70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week: IWG study

More than two-thirds of people around the world work away from the office at least once every week, according to researchers.

A study released Tuesday by Zug, Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG found that 70 percent of professionals work remotely — a phenomenon known as telecommuting — at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week.

The ability to work from home and the emergence of digital office rental services has led to changing attitudes around where people should work and whether they should stick to the traditional nine-to-five working hours.

For instance, WeWork — a competitor of IWG, which owns Regus and Spaces — provides shared workspaces for companies and freelancers.

IWG said the study related to full-time employees rather than the self-employed or contractors. Chief Executive Mark Dixon said that technology was the primary driver of changing perceptions around locations and working hours.

“The biggest driver is digital changing every industry in the world,” Dixon told CNBC in a phone interview. “On the one hand, it’s changing how real estate needs to be offered, but it’s also companies wanting something different in the digital world.”

Dixon said that firms are less inclined to invest in real estate and were looking to digital services instead to hire out office spaces. He added that the idea of remote working allowed employees to be more flexible.

“If you offer workers the chance to work where they need to be, and not where they are told to go to, it completely transforms their view of the company, they are more productive,” Dixon said. “If they can work at an office near to where they live or near to where they need to be, it’s totally transformational.”

IWG surveyed 18,000 business professionals across 96 international companies for the study. Dixon said established corporates were leading the charge into remote working, to boost productivity and job satisfaction.

HSBC, for example, rented out more than 300 hot desks in a space run by WeWork in Hong Kong last year. WeWork, reportedly worth $20 billion after an investment led by Japan’s SoftBank, counts Microsoft, Salesforce and Spotify among its enterprise clients.

Last year, a report by U.S. market research firm Gallup found that the number of American employees working remotely rose to 43 percent in 2016 from 39 percent in 2012. Another study, by telecommuting research firm Global Workplace Analytics and recruitment firm FlexJobs, found that 3.9 million American workers said they telecommuted at least half of the time in 2015, representing an increase of 115 percent from the 1.8 million U.S. employees that said the same in 2005.

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