Agile Leadership
Business Agility

The advantages of remote working — and why you should embrace it for good

The advantages of remote working are well-established, and are an integral part of the needs of the talent of today and tomorrow. Companies also have a lot to gain from it. In this article we look at how to do it the right way.

Aurelie Toro
Aurélie Toro
Avantages du télétravail : femme travaillant sur son ordinateur portable en face d'un paysage naturel magnifique

The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to rethink established ways of working. Many employees now believe that the pandemic has done us a favour: it’s now normal and accepted to work remotely on a regular basis — even as a norm. 
This trend was already underway due to the digitalisation of companies and the digital nature of work, as well as the growing concerns  around work/life and well-being at work, however the global pandemic was a tipping point.

Indeed, during the pandemic, companies had no choice but to embrace remote working. Today, however, things have changed: some companies continue working remotely, while others have enforced a return to the office, and the remainder are somewhere in-between — implementing a hybrid work policy. One thing is certain: experts seem to agree that remote working is an essential component of the present and future business world, and embracing it will be central to ensuring that companies don’t miss out on the best talent.

The benefits of remote working are clear: an expanded workforce and increased flexibility which is valuable for many individuals, who no longer need to leave their homes to cover the famous 9am-6pm commute. But the full list of benefits of remote working is much broader. 

In this article, we’ll give a brief history of remote working and its results during the pandemic before zooming into the current situation; we offer a comprehensive overview of the benefits of remote working for employers to help your company take stock. We also provide leaders with the most important values to consider in building a successful remote working culture in their organisation.

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A short history of remote working

Recent research has shown that remote working increases employee productivity by more than 20%.1 If we go back in history, we can see that the great beginnings of remote working go back to the 1970s in many countries including Britain and the USA, when the 1973 embargo's spike in petrol prices made commuting more expensive, forcing workers to find ways to avoid transport. 

In France, it was the early days of the Minitel, making it possible for 12,000 potential remote workers to perform tasks at a distance.2 In Switzerland too, the first traces of remote work date from the same period.3 Already at that time, the flexibility of this way of working allowed those who were willing to work from community spaces (cafés or public libraries) or from home, and gave them a significant freedom (more free time, more time for their family, leisure, and daily non-work-related tasks).  

In the 2000s, with the arrival of personal computers and  laptops, broadband internet, email, smartphones, cloud technologies, video conferencing, the possibility for remote working has expanded exponentially. In the background, a global movement was already underway in organisations at the beginning of the century: technology had progressed so far and so fast that people were already beginning to ask: "Do we really need to be together, in an office, to do our work?”4  

But it wasn't until the public health crisis of 2020, when companies were faced with a situation that left them no choice, that remote working was forced into the mainstream. And we got our answer to the above question: we learned that many of us don't actually need to be reunited with our employees on site to do our work: agile working methods, digital collaboration, effective remote meetings, many solutions exist to enable companies to be fully operational without geographical proximity. Individuals, teams, entire workforces can be successful while being fully distributed - and they have been. Let's take a look at the results of remote working during the pandemic in the next section.

Remote working increases employee productivity by more than 20%.

Have remote working policies worked?

The answer is unequivocal: for most companies and employees, ‘going remote’ worked perfectly during the pandemic, and is still working very well today. Numerous studies have proven the benefits of remote working on business productivity. 

For example, a PwC study of over 130 managers and 1,200 employees showed the following results after 9 months of a global remote working policy during the health crisis5:

  • Remote working has been a resounding success for both employees and employers. The change in positive attitudes towards working remotely is evident, with 83% of employers saying that this change has been a success for their company.
  • The role of the office is set to change. Fewer than one in five managers say they want to return to the office in the same way as before COVID-19. However, all managers—regardless of hierarchical level—recognise that being together from time to time facilitates collaboration and the creation/maintenance of a corporate culture. Therefore, hybrid working and hybrid management are born.
  • There is little consensus on the optimal balance between remote and office days. More than half of employees (55%) would prefer to work remotely at least 3 days a week, but 68% of executives say that a typical employee should be in the office at least 3 days a week to maintain a distinct corporate culture.

There is therefore a clear disparity between employees and executives on the balance between remote working and office days, with the former wanting more and the latter trying to tip the balance towards the office. 

It seems that the current norm tends to force rules on this balance, rather than giving employees the freedom to choose. According to Raj Choudhary, a Harvard Business School professor and leader of the "Work from Anywhere" movement, "In ten years, we will probably stop calling it 'remote work'. We'll just call it 'work'.6 He says that the "digital nomad revolution is underway", that top talent is looking for the flexibility that remote working brings, and that any company that stands in the way of this trend risks becoming a dinosaur, thus depriving itself of the best talent in the industry. 

It doesn't have to be that you never go back to the office: a Gallup survey clearly shows that employees and companies are on the same page about hybrid working being the best solution. However, here too, a strong divide is highlighted: employees would like to work more from home than from the office, with 38% wanting to work less than 2 days a week in the office, and a total of 76% having 3 days a week as an absolute maximum.7 Requiring a minimum of 3 days in the office in the organisation's hybrid policy is therefore already taking the risk of retaining only 24% of the talent pool.

Avantages du télétravail : nombre de jours de télétravail vs nombre de jours au bureau désirés par les employés

And the evidence of this "control" trend is pouring in from the media: on 4 April, Google and Apple "crushed the hopes" of digital nomads: at Google, they are now only allowed to work remotely for 2 days a week, and at Apple, it's the same atmosphere: 3 days of face-to-face office work has been the minimum since 23 May.8

This is causing a stir among experts. In a webinar organised by Slack on new work trends, Bruce Daisley, former Twitter vice president for EMEA and author of "The Joy of Work" said: "I think we're seeing a dismantling of the way work has been built up to now, a negotiation of the 'non-negotiables' that we used to face. And, relatively speaking, the question of how companies adapt to this determines the experience of employees. When we look at the evidence, there's a lot of reason to think that employers are in different stages of denial, and in different stages of grief about how they're trying to reconcile the changes we've just witnessed and how they're conveying those changes to employees." 

It is, of course, understandable that these 'non-negotiables', although negotiated during the pandemic, are again a preferred option for many leaders. There is a famous saying: "A path one knows often seems shorter than the one one does not know", and it is of course natural to go back to the habits one had before the pandemic, which one knows well - in contrast to new trends which may generate doubts. Here are the most common concerns of employers related to remote work:

  • Minimising the value of work
  • Dissolving the collective spirit;
  • Impairing productivity and morale;
  • Disrupting management;
  • Slowing down the integration of new team members.

Of course, explanations will always be found to corroborate these claims. However, if we look at the many benefits of working remotely, we quickly realise that the above fears are largely unfounded, provided that remote work is done properly. In the sections below we list the different advantages of working remotely and how to use it properly to get the most out of it. 


What are the advantages of remote working?

Of course, when discussing this topic, it is important not to be biassed when talking about the advantages and disadvantages of remote work. This section first presents the advantages of remote working for companies and employees first, and then explores the disadvantages. 

It should be noted, however, that the disadvantages of remote working often do not come from the model of working itself, but from a lack of method to use it properly. 

The advantages of remote work for employers

There are many advantages of remote work for the employer, including: 

1. Significant savings on real estate costs 

Companies save a great deal on rent through remote work, as they have the ability to close their offices, either totally or partially, or rent smaller ones. Research firm Global Workplace Analytics found that companies can save up to $11,000 for each employee working remotely two or three days a week. According to the firm, these savings come from reduced rent, but also from increased productivity and reduced absenteeism and turnover.9 This makes a perfect transition to the next two benefits on this list: increased productivity and reduced absenteeism and turnover. 

2. Increased productivity 

According to countless studies, working remotely allows companies to benefit from productivity gains. In France in 2020, for example, it was found that productivity increased 22% through remote work, saving more than 200 billion euros in GDP.10 Remote work and productivity are therefore clearly correlated in a positive way. In the words of Suresh Kumar, CTO of Walmart: "By switching to working remotely, we have not only coped with it, we have actually prospered. We are more focused on the things that have the greatest impact for our customers, associates and the company. We make decisions and act faster. Meetings are now more open to all, regardless of location, level or other differences. We have good momentum and we need to figure out how to take it to the next level. 


When working remotely, we focus more on the things that have the greatest impact. We make decisions and act faster. Meetings are more open.

Suresh Kumar
CTO, Walmart

3. Reduced absenteeism and employee turnover

This is a double-edged sword, as other studies have also shown the opposite. But let's start with the positive: by responding to employees' desire for freedom, making them feel valued and trusted, well-being at work increases, which leads to a decrease in these indicators. But the opposite effect is also true, with one nuance however: increased turnover has been observed recently with no less than four million people having left their jobs as of August 2022. The most common reasons? The desire for (more) remote working and the ease of finding a job that meets these criteria. So, here, it is not working remotely that is the problem, but the lack of remote work... which gives more strength to its advantageous side.

4. Expanding opportunities to hire top talent

Remote working allows companies to open the geographical floodgates of recruitment: applications for a new position can now be made nationally and even internationally. This gives them access to a larger pool of candidates, and the opportunity to acquire the best talent available. 

The benefits of remote working for employees

Let us now summarise the main advantages of remote working for the worker:

1. Geographical flexibility 

Not having to go to an office every day offers great geographical flexibility to individuals in two ways:

  • It allows them to live wherever they want, and not necessarily near a fixed place of work; and
  • It allows them to work for a company that is not necessarily in the same city, or even the same country — which opens up a vast array of employment opportunities.

2. Increased time and freedom

By eliminating the daily commute, employees have a considerable amount of time to spend on their personal lives: caring for children, leisure activities, household chores, etc. This freedom greatly increases the well-being of individuals, who enjoy a much better life/work balance, feel happier — and, in a virtuous circle — if their company gives this freedom, then employees are more likely to stay and to work hard. 

3. Increased productivity

More peace and quiet, flexible working hours that adapt to the rhythm of each individual, less time wasted due to office disturbances (chatter, noise, various interruptions...), working remotely allows people to concentrate and be more productive. 

The disadvantages of remote working 

Remote working can also have some disadvantages, which we list below: 

  • Isolation of employees working only at home, which can lead to a deterioration of mental well-being and productivity;
  • Difficulty for organisations to create/maintain a corporate culture;
  • A tendency to churn: As the labour market has expanded due to the large number of remote jobs available, some employees seek new jobs when they are not satisfied with their current job. This trend, which even has a name  — the "Great Resignation" — started in 2020 with the widespread adoption of remote working. It’s making it more important than ever for companies to care about the well-being of their employees and to meet their expectations wherever possible. 

Some or all of these well-known disadvantages of remote working have given rise to the solution that combines the best of both worlds: Hybrid work. On this point, many agree that it’s the ideal operating model for their businesses. However, given the desire of the majority, it has to be questioned whether hybrid working policies might not benefit from a little less control, so employees can decide how many days they work remotely, without imposing limits. 

In any case, the disadvantages above can often be avoided if teams are given the opportunity to meet from time to time, without necessarily having to be in the office for a fixed number of days each week. In addition, a few good practices for practising remote work properly, as well as a set of important values to be considered in your company culture, can make it extremely effective and possible to overcome the doubts that are sometimes attached to it. In the next section we explore how to make the most of the advantages of remote work, and how to free yourself from its potential disadvantages.


How to take advantage of the benefits of remote working

The extent to which your company is currently working remotely and will be embracing remote work in the future is a question that is specific to the context of your organisation. Sometimes it is impossible — in manufacturing environments, for example. Sometimes only certain departments can work remotely. What is clear is that it’s necessary to carefully consider the desire of employees with a remote job to choose your working policies very carefully:

  • Totally remote: Only remote working 
  • Remote-first: Mainly remote, but with the possibility to be in the office if and when you want. 
  • Hybrid working policy: Controlled according to your criteria, or giving your employees the freedom to choose their own pace, or
  • On site.

Finding the formula that works for your business and its talent is key in reaping the maximum benefits, whether financial, productivity-, or HR-related. Let's look at how to embrace remote working properly to make the most of all it has to offer for both employers and employees - and perhaps help your organisation take stock of its future remote or hybrid working policies.


Effective remote meetings

The ultimate collaboration tool in remote working - the remote meeting. Of course, and this is a very important point, it is not the only tool at your disposal, and should not be used excessively - but only when necessary. 

Before organising a meeting with a remote colleague(s), ask yourself: "What is the purpose of the meeting?" and formulate its agenda items as questions. For example, "How can we increase our website traffic by 10% in 12 months' time? If these questions require you to organise a meeting with your team, organise it effectively, from setting the agenda and choosing participants, to taking minutes of the meeting, to leading a meeting that focuses on making decisions and records those decisions effectively. If you do not yet have effective meeting processes in place—especially for formal meetings—it may be necessary to invest in a dedicated meeting management solution that will optimise your meetings, enabling you to gain efficiency and make considerable savings. We also recommend that you read this guide to effective team meetings .

On the other hand, in order to give your team members time to focus on their work and not to feed a culture of remote working ‘meetingitis’, skip the all-or-nothing meeting and use other communication tools such as Slack or email instead.


Trust — Top-down and bottom-up

All employees, whether they are a leader, a manager, or an individual contributor, need to trust others in their organisation to do their job well from a distance. The best way to gain this trust is, of course, to keep promises and be transparent when obstacles arise, whether from a leader to their team or vice versa. 

There is often a fear that working remotely will make employees less productive and that they will not work from anywhere other than the office, where it’s easier to 'control' them. In reality, this is not the problem, and it often stems from a lack of trust instead. If a remote employee feels micromanaged, receiving constant messages from his or her manager, and having to attend unnecessary meetings all day, it is likely that he or she will actually lose motivation and productivity, and eventually leave. 

Trust, on the other hand, builds a solid foundation for remote working. How can companies contribute to building trust in remote environments? Here are some best practices: 

  • Set clear goals, and give employees the freedom to achieve them in their own way;
  • Avoid micromanagement at all costs;
  • Communicate effectively;
  • Measure results;
  • Give importance to the well-being of employees;
  • Practise caring management and being open to employees' vulnerabilities and challenges and address managers' prejudices about remote working;
  • Facilitate a company culture, and helping people to connect;
  • Set aside time for non-work related contact, informal meetings;
  • Create opportunities to be together.

By feeling valued, listened to, trusted; by knowing where their work needs to go and who to contact for any needs; and finally, by having the opportunity to connect with their colleagues, remote employees feel confident with their company, and are able to deliver their best work. 


Effective collaboration

Collaborating effectively may appear tricky when working remotely, yet working this way opens up a wide range of communication possibilities. First of all, considering asynchronous collaboration is a compelling and necessary solution for organisations, as it allows everyone to work at their own time and pace, and to have time to focus on their tasks.

Of course, synchronous exchange is essential, so that people can maximise the potential of simultaneous discussions and interactions. Here, this means finding common ground on times that suit everyone. Freedom goes both ways: if I can go for a run during my lunch hour, I also have to make myself available for a remote meeting with my colleagues when most are available. 

And it goes without saying, as mentioned above, running effective remote meetings is an absolutely crucial aspect of good remote collaboration.
Results-oriented leadership: One of the keys to effective remote working is to adopt a leadership style that is results-oriented - and to organise all your actions around these results.
If your team does not understand the importance of results, collaboration and trust will not allow you to achieve success. It is therefore essential that every remote worker understands what their role is, and how it fits into the achievement of the wider business objectives - which they must have a clear vision of too. 


Embracing a remote future

Many companies have realised the importance of remote working within the new norm, and are reaping its benefits — which are no longer in doubt after several years of remote working at scale. Organisations have much to gain — from increased productivity to reduced costs — opening the geographical floodgates for recruitment, improving employee wellbeing and reducing absenteeism. 

And the vast majority of talented individuals are actively seeking out remote work as the primary mode of operation because of the myriad benefits it provides: better quality of life, geographical and scheduling flexibility, greater productivity, and more time to simply work and live. 

Many companies now understand that the benefits of working remotely make it a must in the world of today and tomorrow. According to Tobias Häckermann, CEO and founder of Sherpany: "Millions of workers have realised that it is possible to work remotely. The world's top talent is no longer willing to return to the office." So embracing — and really embracing — remote work is the way of the future, and knowing how to establish the values to make it work best forms a part of the core leadership competencies of today and tomorrow.

Do you want to read more about Agile Leadership?

Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment ”, Stanford Business, Mars 2013.

Le télétravail, des ses balbutiements dans les années 70 à son développement actuel ”, RTL, Août 2020.

Le télétravail en Suisse ”, IFP.

Our Work-from-Anywhere Future ”, HBR, Décembre 2020.

5 “ It’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done ”, PWC, Janvier 2021.

6 “ In 10 Years, ‘Remote Work’ Will Simply Be ‘Work’ ”, Bloomberg, Février 2022.

 “ The Future of Hybrid Work: 5 Key Questions Answered With Data ”, Gallup, Mars 2022.

Les employeurs qui disent « non » au télétravail sont-ils has been ? ”, Cadre Emploi, Avril 2022. 

How much money employers can save when they switch to remote or hybrid work ”, Fortune, Août 2022.

10  Le télétravail aurait fait grimper la productivité des salariés de 22 % ”, Mars 2023.

11 “ Walmart says its thousands of tech employees will continue remote work — even when pandemic subsides ”, CNBC, Mai 2020.

12  “ Remote work could keep fueling high turnover: ‘The map is open for job seekers’ ”, CNBC, Octobre 2022.

Aurelie Toro
Aurélie Toro
About the author
Aurélie uses her experience in content creation and digital marketing to help French-speaking leaders in their daily practices. Always looking to do things that make sense for society and passionate about researching, writing and sharing useful information, she does her best to bring a fresh vision to the leaders who read us on the topics of agile management, meeting management and digital transformation.