Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Slack, HubSpot, and Microsoft are just some of the many businesses around the world that expect their employees to work remotely on an optional or partial basis from now on. Meanwhile, Quora and Basecamp plan to operate fully remotely permanently.
Now that we’re entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are reconsidering their pre-pandemic policies. The past year has shown us just how many operations can run smoothly without the presence of employees in a central location. Now, Global Workplace Analytics anticipates that 25-30% of the United States workforce will work from home more than one day per week by the end of 2021.
It’s clear that more and more companies are finding remote work to be highly beneficial for them. That begs the question: What are the pros and cons of going this route? Learning about them might finally clarify whether your business is ready for a fully remote work environment or not.
1. You’ll Save Money
Aside from safety factors, cutting costs is one of the main reasons why businesses elect to shutter their brick-and-mortar workspaces. You won’t have to pay rent or mortgage, utilities, cleaning and maintenance fees, and other expenses associated with having a physical office. You can also help employees save money on transportation fees — as well as do your part for the environment.
When considering whether you could feasibly close your office for good, think about how you use the building or unit. If you’d like employees to have the option of coming in, you could also move to a smaller building or unit.
2. You’ll Make Your Employees Happy
Many employees appreciate having the flexibility that comes with working from home. This will allow them to save time commuting, leaving them more time to spend with their families or devote to their personal lives and wellbeing.
Having satisfied employees will contribute to retention, too, improving the bottom line of your company. Just be careful not to overload your workers, who may have trouble maintaining a work-life balance when their personal spaces are also their workspaces.
3. You Could Increase Productivity
Even pre-pandemic studies show that working remotely can contribute to increased productivity. Although it may sound counterintuitive, this setup often eliminates distractions, such as interactions with colleagues and other goings-on that are typical of an office or workplace setting.
Moreover, absenteeism is less common in a work-from-home model — employees don’t need to travel to get to work, so they’re often more willing to complete their responsibilities when they’re feeling under the weather. Plus, they don’t have to risk spreading their illness to others, which keeps your employee base healthier and more productive overall.
4. You’ll Gain Access To Untapped Talent
When you commit to keeping your workforce remote, you’re not limited by location. That means you can tap hard-to-find talent in other cities, states, and even countries. You’ll be able to interview them using videoconferencing and other digital tools and collaborate with them entirely virtually.
This is ideal for organizations that need highly specialized skills, such as software development and technology niches. Often, these skill sets aren’t locally available, but when you cast a wide geographic net, you’re more likely to find them.
5. You’ll Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
When you don’t have a physical, brick-and-mortar office setting, you’re wasting fewer environmental resources — gas, electricity, and so on. Plus, employees are cutting down on their carbon emissions because they’re not driving cars or taking public transit to work.
“There is no easier, quicker, and cheaper way to reduce your carbon footprint than by reducing commuter travel,” according to Global Workplace Analytics.
1. You’ll Have People Working Across Many Different Time Zones
When you’re hiring employees from many different locations, including even those within the country who are operating on the West Coast and East Coast, you’ll be reckoning with several different time zones.
This issue is amplified further if you’re working with colleagues in other countries and continents. This could make it different to collaborate and coordinate, especially in real-time. Of course, you can overcome this issue by hiring people in time zones that are similar to yours.
2. Your Employees Could Feel Isolated
A 2019 Gallup report found that 21% of remote workers around the world name loneliness as their biggest struggle with the model. This, of course, was right before the pandemic, when working from home was less common.
Still, isolation can be a very real problem for people working from home. Given that we’ve all been experiencing a lack of in-person contact, continuing to ask employees to work remotely could exacerbate their feelings of loneliness.
3. Work-Life Balance Could Be Reduced
When people are working in the same place where they’re eating dinner, helping their kids with their homework, and sleeping, the lines between work and personal life can become very blurry. Moreover, employees may have trouble setting and sticking to sign-off times — again, because boundaries aren’t clear given the environment.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that during the pandemic, the average workday had increased by 48 minutes. That’s a clear sign that some people are having trouble drawing the line between work and personal life, which can become a problem over time.
4. Collaboration Might Suffer
The same NBER report revealed that on average, meetings had increased by 13%. But just because businesses are turning to meetings doesn’t mean that collaboration is any better. In fact, it could very well be suffering from remote work.
If you choose to stay fully remote, you’ll be saying goodbye to casual check-in or watercooler conversations. Sure, you still have tools like Slack, but they don’t fully replace the collaboration that can take place when people are having face-to-face conversations, interactions that are crucial for some roles and responsibilities.
5. You’ll Have Less Oversight
This is a big disadvantage for managers who prefer to know their employees’ activities and progress at all times — the ones some might describe as micromanagers. When your workplace is fully remote, you won’t be able to keep an eye on your team members and what they’re doing at a given time. This can be frustrating for you as a leader. It can also negatively affect your team members, who may need oversight.
Of course, many of the disadvantages of a fully remote workplace can be mitigated. For example, to enhance collaboration and increase oversight, your business can leverage project management and communication platforms to stay up-to-date on projects and keep one another apprised on major and day-to-day efforts.
Still, while working from home has a lot of pros, that doesn’t mean it’s the best model for every business or individual. Carefully consider the points on this list and conduct your own research, such as surveying employees about their preferences, to make an informed decision about the best course of action for your business.
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