To the slew of data indicating that working remotely is no longer a rarity, but becoming commonplace, you can add the latest Work Without Walls  findings from Microsoft. Microsoft’s research shows that enabling employees to work remotely is fast becoming not a perk, but a business imperative.
Here are some of the findings:
- More than half (56 percent) of information workers at small companies surveyed say their company has no formal telework policy allowing remote work. (39 percent have a telework policy.)
- 36 percent of information workers feel their peers support remote working arrangements, while only 31 percent think their bosses are supportive.
- In fact, almost the same number (30 percent) believes their bosses are actively not supporting remote working arrangements.
- This may explain why employees are working remotely fewer days than they’d like. The information workers say ideally, they’d like to work remotely 8 days per month, in reality they’re only averaging 3.2 days per month.
- Why do employees like working remotely? The top reason—no surprise, really—to avoid commuting (say 25 percent). Close behind, achieving better work-life balance (16 percent) being more productive than in the office (14 percent) and finishing work they can’t complete at the office (14 percent) round out the top reasons.
What aspects of working remotely still cause problems for information workers at small businesses? You might be surprised. When working remotely, just 21 percent report having had a problem collaborating with colleagues in real time; only 18 percent say they’ve experienced a problem accessing internal network files. The number-one problem, cited by 40 percent of information workers was not being able to make phone calls from their computers. Not being able to easily determine if a colleague is available (cited by 28 percent) fell in the middle range of annoyances.
The top pet peeves included: not being able to speak face-to-face (the top issue at 42 percent); lack of a quick response (33 percent); thinking their co-workers lacked accountability (20 percent).
As these results show, many of the old bugaboos about working remotely have clearly disappeared. Accessing files from outside the office is no longer a major issue, and more people understand that remote workers can be just as accountable and accessible as their peers in the office.
What’s still the major stumbling block for companies that don’t allow or support remote work? Based on these numbers, it sounds like it’s a matter of perception. The lack of support from some employers may be due to outdated beliefs. And the biggest complaint peers had (not being able to speak face-to-face) can quickly be solved with Skype or simple VoIP systems.
While remote work opens up new possibilities for both employees and employers, Microsoft points out it brings a new risk as well. The survey found many employees are using social networks to collaborate offsite, which means new security concerns as your business’ sensitive information could get exposed to prying eyes. If you are instituting remote work policies (and I hope you are), be sure you put the technology and the policies in place to eliminate the security breaches that can arise when your team uses public social networks for business purposes.