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Sizing Economic and Societal Impact of Remote Work

Sunday July 26, 2020

Remote worker looking out the window and viewing a lush landscape of trees and mountains

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, several prominent companies announced their plans to transition to “remote-first” or hybrid operating models permanently.

This means that tens of thousands of employees have the option to continue working from home indefinitely. Companies will also be able to close some of their physical offices and redesign the remaining office space for collaboration and socialization.

There’s some debate about the long-term economic and societal impacts this shift to remote and hybrid work will bring. Here’s an overview of the likely economic and societal impacts of this transition.

 

The Economic and Societal Impact of Remote Work

Global Workplace Analytics and Stanford shared their estimates and point of view on this topic, calculating that the following trends will continue into the future:

Savings for Employers

A typical employer can save an average of $11K per half-time remote worker per year. That’s from a combination of:

  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced turnover
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Lower real estate costs

According to Global Workplace Analytics Telework Savings Calculators, if those employees who held telework-compatible jobs (50% of the workforce) and wanted to work at home (79% of the workforce) did so just half of the time (roughly the national average for those who do), the economic benefit would total over $700 billion a year.

Savings for Employees

A typical employee can save between $2.5-4K per year by working at home half the time. Those savings are primarily due to reduced costs for:

  • Travel
  • Parking
  • Food

They’re net of additional energy costs and home food costs.

In terms of time, a half-time telecommuter saves the equivalent of 11 workdays per year in time they would have otherwise spent commuting. Extreme commuters save more than three times that amount. These estimates assume a 75% reduction in driving on telework days.

Environmental Impact

Eliminating or reducing commuter travel is the easiest and most effective way for a company or individual to reduce their carbon footprint.

If those who have a work-from-home-compatible job and a desire to work remotely do so just half the time, the greenhouse gasses would reduce by 54 million tons–the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars (the entire New York State workforce) off the road for a year.

Counterurbanization

Growth of city centers is expected to stall. The largest U.S. cities have seen incredible growth since the 1980s as younger, educated Americans have flocked into revitalized downtowns.

That trend has reversed in recent years with a flight of economic activity out of city centers. The upside is this will be a boom for suburbs and rural areas, as many companies will be moving from high-rise offices to industrial parks with low-rise buildings.

What Are the Implications for Teams?

Virtual work is here to stay as the economic and societal upsides are too significant to ignore. Teams need to have an open conversation about the tradeoffs of virtual ways of working and the best ways to capture the benefits while maintaining and improving connection, collaboration, and productivity.

Leaders hoping to improve productivity in their teams while providing work-from-home options should consider Teamraderie’s extensive list of experiences. These live, virtual, expert-led workshops are excellent ways to increase connection, teamwork, and an abundance of other outcomes.

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