If you worry that managing a distributed team will lead to difficulties with engagement and collaboration, it’s time to think again.
Whether your employees work remotely by choice or are separated geographically across multiple office locations, there are many advantages to working with off-site employees — ones that can give your company the upper hand when it comes to everything from recruitment and retention to profits and productivity.
Studies continue to show that virtual teams have the potential to be both highly innovative and exceptionally engaged. Once a company begins to understand what distributed employees need to be successful, amazing things can happen. This is especially true for the business that expands its distributed workforce not out of necessity, but rather as a way to offer greater flexibility and autonomy for employees.
For example, we now have solid proof that working effectively with distributed teams can …
Give you a competitive edge
Making the move to distributed teams opens all kinds of possibilities. One of the biggest benefits? Recruitment and retention. With multiple locations or a work-from-anywhere policy, you’re free to focus on finding the best person for each job regardless of location. And much of today’s top talent pool will consider your setup to be a big benefit.
In one survey of 1,583 white-collar employees, the vast majority (96%) said they need flexibility — but only 19% had access to structured programs that offer options for greater autonomy, unconventional hours, and options to work from home. Half went so far as to say they’d leave their companies if offered a more flexible alternative.
On the flip side, the opposite appears to be true. One study found turnover to be 25% lower at companies that support virtual work environments. Another revealed that 90% of employees who have experienced the benefits of working off-site plan to work remotely for the rest of their careers.
Put you ahead of the curve
As more and more companies lean toward distributing their workforces, there’s little doubt that the future of work lies with virtual teams.
Already, 70% of the world’s workforce is working remotely at least once a week. Many are off-site much more frequently:
- 3.9 million Americans now work from home at least half the week.
- 55% of distributed employees have turned remote work into full-time telecommuting.
- Most employees, whether they’re distributed or not, are not at their desks 50-60% of the time.
That’s not all. Virtual work — where colleagues rely on a wide array of online collaboration tools like video conferencing, document sharing, and live chat — is fast becoming the norm in many industries like technology and consulting.
Within the past decade, regular telecommuting has grown more than 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce. Some 170 companies in the U.S. are now operating 100% virtually, up from just 126 in 2014.
Pave the way for greater productivity and profits
As we’ve mentioned before, offering flexible work options can be great for the bottom line. There are countless stats and studies to drive home this point, but here are a few of our favorites:
- Employee performance has been known to increase 13% after staff is permitted to work from home, where there are fewer distractions and it’s easier to put in more hours of actual work.
- 98% of respondents in a 24,000-employee survey said “anywhere working” has a positive impact on productivity.
- The typical business saves $11,000 per person, per year, by letting employees work virtually 50% of the time.
The takeaway is clear: If you want employees to be more productive and make bigger contributions, let them work outside your main office.
That’s not to say that a distributed workforce and virtual collaboration doesn’t come with challenges. Many of those remote employees are knowledge workers who sit behind laptop screens to perform the bulk of work-related tasks. Due to the digital nature of their jobs, it can be difficult for these team members to connect with the company mission and find meaning in their work.
But these problems are relatively minor compared to the bevy of benefits, and they’re issues that can be easily addressed once you understand what it takes to keep employees engaged.
In fact, we’ve dedicated an entire guide to addressing issues that can arise when it comes to engaging remote employees and virtual teams. If you manage, lead, or are otherwise charged with overseeing teams of distributed employees, I highly recommend reading our comprehensive guide: The Executive’s Guide to Engaging a Distributed Workforce.
Then go forth and strengthen your policies and programs. Your company’s future depends on it.