Of the digital communication and collaboration tools available to remote workers, email is the most used at 88 percent, followed by instant messaging at 47 percent, according to a survey of 353 U.S. Internet users by private-cloud solutions provider ConnectSolutions.
Video conferencing (36 percent), VoIP platforms like Skype (32 percent), and presence functionality (30 percent) were also popular tools, and 28 percent of those surveyed use an enterprise unified communication solution, such as Microsoft Lync.
The survey also indicated mobile devices with growing desktop-like functionality are also doing much to empower workers remotely—at home or in the field, including cafes, parks and other non-traditional locations—with 40 percent able to conduct at least half of their total workload on a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.
"We already see evidence of mobile technology significantly transforming remote work," Michael Fitzpatrick, CEO of ConnectSolutions, told eWeek. "Mobile collaboration tools are providing seamless communication with team members, regardless of location. Virtual meeting technology on mobile devices has dramatically reduced travel expenses and employee productivity loss."
Fitzpatrick noted the rapid adoption of mobile technology for remote work is beginning to force organizations to reimagine traditional business processes and identify new productivity gains.
"We expect this to accelerate with continued mobile network upgrades and increasing computer power on mobile platforms," he said.
Whether remote workers are able to work with greater efficiency off-site or are more motivated to demonstrate off-site effectiveness, of the 39 percent who work remotely at least a few times per month, 77 percent report greater productivity while working off site with 30 percent accomplishing more in less time and 24 percent accomplishing more in the same amount of time.
Around a quarter (23 percent) said they are even willing to work longer hours than they normally would on site to accomplish more while 52 percent are less likely to take time off when working remotely—even when sick.
When it comes to camaraderie and collaboration, 42 percent of remote workers feel they're just as connected with colleagues as if they were working on-premises, and 10 percent said they feel even more connected.
Respondents indicate a clear financial motive in working remotely, with the largest group of remote workers (30 percent) reporting savings of as much as $5,240 per year, simply accounting for expenses.
Half of the remote workers surveyed also say being able to work remotely at least some of the time makes them much more likely to stay with the company.
Personal satisfaction and quality-of-life also seem to play a strong role in the allure of working remotely, with 45 percent of remote workers getting more sleep, 35 percent getting more physical exercise, and 42 percent eating healthier.
"What we found is people who work remotely often feel a greater need to perform. It's not enough to be 'seen' typing away at a computer—motion does not equal progress," Fitzpatrick said. "Remote workers need to produce. Ultimately, successful remote work requires collaboration, and collaboration depends on relationships and frictionless communication."
He explained this is where he believes video conferencing will have a tremendous impact.
"We find workers who use video in their collaboration efforts tend to exhibit more empathy than those desktop phone meetings we've all suffered through," he said.