- Work from home isn’t a job perk for everyone
- In work from anywhere, employees can live and work where they feel most fulfilled
- Employees who are more fulfilled show higher levels of retention, engagement, and success
When her company announced that employees can continue to work remotely until July 2021, Lisa decided to take this opportunity to do something she’d always wanted: work in a foreign country.
She immediately booked a one-way flight to Taipei, Taiwan, where she found an affordable one-bedroom apartment on a month-by-month basis. She works the same hours as her colleagues in the States, but uses her free time to explore the city’s expansive night markets and landmarks.
Despite the difficulties created by the pandemic, the remote-work crisis gave Lisa the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead of being tied to her home, she’s now a work-from-anywhere employee.
Work from home won’t last forever.
COVID-19 accelerated the number of employees working remotely. The unparalleled shift in the workplace found millions having to work from home, and, by necessity, that change happened very quickly.
Before COVID-19 hit, only about 3.4 percent of the US workforce worked remotely. Once the pandemic was declared, Gartner says, 88 percent of organizations worldwide either made WFH mandatory or encouraged their employees to work from home.
With so many people suddenly working remotely, managers everywhere learned that the deeply ingrained fear that employees would be less productive when not monitored on-site was simply a fallacy.
Instead, they found people were actually more productive. Employees say they get more done because they spend less time commuting, experience fewer distractions from coworkers, and attend fewer meetings.
But working from home won’t last forever. As more companies permanently embrace remote work, employees like Lisa will realize they can work not just from home, but from anywhere.
Work from anywhere is the real perk
It’s not work from home that employees truly want—it’s work from anywhere (WFA) Employees want to work wherever they feel most fulfilled and productive. Whether that’s the office, a coffee shop, a co-working space, while traveling, Grandma’s house, or in another country.
From a business’s perspective, a WFA policy means it no longer needs to hire based on proximity. It can bring on the smartest talent out there—regardless of where in the world they live and without having to worry about moving expenses.
WFA also improves employee retention. One study found that when senior employees can work from anywhere, they often took advantage. Many were happy to move to their retirement location while continuing to work. They continued to provide in-depth knowledge of the company, which benefited the company and its younger employees.
There are several reasons employees prefer the opportunity to work from anywhere:
1. Being forced to work at home is not a job perk
Our current form of sudden and forced remote work doesn’t work for everybody.
Gallup says we shouldn’t confuse the current WFH situation with traditional remote work. Some people are, through necessity, working at home without the materials, equipment, and resources they had at the office. They might report to a manager who’s not trained or well-prepared in managing employees under the current, unusual circumstances.
On the other hand, true remote work, when it’s not occurring because of a crisis, offers flexibility. An employee can choose to be in the office, visit a client’s worksite for a meeting, or work from a coffee shop. The current WFH situation doesn’t allow this flexibility.
Another crucial difference affects parents with school-age children. They’ve been forced into a situation where it can be a struggle to get work done. Those employees previously worked in a calm, quiet environment.
Now that childcare, school, and after-school activities are not available, many are working alongside their young children—and need to help with online school at the same time. Conditions for some remote workers are tough.
2. WFA employees can live and work where they want
As companies shift from work-from-home to work-from-anywhere policies, employees can live and work where they want to be. The economic freedom of maintaining your employment, and salary, while living near family, or perhaps in a city with a lower cost of living, is enormous. In essence, it raises one’s salary.
And it provides a work-life balance that many didn’t expect to have at this point in their career. The ability to travel, whether for pleasure or because you need to care for a sick relative, is a huge perk.
3. Working from anywhere means working when you’re most productive
Working from anywhere allows an employee to work when they are most productive, instead of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. While most WFH employees follow a traditional work schedule, those who work from anywhere are not focused on being available during a set time but merely on getting their work done. That can happen based on their own time zone and schedule and has a huge, positive impact on employee morale and engagement.
It puts more of the “working to live” back into the equation, rather than “living to work.” Someone WFA, who can canoe in the morning and work in the evening, is likely happy with the flexibility. They’re often more engaged and experience more satisfaction with their work.
And WFA employees have higher productivity, according to a Harvard Business School team that studied productivity data over several years. They focused on patent examiners who switched from WFH to WFA and found that the patent examiners, employed by the US Patent & Trade Office, had a 4.4 percent higher work output and a higher quality of work when they went to WFA. The improvements added up to an additional $1.3 billion annual value to the US economy.
Perhaps our global experiment with remote working will continue evolving into a large-scale, work-from-anywhere remote work style. Already, companies such as Akamai, NASA, and GitHub offer WFA arrangements. Who’s next?
Originally published Dec 18, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023