The workplace as we know it is changing. And the chances are, your employees want the way they work to change, too. The global pandemic has hastened a pre-existing trend of remote and hybrid working (where employees divide their time between working in-office and working from home). As communications technologies have grown more sophisticated, it has become easier for teams to operate just as effectively and cohesively when working remotely as they could in-office. And with new tech solutions providing better video conferencing, intuitive project management tools, and even VR training and onboarding, that trend shows no sign of slowing.
It’s easy to see why working from home is appealing to employees. It gives back hours that would otherwise be spent commuting, gives them more time to spend with their families, and helps them to improve their work / life balance. In the wake of COVID, however, a growing number of Americans are adamant that they want to remain working from home. What’s more, 29% of employees are willing to quit their jobs if they can’t.
If you have employees within this group, you may reasonably as yourself “what do I do now”? Here we’ll look at the pros, cons, tangible benefits, and challenges associated with remote work in order to help you make an informed decision.
How is remote work changing the workforce?
Remote workforces have a number of implications for the operational models and workflows of their employers. The good news, is that these are broadly positive for both employees and their employers.
According to 2020 data from Statista, 50% of employers reported an increase in employee productivity when teams worked remotely. Global Workplace Analytics also reports that companies can make significant savings by enabling employees to work at home for half the time or more. Between reduced absenteeism, lower employee turnover, lower real estate costs and better disaster readiness, employers could save an estimated $11,000 per employee.
As the remote and hybrid trend continues, remote work available to employees may prove crucial to recruiting and retaining the right talent. Many candidates now expect to be able to work from home, with 62% of remote staff feeling that they would give preference to employers that offer remote work.
Adapting to remote work may require significant investment in new digital infrastructure to facilitate remote working, conferencing and project management. Nonetheless, these overheads may be eclipsed by the savings associated with a remote workforce.
What are the pros and cons of remote working?
In order to decide whether remote working is the right choice for your employees, you may wish to consider the respective pros and cons. While these will depend largely on your business, the size of your workforce, and your current operational model and infrastructure, we can look at some advantages and disadvantages that are generally experienced by companies with remote workforces.
The potential pros of remote working for employees include:
- Improved work / life balance
- Feeling safer and more comfortable
- Being more productive and satisfied
- Reduced fuel / commuting costs
Likewise, benefits for employers include:
- Cost savings
- Improved employee productivity
- Greater profitability
- Improved carbon footprint / green credentials
- Improved employee satisfaction
- Potentially improved employee recruitment and retention
While remote working has its benefits, it certainly has its caveats. It’s worth discussing these with employees that want to work remotely in order to ensure that they’re making the right decision.
- More distractions around the home
- It may be harder to stay motivated
- It can be harder to be creative in a vacuum
- Communication and collaboration with the team may be harder
- It can be harder to unplug when the working day is done
- It can be harder to feel that they have executed their deliverables to a high standard
What are good reasons for working remotely?
Your employees can likely furnish you with a number of reasons why working remotely may be good for both them and you. They will likely tell you that with remote work comes a better work / life balance, and thus a happier and more engaged team.
Without the stress of a daily commute, employees are likely to start their working days more positively, and because they have autonomy over how they spend their time, there is less chance of them feeling underwhelmed. Research by McKinsey shows that 49% of remote workers feel that they are at least somewhat less burned out.
As long as their employers provide the necessary support, tools, and infrastructure for successful remote working, employees can enjoy the best of both worlds. They can enjoy their working days and achieve their career goals while still working in the comfort and familiarity of the home environment.
What challenges do you face when you hire remote employees?
Hiring remote employees presents a specific set of challenges to companies that need to be weighed alongside the benefits of remote work.
There are potential difficulties building a cohesive team when working remotely. While collaboration and project management apps like Slack and Asana can be very useful, and video conferencing software continues to evolve exponentially, some may feel that these are no substitute for the office environment.
Speaking of digital infrastructure, as well as overcoming challenges to collaboration, employees must also leverage technologies to counter the cyber security risks that come with remote work such as unsecured personal devices, open home networks, or phishing emails. Employee training and a more robust cyber security infrastructure will likely be needed for sustained remote operations.
Lack of insight into employee activity may also be a bugbear for some employers. However, the evidence shows that remote working provides more boons than risks to employee engagement.
Employee recognition and rewards can also be slightly trickier to implement remotely. While there are a number of cloud-based employee recognition platforms available online, many employers may prefer to share and celebrate employee achievements in a shared physical space.
Hybrid working: The best of both worlds?
If your employees want to work remotely, but you’re not yet sure you have the infrastructure to facilitate this, hybrid working may be an effective compromise.
When employees share their working hours between working at home and on-site, they are able to enjoy more of the benefits while mitigating some of the risks. What’s more, employees still enjoy increased productivity and reduced overhead costs when employees work from home on a part-time basis.