When his company announced that employees can continue to work remotely until July 2021, Luke decided to take this opportunity to do something he’d always wanted: live in Byron Bay.
He immediately booked a flight from Sydney to Ballina, where he found an affordable one-bedroom in Byron Bay. He works the same hours as his colleagues in Sydney, but uses his free time surfing and exploring the regions wilderness areas.
Despite the difficulties created by the pandemic, the remote-work crisis gave Luke the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead of being tied to his home, he’s now a work-from-anywhere employee.
A year ago only about 3.4 percent of the workforce worked remotely. Once the pandemic was declared, Gartner says, 88 percent of organisations 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 Luke will realise they can work not just from home, but from anywhere.
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 travelling, a holiday house, or in another state.
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:
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 young 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. Conditions for some remote workers are tough.
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, a rural area, 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.
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 surf 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.
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?