The pros and cons of working remotely
Increasingly, technology transforms the way we work. Video conferencing, screen-sharing, intranets, and chat apps have made it possible for people to work from home, in coffee shops or in co-working spaces, which enables collaboration across continents and time zones.
In fact, remote work has never been as popular as it is today—and its popularity is only growing. In 2016, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to a Gallup survey.
A more recent study, conducted just two years later, found that 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week. That means the majority of office workers have at least tried working remotely. And employers are increasingly offering their people the opportunity to get work done outside of the office.
Clearly, remote work has caught on big. But with most big changes in the way we work, there are always going to be a few holdouts. Well, holdouts, you’re in luck because this article will look at the pros and cons of working remotely. Let’s help you make a decision on the matter.
1. Working from anywhere
Having the ability to work from your couch, in your sweatpants, with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee and your cat to keep you company cannot be understated. The same goes for working from a tropical beach in the Caribbean or at your favorite co-working space downtown, or at the local library.
Studies have shown that working in an environment where you feel at ease, comfortable, relaxed, and more focused will lead to better results, increased productivity, greater job satisfaction, and less stress.
While in recent years offices have undoubtedly become more amenable to the way people like to work, the office environment may not deliver the best working environment for all employees. Let’s be honest: that’s probably impossible. And that’s why giving your people the opportunity to choose where they work from, even if it’s just once a week, can go a long way towards creating more efficient, engaged, and happier employees. And that’s just good for business.
The same goes for scheduling your workday. If you do your best work late at night or early in the morning (instead of the standard 9 – 5), both options are doable with a more flexible remote work policy.
2. It saves everyone money
Working remotely, whether it’s from the comfort of your own home or at the local coffee shop, can save employees a significant amount of money that might otherwise be spent on commuting, eating expensive lunches, and more. Saving money on gas, car maintenance and repair, or transit not only means more money in your bank; it also means more time to prepare healthy meals, exercise, or sure, work. The net gain is a healthier, less stressed, and slightly richer employee. Cutting down on commutes also is good for the environment.
But the savings aren’t solely for the employee. The same goes for the employer. Say your company has 350 employees and on any given day 45 of them are working remotely. If your company factors that in when it sets up its lease, that’s money saved on space (rental costs, desks and chairs, etc.), electricity, heating and air-conditioning, water, and more.
Not only that, it means employers can hire the best talent no matter where they’re located. Want to hire that senior software developer in California, but your office is in Utah? The ability to work remotely makes this an enticing offer to top performers who may not want to move to Utah (no offense, Utah!).
3. Reduces employee turnover
This one’s hugely important to the overall health of organizations. Cutting turnover saves money, keeps up morale, and frees up hiring resources. But in order to reduce turnover, your organization first needs to find out the root cause.
For a lot of organizations, an easy way to reduce turnover is to allow people to work remotely. A 2014 study found 76% of remote workers were willing to work overtime and felt more loyal to their company. Additionally, 80% reported a better work-life balance. And this is the key takeaway: allowing staff to work remotely is perhaps one of the biggest and most valuable gestures an employer can make to increase the work-life balance of their employees.
Employees who work remotely will save time on their commute, redefine their work schedules for maximum productivity, and add some much needed flexibility to their workday—flexibility that enables them to attend appointments, receive deliveries, cook healthy meals, exercise, and spend more time with their families. Want to create loyal, dedicated employees? Let them work from home every once in awhile.
1. If you don’t have the right tools, you’re out of the loop
Working remotely depends almost entirely on having the right tools for the job. This means having the right collaboration and communication tools: video calls to communicate with colleagues and team members, chat to do the same, an intranet to centralize important updates, and a working video conference room. Going without any of these basic tech tools will make things a lot more difficult for you and the people you work with.
Employers, take note: allowing remote work necessitates giving your people access to the tools that make it possible.
That said, even with the right tools, there’s still the chance that a remote worker might miss out on the impromptu discussions, important whiteboarding sessions, and informal chats that an office makes possible. Sometimes asking a colleague “what did I miss?” just doesn’t cut it. Which is why remote working policies often vary on a case-by-case (or team-by-team) basis. Unfortunately, not every employee can afford to miss out on off-the-cuff conversations and impromptu decision-making huddles.
2. It can be distracting
Working from home—the place where you also sleep, eat, watch TV, play with your cat or your kids—can be extremely distracting. So can a coffee shop or, for that matter, a tropical beach in the Caribbean.
If you’ve ever freelanced, you understand this well. There’s a point in your freelance career (and in your professional career in general) when you realize that, in order to focus and get work done, you’re going to need to develop a rigorous schedule that isn’t, well, ‘free’. For newly minted remote workers who are suddenly faced with more opportunities to be distracted, finding the self-discipline and accountability to stay in ‘work mode’ may turn out to be a challenge.
There might be a breaking-in period, so to speak, during which remote workers will have to figure out what works best for their productivity, and then adapt. If you’re working from home, but maybe not being as productive as you think you could be, this article by John Rampton might help.
Here at Jostle, we’re generally in favor of working remotely. But I understand if your organization isn’t. It depends on a lot of factors that are going to be unique to each workplace. That said, why not give it a try?