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Business Journal
America's Coming Workplace: Home Alone
Business Journal

America's Coming Workplace: Home Alone

by Annamarie Mann and Amy Adkins
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • The trend of employees working remotely continues to grow
  • Remote work is on the upswing across many industries
  • Some well-known companies are ending or scaling back remote work

This is the first article in a four-part series.

The trend of American employees working remotely continues to grow, according to Gallup's State of the American Workplace report.

In 2012, Gallup data showed that 39% of employees worked remotely in some capacity, meaning they spent at least some of their time working in a location different from that of their coworkers. In 2016, that number grew by four percentage points to 43%.

But it's not just the percentage of employees working remotely that has increased: Employees who work off-site are also spending more of their time doing so.

In 2012, 24% of employees were spending 80% or more of their time working remotely. In 2016, 31% were found to be doing the same. The number of employees working remotely 40% to 80% of the time has also slightly increased, while the number of employees working remotely less than 20% of the time has decreased.

Employees Are Spending More Time Working Remotely
By percentage of time employees spend working remotely
  2012 2016 Difference
  % % Pct. pts.
Less than 20% 34 25 -9
20% to less than 40% 20 20 0
40% to less than 60% 12 13 +1
60% to less than 80% 10 11 +1
80% to 100% 24 31 +7

Remote Working Increasing Across Industries

Remote working is also on the upswing across most industries Gallup has studied. The finance, insurance and real estate industries experienced the greatest surge in time spent remote working, followed by the manufacturing and construction, transportation, and retail industries. The science, engineering and architecture; education, training and library; and community and social services industries are on the other end of this trend. While employees in these fields are still spending time working remotely, a smaller percentage are doing so today compared with a few years ago.

As employees increasingly become -- or want to become -- remote workers, leaders and managers may worry about the overall effect of remote working on individual, team and organizational performance. In recent years, companies including Yahoo, Best Buy and Bank of America have garnered attention for choosing to end or scale back their work-from-home programs. IBM has also reportedly eliminated remote work for marketing, engineering and other roles. In each case, leaders cited the need to improve teamwork, collaboration and communication as reasons for the change.

Remote working doesn't make sense for all companies or roles. Leaders need to consider the demands of the job and how time spent remotely could positively or negatively affect an employee's ability to deliver on business outcomes and customer needs.

To guide these insights, Gallup examined employee engagement, perceptions of performance and workday experiences based on the percentage of time employees work away from their coworkers. Gallup found that remote working can positively influence employee engagement and performance, though the gains vary for some roles and are most noticeable when employees maintain some connection to the company's offices.

The next article in this series shows that remote employees are engaged at work -- up to a point.

To learn more about how to engage your remote workers, we invite you to:

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
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