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The Long-Term Perks Of Remote Work


As of just a year ago, the business world could only speculate that the future of work would be remote. Now, in a baptism by fire, companies around the world are learning to work remotely for the first time, their operations rocked by the reality of workers in quarantine and isolation. No commercial real estate sector will go untouched.

But a number of proptech startups for whom remote work is the status quo are riding out the COVID-19 storm relatively undisturbed. Among them is Envelope, which creates 3D city map software to help real estate professionals analyze, visualize and run scenarios on development potential under zoning laws, and where employees have had flex hours and the option to work remotely since the company's 2015 launch.

“We've never required in-person presence,” Envelope CEO Cindy McLaughlin said. “We've allowed, and encouraged, people to work from anywhere, anytime, as long as they get their work done, communicate their progress and are available for scheduled all-team, videoconference-based check-ins. And it has served us extremely, sometimes surprisingly, well over the years.”

SelectLeaders talked with McLaughlin about several ways remote work has helped Envelope and companies like it grow and thrive. It raises the possibility that after a few months of quarantine — or by some estimates, 12 to 18 months — companies that have effectively adapted to remote working may not want to go back their old ways.

Lower Overhead

McLaughlin said a remote team allowed Envelope to keep office-related overhead low when cash was tight. Indeed, remote companies generally have fewer fixed expenses than companies with brick-and-mortar offices. 

For these companies, not needing to host workers in an office nor pay for food, amenities or supplies is built into the budget from the beginning. For those just trying out the approach in response to the pandemic, they still stand to save on utilities, transportation costs, staff meals, office supplies and other operations expenses that could support payroll or other needs.  

A Happier, Less Stressed, More Productive Team

Working remotely, and working asynchronously as employees do at Envelope, spares workers commute time, saves them money and adds time into their day that can be spent tending to their personal lives.

Overall, study after study has found working from home — under normal circumstances — makes employees happier, not to mention more productive

In a 2014 PGI survey, 82% of workers said they were less stressed when they worked from home, while a 2019 report by Owl Labs found that overwhelmingly, working remotely or the ability to do so occasionally made employees feel more trusted and better able to achieve work-life balance.

The benefits are so valuable to workers, a third of respondents to Owl Labs’ survey said they would be willing to take a pay cut of, in some cases, 10% or more in exchange for the ability to work from home. 

Nimble In The Face Of The Unpredictable

Accustomed to working from home, McLaughlin said even in the mayhem of the current moment, Envelope’s team has been able to carry forward with day-to-day operations with minimal disruption, allowing them to focus on customers’ evolving needs.

Because their tech tools are already part of their workflow, bandwidth and ability curves haven't slowed progress. 

More Leverage In Hiring

Whatever upset the present may bring to the job market, the talent shortage will grow worse by 2030, trending toward a global human talent shortage of tens of millions of workers.

In this context, companies want to hire competitively, and offering flexible work, location and hours may be a major competitive advantage: A 2018 survey by Robert Half found that 77% of workers said they would be more likely to accept a job if it offered the ability to work from home at least some of the time.

McLaughlin said Envelope has seen these results. The company's flexible work policy "allows us to attract and retain beyond-great engineering talent around the world, including parents and others who need a more flexible work schedule.”