Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In years past, working from home was often linked to a lax attitude and lower productivity. However, the global pandemic has sparked a revolution and shed light on the previously unseen benefits of working remotely. Experts suggest that remote work can help businesses reduce costs and increase efficiency. And employees and managers cannot ignore this new perspective anymore. While working from home or any other remote location has many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider. In this article, let’s evaluate the pros and cons of remote work and discover how to find the right balance for your business.
The flexibility of work is perhaps the biggest pro of remote work. Employees can literally work from any place they want—their homes, a coffee shop, a getaway location… anywhere that inspires them. This means that employees can work outside of the traditional office environment, which can drastically improve their productivity. It also helps create work-life balance.
Remote work has been a game-changer for businesses looking to cut down on extra costs and even some fixed costs. By eliminating the need for physical office space and reducing commuting costs for employees, businesses can divert more resources toward R&D and growth. Plus, the added benefit of reducing employee stress levels associated with commuting results in happier, more productive employees. Remote work is improving the bottom line, and more companies are becoming privy to this.
Research has found that remote workers are actually more productive. It’s not just that they work with fewer distractions. It’s also that they can divide their time between work and personal tasks as they like, which helps them become more productive at home as well as at work. Moreover, when they work in a stimulating environment of their choice, they can go into workflow mode a lot quicker. In fact, remote workers are also more likely to work longer hours, which translates into increased productivity and better results for businesses. It’s a win-win: employees get the environment they want, and employers get better productivity.
Remote work has widened the job scope. Without having to report at an office location, companies have pretty much opened up their job offers to the global village. This globalization of services (1) also brings with it a wide range of perspectives on the job. It's a learning opportunity without boundaries, both for the employer as well as the employee.
Many companies have norms that are cultivated when people interact with one another on a day-to-day basis. Thus, when a team is completely remote, it can sometimes be difficult to communicate precisely what is required. Some things, without face-to-face interactions, can get lost in translation. In the same way, working in teams and collaborating with coworkers can also get tricky if not done the right way.
Managing remote employees can be challenging. Without physical supervision, it can be difficult to ensure that employees are staying on task and completing their work to the required standard. While there are many remote employee management apps available (2), it can still be difficult to provide feedback and support to remote employees. This can sometimes lead to a sense of isolation and disengagement.
Remote work is dependent on technology, and tech difficulties can be a big hurdle. Poor internet connections, software issues, and similar problems slow down work and cause frustration for employees. It seems primitive, but remote workers will be dependent on their own devices, which can have an effect on the quality of work (depending on the nature of work, of course).
Remote work may result in the blurring of work-life boundaries. This is especially prevalent for those who work from home. It can get difficult to know when to get into relax mode and when to get into work mode, especially when one is always on call or must be ready to take on emergency tasks just because they are available at home. Not being able to separate those spaces can lead to earlier burnout (3).
As with most things, it is all about finding balance when it comes to remote work. Here are some strategies to consider:
The company's technology pack could be the solution to reduce the challenges of remote work. You could provide employees with the necessary devices, as well as have company-wide remote management software to track work time and log-off hours.
Provide support by offering training and development opportunities, take up business management courses for career growth, and/or access to mental health and wellness resources. It would actually be better if managers take this on proactively by checking in with their team.
Make employees feel connected to the business. Find the right balance between staying overly connected and having smart communication. Having video calls, team meetings, and pulse checks can build a sense of teamwork and trust. Ensure that communication of a work nature stays within the work hours while team interaction discussion can extend after work hours.
Setting expectations helps streamline tasks. This includes clear guidelines for work hours, response times, and deliverables. All of this could be in a written protocol that is shared with everyone. Clearly outline their role in the growth of the company, and how they can achieve the vision.
Encouraging breaks and time off is crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Remote workers might feel that they are always on because they don’t really have a clock-off time. Being always on usually causes early burnout. To reduce that, set a precedent where employees don’t feel uncomfortable taking time off from work.
Remote work has many advantages, but there are also some drawbacks to consider. However, it might be the new normal, considering many companies are sticking to the hybrid model of work, even after the pandemic. Finding protocols that make work productive, in the office or otherwise, is the way to go.
(1) Remote Work and the Globalization of Services
(2) Managing remote employees: 8 tips and best practices
(3) Surprising Remote Work Burnout Statistics in 2023
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