Remote Work No Longer a Perk But a Business Imperative

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.

work remotely

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.


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

18 Reactions
  1. When I worked for an internet marketing agency I found that I needed 2 things to perform my job: an computer with internet access and a phone. While these were provided in my office (and I was definitely expected to have my butt in that chair for 40+ hrs/week) I had a laptop and cell phone that could accomplish the same purpose virtually anywhere.

    Many people today have similar situations where the tools of their trade aren’t exclusively available in the office. Make expectations clear, hold people accountable to get their work done and let them govern themselves.

  2. First thing I thought when I started reading this was that I am so lucky to not have a boss. LOL

    In my line of business, all my work is remote and I also work with sensitive client data.

    While I use Facebook to network, the moment someone turns from a prospect into a client, I move all business-related and confidential conversation over to email.

    I agree with Robert – set boundaries and methods of operation that employees are kept to. By giving incentives, people are more likely to stick to the rules.

  3. Martin Lindeskog


    I think that this is the wave of the future. The challenge is that corporate America has get used to the idea that you don’t have to “punch in” and sit at desk with other coworkers all the time, in order to classified as real work.

    I am fascinating with a concept called “the third place,” and how you do work between your office space and home, at a third location, e.g., a coffee house, hotel lobby, on the go, etc.

    Have you read Life 2.0 : How People Across America Are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness by Rich Karlgaard?

  4. Perception really is a big problem. Happily, I now work from home, running my own small business, but at my last office job perception ruled. Even though the owners of the company wanted to be on the cutting edge, when it came time to actually implement something new, they held back. There was a great deal of busy-work so that everyone appeared to be working hard all the time, but most of it was just to fill the time so that the bosses felt your salary was justified.

  5. I agree with dava…A lot of business owners are scared to allow stuff like this because they want to maintain control over their workforce.

    In most of the worlds mind, if they don’t see you working, you’re not working. its sad, but that’s how it is.

    I know personally i work better in an office, but I couldn’t work in someone elses office, I need my own. If my clients wouldn’t allow me to work from a remote location, i wouldn’t take them on.

  6. Even in environments where remote work is allowed, I have found that collaboration can on occasion be difficult, especially on a complex project. Face-to-face communication not only provides back and forth discussion, it allows each participant to see the degree of understanding and agreement, based on facial expression and body language.

    There are several work-arounds that can help with this, such as scheduling onsite collaboration meetings and remote days. For example, a team meeting can be held Monday, and members can remote work Tuesday. Where clarification is needed, tools such as web cams and desktop sharing software will help.

    Despite some challenges, I agree that at least some remote work is beneficial for both the business and its workers. When many companies (i.e. employees) are being forced to do more with less, a remote day allows for greater productivity as well as a better work-life balance.

    Thanks for a good read.

  7. hey Rieva, you and I were talking about this not long ago over lunch, right? Similar. If the company doesn’t have a telework policy or a remote work philosophy, then they are often not the kind of company that many of today’s workers want to work for. The economy is terrible and keeping a job is important, but you also don’t want to work for cave dwellers…

  8. I have a “corporate job” working from home – and I love it! I am so grateful for the time I save every day by not commuting. There are so many benefits to telecommuting for both the employer and the employee, I don’t understand why more companies don’t allow it, especially with today’s technology!

  9. Aboslutely right. In the “frog’s eye view” of my personal experience, I finally came to the same conclusion as the “bird’s eye view” of your statistical analysis — the root cause is misperception, and adherence to outdated beliefs/practices.

    My story: Almost all my tasks are on a computer for 2 of 4 of my most recent jobs. At both of the jobs where I could have worked from home, I’d proven that I’m more productive, and more creative on the occasional days I worked from home. Further, I’d even gained C-level buy-in that working from home was more environmentally healthy and ethical. And yet, the leaders of both organizations finally responded in exactly the same way, telling me that employees, including me, “shouldn’t have too much freedom.” Both, literally told me that it’s better to drive to work, sit at my desk and e-mail my colleagues from the headquarters, than do the same from my home office because “it was better for the office culture to have as many people physically present as possible”. To a digital native and student of management, you can imagine how baffled I was. I suppose beliefs will continue to become outdated even more rapidly as the rate of change continues to accelerate…

  10. I agree Glen, it’s ridiculous how long it’s taking for some employers to see the true value of remote working. Every study I’ve seen says remote working is a boost to productivity, and staff morale.

    I think we’ll eventually get to bigger buy-in. It will just take a while

  11. If a for profit company such as a University has tons of students going to school ONLINE fully remote, with no cotact but virtual/email, and earning ‘real’ degrees why and the heck wouldnt someone be able to perform their working obligations as such. The University is banking on the student to perform as such or they get kicked from the University. Same shoud be for a perfoming employee who works from home. No performance, no paycheck.

  12. the key for me being able to work from home is making myself available so they never have EXCUSE to complain.

    – phone
    -instant chat
    -daily log of work completed
    -schedule of work to be accomplished for tomorrow

  13. Awesome Resource for any WP beginner. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to share your article.

  14. The University is banking on the student to perform as such or they get kicked from the University. Same shoud be for a perfoming employee who works from home. No performance, no paycheck.

  15. Remote working and flexibility helps businesses in savings on travel costs, increasing efficiencies in business processes, increasing productivity etc. Tools like R-HUB web conferencing servers, WebEx, GoMeetNow, gotomeeting etc. are used for the same.

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