performed over videoconference platforms.

Despite the administrative hurdles facing some remote employees, they are still up to 50% less likely to quit than employees in a traditional, fixed office setting; thus positioning the option to work remotely as a robust retention tool for valued employees.

 

Thank you for stopping by!  Please don’t hesitate to contact me at thenopantslife@gmail.com. 

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