Telecommuting Is All the Rage — Without the Road

A closer look at the benefits and challenges of remote work

Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the value of offering remote work opportunities to their employees. Depending on the type of work their employees perform, allowing more remote days — or time when employees can work away from the job site, for instance, at home or from a cafe — can benefit businesses by increasing productivity and boosting employee retention and morale.

Remote employees are in good company, and as the remote workforce grows, so does the data on its efficacy and the potential benefits for business owners. We wanted to better understand this growing workforce to figure out what business owners and employees can do to take advantage of the benefits of remote work.

QuickBooks Time conducted a survey of 500 employees who telecommute in the United States to collect some thought-provoking data on the state of the remote workforce.1 The dataset reveals when people telecommute. Three-quarters of employees surveyed (75 percent) say they commute at least three days per week. Of that, 28 percent say every day is a remote day. And the time-saving benefits are serious. According to our survey, remote workers save an average of 165 minutes each week by not commuting. That’s nearly three hours a week.

Are remote workers more productive?

More than half of our respondents say they are more productive when they work remotely, which could be due, in part, to the fact that many remote workers (58 percent) are able to work from home.

That said, not everyone feels great when they work off-site. Although over a third of employees surveyed seem to feel remote environments are more relaxing, 30 percent say they experience increased stress while working remotely. Still, 71 percent say the number of distractions either stays the same or decreases.

Challenges of remote work

Among some of the other challenges faced by the telecommuting workforce is the propensity to work more hours in a day. Just over 29 percent say this is their top challenge. Nearly the same percentage of respondents say people assuming they aren’t actually working while they work remotely is a major challenge, and over 26 percent cite motivation as their biggest challenge. Other big challenges for remote workers include disconnecting from work, loneliness, and bad internet connections. On the other side, some employees stated one issue with remote work was being able to track employees time worked. While trust is a huge factor when working remote, they want to ensure their employees are working within the standard hours.

The top five challenges for remote workers

  • Working more hours
  • People thinking they’re not working
  • Self—motivation
  • Struggling to disconnect from work
  • Loneliness

Benefits of remote work

As we mentioned, avoiding the commute to work is the biggest benefit noted by remote workers (45.8 percent say this is the main benefit of remote work). Having control over their schedules, not having to get ready for work, and the ability to sleep longer are also benefits.

Meanwhile, 27.6 percent of respondents say having the ability to look after their kids is a benefit of working from home, while just over 22 percent say watching their pets is an important benefit. When asked how they feel about remote work, the majority of remote workers gave it either four or five stars.

The top five benefits of working remotely

  • Not having to commute
  • Having more control over schedules
  • Not having to get ready for work
  • Being able to sleep in longer
  • Being able to look after kids

How would you rate working remotely?

What it would take to give up working remotely

How important is remote work to those who have the privilege of working remotely? Turns out it’s important, but not quite as important as getting a raise, a promotion, or better benefits. Here’s a breakdown of what remote workers would require in order to work at an office or job site instead of wherever they please.

Would you give up remote work for any of the following?

Positive impact on workers

When asked if remote work has a positive or negative impact on various areas in a remote employee’s life, answers varied. Overall, the ability to work remotely seems to have a positive impact on most major areas of an employee’s life, including life goals, family, mental health, and finances.

Diving a bit deeper into the demographic we surveyed, we found around 19 percent of employees who work remotely do so for an employer whose workforce is 20 percent remote. On the flip side of that, only 2 percent say their company is comprised entirely of remote employees.

As an employer, whether you’re looking to provide some additional incentives for employees or simply trying to save them some time and money on their commutes, you can learn a lot from the people already doing it.