(STL.News) – The gap between jobs and skilled workers continues to grow. And it’s killing productivity and growth at companies large and small. But there is a way to narrow it. According to a new study conducted by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr) with support from Citrix Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTXS), companies that leverage technology to enable flexible work models can not only attract talent, but increase employee engagement and productivity, potentially boosting the US economy by as much as $2.36 trillion a year.
“The battle for talent is fierce and it’s hindering business growth and innovation around the globe,” said Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer, Citrix. “This research supports the idea that, when harnessed correctly, technology that enables remote work models can empower companies to draw talent from new and untapped pools and leverage their skills to unlock innovation, engage customers and move their business forward.”
Tapping the Home Force
Through an online survey of more than 2,500 US knowledge workers conducted in July, the Cebr study sought to determine the potential value to the US economy of the adoption of a more widespread, flexible working culture. And it found that in offering virtual/remote work options and providing the tools to enable them, companies can better compete in the battle for talent by dipping into untapped pools of workers. These include unemployed and economically inactive individuals such as:
Parents who put their careers on hold to tend to children, also known as the “home force.”
People who gave up jobs to care for aging relatives.
Baby Boomers who retired, but would consider working a few hours a week in non-traditional settings.
According to the survey, 69 percent of people who are currently unemployed or economically inactive indicated that they would be encouraged to start working if given the opportunity to work flexibly. And if they did, Cebr estimates it could drive upwards of $2 trillion in economic gains across the US economy and an increase in GDP of 10.2 percent.
In addition, companies offering flexible/remote working options can entice contract and part-time employees to take on more work. According to the survey, 65 percent of respondents working part-time said they would be inclined to work more hours if they could work remotely.
Killing the Commute
If provided with the opportunity, 95 percent of the knowledge workers polled who are currently employed say they would work from home 2.4 days per week, on average. And between 60 percent and 70 percent of respondents would do so from other locations, including local coffee shops and shared workspaces, at least one day per week. According to Cebr, this would:
Reduce the time employees spend getting to and from work by 5.8 billion hours a year.
Drive savings of $44.4 billion on commuting costs such as tickets and gas.
Between cost and time savings, put more than $107 billion a year back into the pockets of US workers.
Respondents to the online survey say it would also make them more productive. Of those polled,
93 percent of all workers said virtual/remote working would enable them to manage their time more effectively and devote extra hours to work tasks.
68 percent of part-time workers indicated it would allow them to get more work done as they would spend less time commuting.
“Remote work has long been heralded as a key productivity hack, and now there’s proof that workers with flexible arrangements are likely to get more done,” Minahan said.
Striking a Balance
The Cebr study further found that flexible work models can help employees strike a better work-life balance by freeing up 11.9 billion hours a year – or 105 hours per person – that can be devoted to personal and leisure activities. And according to Donna Kimmel, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Citrix, giving employees time to focus on activities other than work pays dividends too.
“Life happens. And people need to manage it – even during work hours,” she said. “In giving employees the flexibility and tools to work when, where and how they want, companies can help them to better integrate their work and lives and ultimately, improve their engagement and productivity.”
Reaping the Rewards
The benefits of remote work are clear. And to reap them, companies need to rethink what “workplace” means. “The future of work is dynamic and decentralized,” Kimmel said. “And businesses that create flexible digital environments in which employees can access the tools and information they need to perform at their best, from anywhere at any time, can deliver it today.”
To learn more about the role that technology can play in enabling remote work, click here. For a complimentary copy of the Cebr research, click here.