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Remote Workers: Are They Happier Than In-Office Workers?

October 22, 2019

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Are you happy at work?

While your work can provide a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, it can also be a source of stress. Picture your commute to the office. When you're jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with train passengers or stuck in traffic, you're likely thinking of a dozen other things you'd rather be doing instead.

You finally sit down at your desk, begin tackling your to-do list, and a coworker comes over to chat. Not only does this interrupt your workflow, but it also makes it harder to regain focus once the conversation ends.

Now imagine what your day might look like without a commute or in-office distractions. How would it be different?

Remote workers, who avoid these in-office challenges, work remotely for increased focus, less stress, and to avoid a commute. Employees with the ability to work-from-anywhere are often happier than their in-office counterparts.

Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics surveyed 1,202 full-time, U.S. workers from the ages of 22 to 65 and found remote workers are almost 30% more likely to say they're happy in their jobs than in-office workers. Remote workers reported their top reasons for working remotely were increased productivity and focus, avoiding a commute, less stress, and better work-life balance. Each of these factors play a role in remote workers' happiness.

Why remote workers are happier

The ability to work remotely affects the happiness of employees. Over 80% of U.S. workers agree that working remotely would make them happier. Seventy-one percent of remote workers say they're happy in their job, compared to only 55% of in-office workers who say they're happy at work.

owllabs data

Source: Owl Labs

So, what are the key factors that impact remote employee happiness?

1. Increased productivity and focus

One of the top reasons remote employees cite for working remotely is for increased productivity and better focus. Distractions are costly for companies and employees. What are the sources of distraction? The Workplace Distraction Report found that 80% of workers say chatty coworkers and office distractions are the top in-office distractions.

When employees work remotely, they avoid these types of interruptions and can focus on the work in front of them. Not only does their productivity increase, but they're happier at work, more confident in their ability to do their job well, and motivated to do their best.

While remote workers still have to deal with virtual noise (e.g., Slack messages and email), it's easier to tune out these workflow interruptions. Some popular tactics remote workers use to avoid distractions include muting notifications or setting specific times to read and respond to email. 

2. No commute

It takes U.S. workers almost an hour on average to commute to and from work. Logistical challenges like traffic, train delays, or missing your bus can lead to a stressful start to your day. Commuting often negatively impacts our health and happiness. Employees save themselves time and stress by working remotely and telecommuting.

“The benefits [of remote work] are significant — less commuting time means more time for people with their families, but it also has positive implications for our environment long-term.”

Katie Burke
Chief People Officer at HubSpot

The time normally spent commuting can be used to get a head start on your work, allowing you to wrap up your workday quicker. Not only do remote workers avoid the stress of commuting, but they also have more time to spend with the activities and people they care about. 

Related: Struggling to make your home office "work" appropriate, yet still comfortable? Check out our home office idea tips to get you inspired to make the home office of your dreams!

3. Better work-life balance

We're all human and we all have commitments outside of our 9 to 5 jobs. But our work obligations can spill into our personal lives and make it challenging to find balance.

Remote work allows individuals to better manage their professional and personal lives. Better work-life balance is a factor for 91% of remote workers in their decision to work remotely.

“… remote work provides the promise and opportunity of giving people more autonomy and control over their lives to integrate work the way it fits best … People will be able to have calmer lives, at work and at home, where work can be integrated in a balanced, sustainable, and healthy way, instead of being driven by the whims of a demanding boss or workplace culture.”

David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder and CTO of Basecamp

Employees who work from anywhere can set reasonable expectations with their managers and coworkers about communication, so they aren't subject to "around the clock" availability. Remote team managers and employees can create guidelines that outline their metrics for success, communication styles, and logistics for communication and meetings.

These user guides ensure that work and communication expectations are clear and remote workers can effectively plan their workdays. They'll find even more satisfaction and happiness in their job when they can balance work and life. 

Related: Learn more about the benefits of work-life balance for remote workers. Balance can be achieved, even if it seems next to impossible.

Happy remote workers are more likely to stay in their jobs

Employee retention/turnover is cited as one of the top workforce management challenges for HR professionals. Why does retention matter? Turnover is costly and the loss of a skilled worker can negatively impact the company's performance. 

By offering remote work, companies can attract and retain employees. Remote workers are more loyal to their companies than in-office workers – they're 13% more likely than in-office workers to stay in their current job for the five years next. The flexibility to work remotely is a huge benefit for employees and a key factor in whether or not they'll stay with a company or move to a new one.

Not only is remote work a retention tool, but it's also a great way to broaden your talent pool and attract new talent. Seventy-one percent of U.S. workers agree that the ability to work remotely would make them more likely to choose one employer over another in their next job search. 

Give remote work a try

The ability to work remotely has a positive impact on the lives of remote workers. Consider creating a remote work policy for your company.

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