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Remote Work: From Problem to Opportunity

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Innovation and entrepreneurship often originate from the need to find opportunities in the face of problems. The current situation—widespread quarantine and isolation to contain the spread of the coronavirus—has forced many companies and institutions to implement telecommuting or remote-work solutions on short notice.

Borja Santos, Executive Director of the IE School of Global and Public Affairs and Professor of Practice in Public Policy, Development, and Social Entrepreneurship. LinkedIn | Twitter


 

Many organizations have never explored the possibility of telecommuting, either for fear of potential disadvantages or due to a belief that remote-work solutions are not viable in their industry. Whatever the case, they will soon be experiencing the results. It should come as no surprise that work flexibility is highly desired and plays a fundamental role in attracting talented professionals. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, 72% of professionals describe work flexibility as a fundamental factor and 78% of job posts on the site mention this benefit.

Work flexibility is highly desired and plays a fundamental role in attracting talented professionals.

What are some of the positive impacts of telecommuting?

Higher productivity

Results vary, but several studies have found that telecommuting leads to higher productivity. The Global Workplace Analytics Costs & Benefits survey found that telecommuting increased productivity at several major companies by 35% to 40% and that two thirds of employees believe that they are more productive while working remotely. Another study, entitled Work-from-anywhere: The Productivity Effects of Geographic Flexibility (HBS, 2019), found that telecommuting led to a nearly 5% increase in work output. Being away from the interruptions of the workplace can help to improve concentration—an essential quality in today’s world—although digital distractions must also be kept at bay.

Impact on costs, time, and pollution

According to an annual survey by FlexJobs of more than 3,000 professionals, 86% of respondents said that telecommuting would allow them to save time and money and help them reduce stress. The average commute time varies from one city to the next (Moovit Global Transport Report 2019), but in many cases the total round-trip travel time can be more than an hour and a half (92 minutes in Madrid, 98 minutes in Paris, 72 minutes in Barcelona). Imagine what it would be like to have an extra hour and a half every day!

Although remote work requires an extra initial outlay to invest in tools, in the medium and long term it leads to major savings for both company and worker. Back in 2008, a report by the research service at La Caixa estimated that the average worker spends between €8 and €11 per day on transport.

Telecommuting can reap similar benefits in terms of reducing pollution and traffic accidents. According to a report on remote work by the Más Familia Foundation, widespread teleworking two days a week—the most popular form of remote work, according to surveys—could reduce annual CO2 emissions in Spain by 332,843 tons and prevent nearly 50,000 car accidents involving commuters.

The coming weeks will provide a unique opportunity to analyze and experience the positive impacts of telecommuting.

Better quality of life

Greater work flexibility leads to better work-life balance. It also allows workers to live further away from major cities, where they can enjoy a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

The coming weeks will clearly provide a unique opportunity to analyze and experience the positive impacts of telecommuting.