Recent weeks have seen a surge in business owners and their employees working remotely. The social distancing and self-isolation tactics meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 have seen millions turn to remote working, taking advantage of technology to continue their business activities.
On Thursday, March 19th, Microsoft Teams announced an incredible 12 million daily active users in a single week, while competitors Slack and Zoom also saw dramatic increases in demand for their services. Of course, this dramatic spike in usage may decline once the crisis is over. However, our own research suggests that might not be the case. Before the Coronavirus epidemic, we compiled research to see how younger business owners are viewing remote working, and they had a more positive than negative outlook for it.
Attitudes Towards Remote Workers Vary Across Generations
In the first quarter of this year, we surveyed 500 small business owners across the United States on how they view remote working. We found that:
- 55% of small business owners in the U.S. would consider hiring remote workers in the future
- 80% of small business owners aged 18-34 would consider hiring remote workers in the future
- 60% of small business owners aged 18-34 have used a remote worker in the past 12 months
This is a striking statistic, particularly when you consider that, across all age groups, only 36% of small businesses had used remote meeting or videoconferencing technology in 2019.
There is also a clear generational gap in how productive business owners consider remote workers to be. When asked if remote workers were more productive than those working in a traditional office setting, the following said ‘yes’:
- 50% of small business owners aged 18-34 say remote workers are more productive than office workers
- 35% of small business owners aged 35-44 say remote workers are more productive than office workers
- 15% of small business owners aged over 65 say remote workers are more productive than office workers
Younger business owners are also more likely to consider the quality of remote workers to be higher. 43% of small business owners age 18-34 reported a higher quality of work for remote workers, compared to 16% of small business owners 65 and over.
Challenges to Working Remotely
While there was consensus among small business owners that remote working comes with benefits for both the employee and the business, there was also clear concerns about the challenges presented by implementing remote working.
Concerns that employees are being distracted were also prominent among respondents. While only 11% of small business owners strongly agreed with the statement ‘remote workers spend too much time on personal matters during work hours’, more than 40% conceded that were more distractions at home than in the office. The ability to effectively manage employees remotely was also a concern – 36% of small business owners reporting thinking it was harder to manage a remote worker than a non-remote worker.
Nearly a quarter of small business owners believe that a work-life balance for employees is the greatest benefit of remote working.
Small Business Owners Across All Generations Are Working Remotely Themselves
While many small business owners admit to being hesitant when it comes to allowing employees to work remotely, many are already doing so themselves. In fact, 65% of small business owners are working remotely themselves.
This practice is even more prominent amongst younger business owners, particularly when compared to older generations. In the last 12 months, 86% of small business owners ages 18-34 reported working remotely in their own business compared to just 54% of small business owners who are 65 are older.
Remote Work in the U.S. Varies by Region
Adoption of remote working practices are not consistent across the United States, with small businesses in the Midwest the least likely to have remote jobs. Those based in the Southeast and Northeast were the most likely to work remote.
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