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Summary:

Findings from a new survey that confirm earlier polls showing workers are willing to sacrifice money or vacation time to work remotely may not be shocking, but other revelations about how soon employees expect their offices to go fully virtual may surprise skeptics.

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Surveys repeatedly show that workers are keen on telecommuting, so much so that they’d be willing to take a pay cut for the right to work remotely. Unsurprisingly, a new one from project management solution Wrike confirms this. The poll of more than 1,000 employees found nearly 80 percent would sacrifice employer-provided free meals to telecommute, 54 percent would give up their employer-paid cell phone plans and 31 percent would trade paid vacation for the ability to work remotely.

All of which, you could say, is yet another firm kick landed on an already very dead horse, but the other survey findings were more surprising. While telecommuting is often presented as a good idea whose time has not yet come due to entrenched institutional skepticism, Wrike’s findings suggest we may soon be turning a corner on a future where remote work is far less fringe, even for those in the least hip organizations.

Already, 83 percent of respondents reported spending at least a few hours each week working outside the office. This probably amounts to a bit of checking work email and the like out of hours, but many were extremely hopeful about the expansion of virtual work at their companies. When asked if their offices might go fully virtual in the future, 65 percent of respondents said yes, though they differed on exactly how long the shift would take:

  • 25 percent expected their office to go fully virtual within a year or two (or their office was already virtual)
  • About another quarter (24 percent) expected the shift to take three to five years
  • While 16 percent thought it would take five years or more

Despite this disagreement about the exact time frame, the over-arching message of the survey seems clear. Workers are expecting a virtual workplace, and expecting it soon. Management will have to take heed, won’t it?

How long do you think before your organization goes fully virtual?

Image courtesy of Flickr user renaissancechambara.

  1. Daria Golubeva Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Jessica, thank you for writing about our survey findings! Despite certain challenges of virtual collaboration that our respondents shared, the power of the benefits is impossible to underestimate. Over 40% of the respondents highlighted huge time-savings that allow them to focus more on their tasks. And almost 30% said they’re more organized and productive when they work on their own. So, it looks like overall they are able to do more in less time as they telecommute, and it has potential to be a win-win for team members and management, too!

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  2. Jessica I wonder whether remote workers are still mainly using email, telephone and cloud/VPN, or do they have a video setup at home? We use Skype sometimes but it’s ad-hoc.

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  3. Donald Plumley Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Our company, Elanex, was founded on the premise that being 100% virtual as a strategic advantage. We want to hire the best employees possible, wherever they wish to live. As an example, a highly valued team member had an opportunity to relocate to be near family. It was a five minute conversation. He and his family are happier and we maintain continuity of a highly functioning employee. Want to live and work from any country in the world? We welcome it. Our systems are designed to support this which have benefits to how we can efficiently serve clients 24×7 seamlessly. While I do miss the hallway conversations and casual banter, the flexibility is a strategic asset for us.

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  4. Great insight, Jessica. We’re definitely seeing more employers opting for virtual teams, which can save both parties time and resources. The challenge will now be to change how you manage your virtual workforce. Ultimately, the way management monitors the overall performance of a team will have to change to accommodate this new structure. So, while checking in once a week used to be okay, constant communication and real-time feedback (i.e. social performance) will have to be the norm, otherwise goals may not be reached and work may not be done to the right standards.

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  5. I couldnt agree more! We provide a project management system called Hot Project. (http://www.hotproject.com)

    We are finding many of our clients are successfully changing to a virtual office environment – and blurring the line between ‘staff’ and ‘client’!

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  6. I couldn’t agree more.

    With our Project Management System (http://www.hotproject.com) we are finding our users are finding it very easy to work remotely with both internal staff – and clients!

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