Would you like to work at home every day in your pajamas? Or how about doing your job from your favorite neighborhood coffee shop, or on your laptop just about anywhere as you travel?
The reality is that virtual work, in all of its forms, is on the rise, and is no longer a facet of employment and the economy that employers or workers can ignore. With the explosion of practical workplace and communication technology and shrinking global economy, the number of employees who do their job from their home, laptop – or, even pajamas – will keep growing.
When we talk about virtual work, we’ll throw around terms like freelance, telecommute, virtual, digital nomads, home-based, gigs, and part-time, but they all basically refer to someone who doesn’t work sitting at a desk in an office in a traditional setting.
Here are some facts and figures on the prevalence of virtual work:
It’s estimated that 62 percent of U.S. businesses now have some employees that do remote work, either full-time or part-time.
A 2016 Gallup poll found that 43 percent of employees work remotely at least some of the time, up from 39 percent in 2012.
The Gallup study also discovered that the happiest and most engaged workers spent 60 to 80 percent of their working hours. That means a balance of three to four days a week working from home, with still some time in the office, creates the best work environment for all.
Gallup also discovered that 37 percent of American workers have worked virtually at some time in their careers, a 400 percent increase since 1995.
Studies show that employees that work exclusively from the office have the lowest job satisfaction and productivity levels, while those that work only from home were happier than their office-bound peers.
The rise of part-time and freelance work (the “gig” micro-economy) correlates directly with virtual work. It just doesn’t make financial sense for companies to hire part-time employees for many cases, opting for independent contractors or project-based freelancers – many of which can work virtually.
In fact, studies show that about two-thirds of part-time workers work virtually, often as freelancers.
FlexJobs, one of the biggest virtual gig placement platforms in the world, estimates that there are more than 40,000 companies looking for jobs and workers just on their site.
They’ve experienced a 31 percent increase in the number of remote part-time jobs or gigs year-over-year since 2014.
56% of Fortune 500 company hiring managers and senior leaders believe that virtual work will keep increasing at their company.
How do virtual workers dress while on the job? Who cares – as long as they get the job done? But, amusingly, I found that 30 percent of all telecommuters work in their pajamas! That breaks down to 41 percent of female telecommuters in their sleep clothes and 22 percent of males!)
Reportedly, the industries and employers with the fastest growing use of virtual workers include (in no particular order):
- Copywriters and content producers
- Administration and virtual assistants
- Customer service
- Data and billing management
Do you want to broach the subject of working virtually or telecommuting with your employer?
Here are some bullet points to give them to help make your case:
- Remote work improves worker productivity.
Two-thirds of managers report that allowing employees to work at home increases their output.
- Virtual work increases efficiency.
Without the distractions of commute times, long meetings, co-worker chit chat, and the like, virtual workers get more done in less time. In fact, a report from ConnectSolutions found that 30 percent of telecommuters accomplished more in less time, while 24 percent accomplished more in the same amount of time.
- Working virtually lowers stress and boosts satisfaction
A study by software firm PGI found that working remotely lowered stress levels in 82 percent of telecommuters, while 80 percent reported higher morale and satisfaction.
- Significant decrease absenteeism
According to that same study by PGI, absenteeism is 69 percent lower in employees who work from home.
- Lowers employee turnover
A major study published by Stanford University found that companies that offered remote working opportunities decreased job attrition rates by over 50 percent
- Reduced employer business overhead and office costs
Employers save a lot of money when they allow their employees to telecommute or work virtually. In fact, a report by Forbes Magazine pointed out that insurance giant Aetna, where 14,500 of their 35,000 employees work virtually or are “desk-less,” saved 2.7 million square feet of office space and $78 million. Similarly, American Express saves $15 million annually thanks to remote work options.
- Greater employee engagement
An unexpected benefit of working virtually is that employees actually feel more engaged and part of the team, not less. In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that 87 percent of remote workers feel more connected, thanks in part to the prevalence of video conferencing and other technologies.
- It helps companies go Green and better the environment
A 2013 study found that companies who shifted towards remote work decreased annual fuel consumption by 680 gallons, or 0.5 percent of our total U.S. gas consumption, reducing the overall carbon footprint.
- In-sync with generational transformation
With 80 million Millennials entering the workforce or on the horizon, employers who want to attract top talent would be smart to shift to their outlooks and desires. In fact, according to a survey by AfterCollege, 68 percent of Millennials report that an option to work remotely would greatly interest them in an employer.
Additionally, more seniors and Baby Boomers over 64 years old are working than since the turn of the century, according to the Pew Research Center. According to AARP, 74 percent of senior employees would like some job flexibility, and 34 percent would like to work from home. Allowing them to do so helps prolong and enrich their careers and greatly benefits their employers, too.
- It’s the future of employment
Already, nearly one in five U.S. employees are part-time, freelance, or virtual, and Emergent Research predicts that by 2020, the number will increase to 40 of all workers. Around the world, the rise of virtual work has exploded in even greater numbers, and will continue to do so as technology and education provide borderless employment opportunities.