Remote workers are happier in their jobs—and get 105 hours more free time a year than office employees

@kim.schaffer | Twenty20

There are plenty of draws to having a job that allows you to work from home — nixing a daily commute being just one of them. And according to one new analysis, that daily convenience, along with boosted productivity by avoiding the distractions of office life, could add up to an extra 105 hours of free time per year per remote worker.

A new report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research, on behalf of digital workplace platform Citrix, measures the economic impact of adopting widespread work-from-anywhere policies across the U.S. The survey suggests that remote work arrangements aren't just beneficial to workers, but they could also be good for business in more ways than one.

Time-efficiency is a huge factor, Tim Minahan, executive vice president of business strategy at Citrix, tells CNBC Make It.

"On any given day, the average employee spends nearly 65% of their time on busy work and in meetings, 20% searching for information and just 15% — or 1.2 hours a day — on the meaningful and rewarding work they were hired to do," he says.

The ability to work from home, then, could help workers be more focused and boost productivity, essentially doing the same amount (or more) work in less time.

"We've essentially taken our highly-trained knowledge workers and turned them into task rabbits, who, when grappling with long commutes and distractions that come with working in an office environment, find themselves rushing, stressed out and less productive," Minahan adds.

In turn, a remote work arrangement could afford employees more time to attend to personal matters like grocery shopping, paying bills, doing housework and spending time with family, Minahan suggests. An increase in this leisure time has the double benefit of easing stress — a 2014 PGi survey finds 82% of workers are less stressed when they work from home — while increasing worker happiness.

To be sure, Citrix, which sells technology that makes remote work easier, could benefit if more employees had flexible work arrangements. But additional research has made many of the same points.

Flexible work arrangements are linked to higher levels of employee happiness when such policies allow workers to better manage their time. Achieving better work-life balance, after all, is the main reason why people said they switched to a remote-work arrangement in the first place, according to one Owl Labs survey. Remote workers also count increased productivity, avoiding commuting and less stress as the top benefits to their flexible arrangement.

While the average American worker spends just over 26 minutes commuting to work each way, those averages go much higher for some of the most populated areas of the country. New Yorkers have it worst with an average one-way commute time of 36 minutes, and all of the top-10 longest commutes clock in over half an hour each way.

More remote-work arrangements could eliminated dead time stuck in traffic, and not to mention, ease congestion and slow fuel waste.

As for putting more time back in the hands of workers, put another way, the 105-hour average comes out to over 13 work days that could be freed up for leisure time. That could be good for the economy as a whole, Minahan suggests.

"From an economic perspective, additional leisure hours means more time spent consuming goods and services: going to the gym, taking in a movie, playing a round of golf," he says.

This isn't to say office environments don't serve a purpose. Some so-called office distractions can be beneficial to work: coworker interaction can improve teamwork, meetings can inspire ideas, and walking around provides not only physical activity but also creative boosts. In-person office culture also provides a crucial social network: 10% of Americans meet their spouse at work or through colleagues, while one-third have met at least one close friend through work.

Overall, the Cebr and Citrix report indicates widespread adoption of work-from-anywhere arrangements could add $2.6 trillion to the U.S. economy. The biggest benefit comes from employing untapped talent who would have better access to the workforce through remote options. Bringing in the unemployed and economically inactive could equate to $2.08 trillion in added value per year, or a 10.2% boost to U.S. gross domestic product.

This group alone — which includes retirees, full-time homemakers or caretakers, people who are disabled and cannot leave the house to work, and more — would be responsible for 88% of the total potential boost to productivity if they were motivated to enter the workforce through a remote arrangement (something 69% of people not currently working said they'd be open to).

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