For nearly half the world’s workforce, going to work doesn’t involve going anywhere. In fact, by 2020, people working remotely are projected to exceed the number of employees in the static workforce. Remote work, of course, is nothing new. But the magnitude of today’s remote workforce – whether for just a few days a week or permanently – has seen dramatic growth in the past few years.
Several powerful forces have been driving that growth. One is globalization, a reflection of the fact that many business interests are no longer anchored to a specific geographic area. The other is digitization – the availability of electronic tools that enable workers to collaborate with one another even when separated by thousands of miles. The resulting transition has been nothing short of a sea change from the previous industrial-era pattern in which showing up for work meant clocking in at a fixed location.
While many observers of this workforce transition have commented on lifestyle benefits that come with working remotely, including flexibility, reduced stress, and greater motivation, the benefits to employers may be even more significant. They include higher productivity, cost savings, and greater employee engagement in their work.
One of the most touted arguments for remote work is the increased productivity that results from its flexibility. Remote employees are more likely to put in extra effort into their jobs, going above and beyond to get their work done in comparison to in-office employees. One study revealed that 65% of full-time employees believe working remotely would increase their productivity – and their bosses agree. Two-thirds of those who were surveyed reported an increase in overall productivity from their remote employees.
Remote employees also benefit a company’s bottom line. If a work team is largely distributed, companies can see reduced overhead from savings on costs like rent and office furniture. To put that into perspective, Flexjobs reported that employers can save $22,000 per remote worker per year, even if their team is not entirely remote.
While keeping their employees happy and engaged by supporting remote work is frequently cited by employers, nearly three-quarters of the employees surveyed in a Softchoice study said they would quit their fixed-location job for one that offered remote work. In addition, a survey by TINYpulse found that remote employees claimed they were happier than fixed-location employees and that they felt more valued within their role.
However, remote work only applies to the knowledge components work capable of being digitized; it will never eliminate the need for at least some on-site workers in industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, or personal services. Beyond that, the electronic tools – the business software – that enable remote work, are in most cases identical to the ones used by their stationary colleagues.
Those tools are expensive. In 2019 alone, spending on enterprise software approached half a trillion dollars, with forecasts suggesting that by 2021, it will reach $560 Bn. It is so big that individual segments of that market, including business process management, or BPM; enterprise resource planning, or ERP, and customer relationship management, or CRM, have each emerged as huge markets in and of themselves. And those markets are served by some of the world’s biggest and most sophisticated companies including Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, VMware, and Salesforce.com.
Getting full value from a company’s investment in that software is a business imperative. But using that software well is not intuitively obvious. The programs are complex and outfitted with multiple features. They are not something most people can grasp immediately and start using proficiently. They almost invariably require some form of instruction at the outset, as well as guidance for even the most advanced users when it comes to the system’s more esoteric features. Ironically, though, training clients in the use of their enterprise software is not one of the greatest strengths of the software developers. Some publish manuals. Some produce videos. Some offer instructional classes. Some provide help features within the software application itself. But for most users, the resulting learning curve tends to be uncomfortably long.
That poses a significant challenge to companies whose workforce is distributed among distant locations. Having all workers using the same software, with the same proficiency, is critical to a well-functioning organization, no matter where those employees are located. But not all the same developer-supplied instructional resources are available to every company worker. And even OEM-supplied instructional tools can fail to secure proficiency -- no matter where the worker happens to be assigned.
That challenge is now being addressed by an industry segment which was recently defined by Gartner as Digital Adoption Solutions – companies whose central business focus is to provide an interactive guidance platform for enterprise software. By providing personalized task-based learning, on-screen and on-demand, just when users need it in their work, these teaching applications reduce the time required to train employees -- regardless of whether they report to the company’s home office or somewhere off in a distant location. And in the process, the company’s remote workforce become just as proficient as their peers in the firm’s headquarters.
- What is driving the growth of the remote workforce: The ladders.com
- Benefits Of Telecommuting For The Future Of Work: Forbes
- What is Remote Work?: Remoteyear.com
- What leaders need to know about Gig worker: Hubspot
- Information technology (IT) spending on enterprise software worldwide, from 2009 to 2021 (in billion U.S. dollars): Stratista
- Increase Sales Productivity With Digital Adoption Solutions: Gartner