Modern businesses have witnessed the rise of a major phenomenon in the past decade: remote working, or “working from home”. Portable devices and cloud-based software have allowed just about anybody to work from anywhere.
Remote working has introduced a variety of benefits and challenges, for both employers and employees. We’ll cover both perspectives, the positives and negatives, and a few tips for deciding if it’s right for you.
The employer’s perspective
Happier workforce, less attrition – A study from Global Workplace Analytics has shown that on average, two-thirds of employees would like to work from home, and 36% would choose remote working over a pay raise. Allowing employees to work from home can also reduce employee attrition, with 95% of employers claiming it has a high impact on retention.
Creates positive brand perceptions – Remote workers, particularly millennials, consider the ability to work from anywhere one of the biggest perks a modern company can offer. From a PR perspective, offering remote work can generate all kinds of positive buzz. Employees are more likely to speak highly of their company when they are afforded a certain level of flexibility.
A more diverse talent pool – If employers want to bring more unique and creative perspectives, they need to search outside their usual recruitment methods. For starters, hiring remote workers can open up the talent pool to new mothers, offshore developers, or even professionals in transition periods.
Reduces overhead costs – Office space, heating, lighting, electricity, Internet… there are a dozen different costs associated with having an employee work on-site. By having employees work from home, businesses can expect to save tremendously. One example cited in Forbes claimed to save roughly $78 million per year. Some remote businesses have even begun using virtual offices, which affords them a prestigious business address, mailing services, and meeting space.
Inhibits collaboration and communication – When employees work from home, all communication is done through email, Slack, or group video chats. While that’s not inherently a negative, the lack of a physical presence can result in slow dialogues or even miscommunication, especially if remote workers have a poor Internet connection.
Introduces new security concerns – Employees that work from home may be accessing sensitive company information from unsecured networks or compromised devices. Without tech support present, it can be difficult to gauge just how safe a remote employee is from being compromised.
Reduces employee accountability – Since remote workers aren’t constantly being supervised, there’s much less pressure to actively focus and complete certain tasks. When you throw in the comfort of one’s home in the mix, it’s very likely that remote workers won’t always be working on the clock.
The employee’s perspective
Creates a better work-life balance – Even when employees are only given one day to work from home, it can have a tremendous impact on how one juggles work and home life. It can also help reduce the stress that results from a frantic office environment.
No commute – Whether workers drive to work or take public transit, getting up early, paying for gas or train fare, and then sitting in traffic (or standing in a crowded carriage) can be a rough way to start the day. No commute means employees can start working almost immediately, and they may even save money while they’re at it.
Eco-friendly – No commute also means no pollution. Carbon emissions from vehicle traffic are one of the major contributors to air pollution and can lead to various health risks. Working from home is a safer and greener option.
Instills a sense of employee autonomy – Without a supervisor to micromanage every single decision or action, employees have greater freedom to own their work process, and even their appearance.
Prone to home distractions – Remote workers may be free from office distractions, but not from distractions in their own home. It might be something important, such as some pipes that need maintenance, a garden that needs cutting, or pets that need tending. Other times it can be completely trivial- like wanting to watch Netflix or meet up with friends.
IT Infrastructure dependent – In an office, employees already have computers, Internet connections, printers, scanners, and software installed. In remote settings, some of that will have to be manually set up by the employee, which can create situations where some employees have better connections and experiences than others.
Overworking and burnout – The danger of working from home is that you might end up working after office hours. It’s important to create a system in order to distinguish your work responsibilities from your home life.
Is working from home right for you?
It takes a certain personality and character to work from home efficiently. For some, working from home can feel liberating, for others, it can stunt productivity. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Can you work at home without getting constantly distracted? – Getting sidetracked every once in a while happens to everyone. However, if you’re easily distracted from completing your work on time, working from home could be a challenge.
- Do you have a working computer and a stable internet connection? – Without an office, you’ll be expected to set up an adequate workstation to get all your tasks accomplished.
- Can you draw the line between work and home? – Some people take their work home with them, and never stop working. Can you turn off the work notifications past a certain time?
- Can you stay responsive to the rest of your team? – Working from home can sometimes make you feel like you’re on your own timeline, isolated from the rest of the team. It’s important to schedule regroups and even video chats every once in a while.
The Importance of a Physical Workplace
Have you ever tried working while laying in bed or relaxing on the couch? You’ll find that you get much less work done. Whether your employees work from home or on-site, it’s vital that they have a set space for their office supplies and equipment. Not only does it create a more organized work environment, but it’ll help establish a more productive and professional mindset.
Novel Coworking offers competitive plans for remote workers, as well as those who prefer a traditional office space.
Learn about the benefits of coworking spaces.