In recent years, it’s become increasingly common for some employees to work from a remote location, such as their home or a work-sharing space, thanks to the power of personal computing and high-speed networks. But remote work is still a subject of debate among human resources professionals and administrators who want to know: does remote work affect organizations in a positive or negative way? Does working remotely offer benefits for employers, employees or both?
Advantages of Working Remotely
Increased opportunities for employers to attract talent
Employers that offer candidates the possibility of working remotely have an advantage when it comes to recruitment. Remote work tends to be very attractive to prospective employees, especially for those workers who want to establish a good balance between their work and family life.
Reduced work-related expenses for employees
One of the primary benefits of remote work for employees is a reduction in work-related expenses, such as transportation. For example, a person who normally drives to work could save up to $160 every month by working remotely, thanks to the savings generated by not having to pay for parking, gas, and the use of their vehicle. Employees can also save on clothing and food expenses.
Employers also benefit from cost savings by having several employees work remotely, since this arrangement allows the employer to reduce the square footage of their office space.
The ability to work remotely in another city
Have you ever come across a job opportunity that seemed ideal, only to be disappointed to find out that the position is based in another city? Remote work allows employees to live in one place while working for a company based hundreds of kilometers away. Some employers want their remote workers to come in to the office on occasion, which can afford employees the opportunity to travel.
Reduced stress for employees
The ability to work from a remote location can considerably reduce the stress that some employees experience. Being in a comfortable, non-public environment that provides a feeling of privacy can be a major benefit for people who feel much more at ease when they are by themselves.
It’s also worth noting that remote employees can benefit from fewer distractions of the type that are commonly found in an office environment, including background noise, non work-related conversations among co-workers, and the comings and goings of fellow employees.
It should be noted that one of the major factors that contributes to employee stress is transportation problems that negatively impact their commute to work. This is especially a problem for employees who live in a city, whether they must deal with traffic jams or service disruptions to public transport. Knowing this, the ability to work remotely can be the key to an employee’s happiness and productivity.
Downsides of working remotely
One of the disadvantages of remote work is that it can be difficult for remote employees to develop a sense of proximity with their in-office colleagues: there’s no opportunity for off-the-cuff conversations at the coffee machine, or to head out for lunch together.
Remote employees can also suffer from the perception that it’s harder for them to show the value of their work to their superiors, making it harder to get a promotion. It’s also worth mentioning that the productivity of a team can be negatively impacted as a result of the absence of employees, which can hamper meetings, brainstorms and other team activities.
But while employee isolation can be inconvenient, for some people isolation can be a real advantage, particularly for people who prefer to be alone and to limit their interactions with other people, especially in the workplace.
The suspicion of non-productivity
The potential for absenteeism is an aspect of remote work that employers find worrisome, especially among controlling managers. Because remote employees aren’t subject to direct supervision, some employers think that this automatically means that they will not be as productive as they would be in the office. To remedy this situation, employers can implement a system of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to evaluate the productivity of employees; however, these KPIs must be tailored to employees’ unique positions. Managers must also learn to trust, and have faith in their employees.
The risk of distraction
Although the benefits of remote work make it an attractive concept for many people, the fact is that it isn’t for everyone. Many people are simply unable to stay productive when working remotely, usually because they can’t remain focused on their work. Some people need to be in a supervised environment to reach their full productivity.
It’s also true that remote work demands more discipline than working on-site. Remote employees need to take responsibility for their own productivity, and that means managing all the distractions (internet, TV, beautiful weather, the presence of family) that can keep a remote worker from their work.
It’s clear that remote work has its pros and cons, but ultimately, the advantages of remote work far outweigh the disadvantages. Thanks to powerful technology now available to nearly everyone, and propelled by the influx of millions of Millennials into the workforce, remote work will undoubtedly become more widespread in the years to come.