As office reopenings continue throughout the U.S., many large organizations are urging employees to return to the office, citing productivity and collaboration as their areas of concern.
Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, couldn’t agree less. In fact, he says this step by some businesses to end remote work is just “wrong” because both employers and employees benefit from the pandemic-induced shift to telecommuting.
“Forcing all employees back to work is throwing good money after bad, and will create extra short-term costs (like turnover) and long-term costs (like low morale),” Price wrote in a post in The Guardian.
One key benefit of the shift to remote working has been elimination of employee commutes to the office, the head of the credit-card processing company said. On average, workers spend 55.2 minutes on commuting, a 10 percent jump since 2006, Price wrote.
Because commute time is unpaid, a typical workers’ hourly pay drops on average from $20.17 to $18.09, he calculated. Unpaid time spent traveling to work is a way for “managers [to] feel in control,” Price said, adding that if commute time were paid, the average worker would make an additional $4,800 annually.
A costly toll
In addition to commuting expenses, the cost of living has risen exponentially and decreased the quality of life in large like Seattle, where Gravity Payments is based, Price said. Despite the median salary of $100,000 at his company, the high cost of living in the city makes it hard to afford basic necessities, he added.
By not requiring in-person work, employees have the ability to move to more affordable locations, “where they find it possible for the first time to afford a house and start a family,” he wrote.
Implementing a more flexible work model “can be life-changing for employees,” Price added.
In addition to these costs, commutes also take a mental and emotional toll of workers as they start the day with “negative emotions,” the CEO said.
Companies that ignore their staff’s desire to continue remote work do so at their own peril, data shows.
More than half (58 percent) of employees will leave their jobs if employers require them to return to the office and stop working remotely, a survey by Flexjobs found.
Price says there is a simple solution to the issue.
“Just ask the employees what they want,” Price advised.
When Price asked his employees, only 7 percent said they wanted to return to the office full time, while 32 percent wanted to work in a hybrid arrangement and 62 percent preferred to work from home full time.
A boost for recruiting talent
Organizations also stand to benefit, he added, noting that the move to remote work has boosted productivity at his company.
“Gravity Payments has worked remotely since the pandemic began. How was our productivity affected? This April, we set a record for revenue. In May, we broke that again,” Price wrote.
At the same time, his company’s remote-work policy has spurred a surge in job applicants, he said.
“We’ve had more than 300 applicants per job opening this year. We’ve always had a lot of applicants because of our $70,000 minimum wage, but nothing like the flood of interest we’ve seen since we made job openings remote-eligible,” Price wrote.
Price made headlines six years ago when he raised the company’s minimum yearly salary to $70,000.
The CEO also notes another benefit of remote work: an eco-friendly workplace.
Eliminating commutes is “the single biggest thing any company can do to help the environment,” yet companies continue to advertise their initiative to “go green’” without remote work, he said.
Work commutes are responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse emissions in U.S., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found.
In addition, technology has made remote work more accessible than ever before, Price said.
“People who have shown over the last year that they can do their job just as well or better at home deserve to choose how they want to work — and companies will be better off by getting out of the way and letting workers decide,” he concluded.