What are the benefits of working remotely—with a focus on co-working spaces vs. in the office and home..
Hi, and thank you for your question about the benefits of working remotely! The short answer is that working remotely is a trend on the rise, with both the total number of remote workers and remote workers in co-working spaces increasingly annually. Remote work holds a number of advantages, both for the worker and company, chief among them increased happiness and heightened sense of value to the company; research also indicates that productivity for remote workers may be substantially higher than their in-office counterparts, especially in certain industries. Workers on co-working spaces also report a number of advantages in addition to those of remote work in general, most prominently the opportunity to network and learn from others in the co-working space. Below you'll find a fuller exposition of my findings, broken down into the following subtopics:
-for working remotely
-of working remotely
Twenty-two percent of Americans now do some or all of their work from home, according to a 2016 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number is on the rise, too, up 3% from 2003, when the American Time Use survey was first taken. The American Community Survey suggests that telecommuting alone now occupies 3.2 million American workers, or 2.6% of the workforce, but, in line with the Bureau's findings, pointed out that a broader definition of working remotely could encompass as much as 30% of the population. Gallup, likewise, reported in 2015 that 37% of workers had telecommuted, up from just 9% in 1995.
Not only is working from home becoming more popular, but so is working from shared, or co-working, spaces. While a precise headcount of Americans using co-working spaces is a little harder to come by than that of those working from home (the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not inquire about co-working spaces as a separate category in its survey), the Global CoWorking Conference Unconference estimated the number of co-working spaces worldwide at 13,800, up from 11,300 in 2016, and the Global CoWorking Survey estimated that by the end of 2017, 1.2 million people will have worked in a co-working space. (The details of this survey also suggest that most global trends in co-working spaces are more or less in alignment with American trends, so inferences from one to the other are probably well-supportable.)
Since the practice of working remotely--both from home and from co-working spaces--appears to be here to stay, it's worth examining how and why people choose to work this way.
MOTIVATIONS FOR WORKING REMOTELY
First, let's look at the motivations surrounding remote work in general, before narrowing our scope to specifically those who work remotely from co-working locations.
Employee management firm TINYpulse surveyed workers who performed all of their work remotely and compared the data against responses by those workers who did not; they found that remote workers were consistently happier and felt more valued than those who worked in-person, while remote workers, somewhat understandably, reported lower-quality relationships with their co-workers than in-person employees. (It's worth noting that positive perceptions of the job were also more likely to be reported among those who worked remotely because they "enjoyed the freedom and flexibility" of doing so, than among those who worked remotely because their job required them to.) Perhaps most significantly, 91% of remote workers responded "yes" when asked "Do you believe that you get more work done when working remotely?" Polycom's data suggests that as high as 98% believe that their productivity increases when they can choose where to carry out their work, again echoing the theme of agency that carried in TINYpulse's data.
MOTIVATIONS FOR CO-WORKING
The Global CoWorking Conference Unconference survey revealed that workers opt for co-working spaces because they believe doing so increases their productivity, facilitates networking, aids their learning, and, ultimately, made them happier. I'll elaborate on each of these points in turn:
First, those in co-working spaces believed that the spaces increased their productivity; 84% of respondents claimed that they were more "engaged and motivated" while co-working; over two-thirds said that it "improved their professional success" and that they "felt more successful" after joining a co-working space.
Second, those in co-working spaces tended to report that networking was one of the perks of such an arrangement; 82% claimed that co-working had "expanded their professional networks," while 80% reported turning to other co-working members for "help, guidance, or to find/source work."
Third, co-working spaces are attractive to workers because they believe co-working spaces facilitate learning; over two-thirds of respondents claimed they'd learned new skills in such spaces, with the same amount claiming to have improved their extant skill set.
Fourth and finally, workers opted for co-working spaces because they found, by overwhelming majority, that doing so made them happier; nearly 90% of respondents reported increased happiness, 83% found that they had become less lonely, and 78% reported that co-working "helps keep them sane."
RESULTS OF WORKING REMOTELY
But what does the data say about what *actually* happens when people work remotely? They may feel happier, but are they truly getting more done?
Connect Solutions Remote Collaborative Worker Survey found, in congruence with TINYpulse's data, that 24% of remote workers claimed to get "more done in the same amount of time," with an additional 30% claiming to "accomplish more work in *less* time," [emphasis added]. Additionally, 23% reported a willingness "to work longer hours than they would when on-site," and that 52% were "less likely to take time off when remote working, even when unwell." This clearly moves beyond the vaguely conjectural "do you believe you get more done" question posed by TINYpulse, but it's still not a measurable outcome. For that, we have to turn to data from a Harvard University study in which workers at a call center were randomly assigned to either work in an office or from home for a period of nine months. The results of the 16,000-person study suggested that working from home resulted in a 13% increase in performance. Nine percent of this increase was from working more minutes per shift, due to fewer breaks and fewer sick days (in line with TINYpulse's self-reported data.) The remaining 4% of this 13% increase was due to the workers' placing more calls per minute. In line with TINYpulse's and Connect Solution's data, workers in the Harvard study reported increased work satisfaction. Additionally, employee turnover decreased, with attrition falling by 50%. At the conclusion of this study, the call center, in response to the data, made the option to work from home available to all employees, and over half switched, leading to a performance increase of 22%, nearly double the increase from the initial experimental period.
Similarly, the Telework Research Network has shown that Best Buy, through its flexible work program, which allows some remote work, has increased average productivity by 35%. That same research firm demonstrated that American Express remote workers processed 26% more calls and produced 43% more business than office-based employees in the same company. Clearly, remote working holds significant benefits, not only according to the subjective evaluations of remote workers, but as demonstrated by their quantifiable output.
RESULTS OF CO-WORKING
The benefits of co-working spaces hold some special appeal beyond that of simply working remotely, however.
First, co-working spaces permit many of the advantages of working in an office--such as the learning and networking opportunities discussed above--but do so in a way that's much more economical. A co-working space's membership fees (on average, $274 / month) may, even for companies with fifteen or more employees, amount to significantly less than the overheads required to maintain a dedicated office space for that company--according to one estimate, as much as 75% less. Flexibility of location means that workers in co-working spaces may spend less time commuting--which can also translate to increased productivity. The availability of included amenities--whether that's water and coffee or office supplies and internet access--can also make co-working spaces more attractive and more lucrative than traditional office spaces. Scalability is another big factor--as a company grows, co-working spaces can afford a flexible way to add employees without the company having to undertake the overhead of new building costs. Given that nearly 20% of co-working spaces in America offer over 100 workstations, and that another 24% offer more than 50, quite a bit of expansion may be possible for most businesses before they exhaust the available resources of their local co-working space.
Ultimately, however, the biggest advantages of a co-working space are the psychological incentives discussed earlier in this report--co-working allows for networking and peer-facilitated learning, but without the hazards associated with the open-office floor plan. Increasingly, the data suggests that employees fare worse in the open layout; IPSOS found that as many as 85% of employees were "dissatisfied with their office environment and were struggling to concentrate"; open-office workers were found to be twice as likely as remote workers to take sick days, and office workers reported, on average, losing 86 minutes a day to distractions. A co-working space, in contrast, affords workers a degree of isolation in the crowd, allowing them to shut out many of the distractions associated with the open-office layout.
The benefits of working remotely, both psychological and material, are robustly supported by the evidence; remote workers report higher satisfaction and productivity, and quantitative measures of their output support this claim. Co-working spaces, as a subset of remote work, may allow a "best of both worlds" approach in which the flexibility and decreased costs of remote work are combined with the networking and learning opportunities associated with the traditional office.