Nowadays, remote work has become a key part of most business structures. While large corporations may lead the way in terms of the number of remote workers they employ, smaller companies with smaller budgets, and also a growing number of freelancers, are also participating in the remote work revolution.
There is plenty of information out there detailing the positive aspects of remote work, but what about the negatives? Former Yahoo President and CEO, Marissa Mayer, famously ended remote work at the company altogether, believing that such a move would be good for business.
If she felt so strongly on the topic to make such a drastic move, it must surely be worth exploring the pros and the cons of remote employment.
Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the pros…
1. More freedom and flexibility
The best part about working remotely is that you get to work from anywhere. Instead of being stuck in traffic/on a packed train, and then sitting at the same desk every day, you can have an extra few hours in bed, and then open your laptop sat on your sofa with a nice cup of coffee, or even the garden, should the weather be nice enough.
There is also the flexibility of when you work too. When working remotely, you are no longer bound by the usual time constraints found when working in an office.
Within reason, remote workers generally find that they are trusted to set their own hours, and plan their own schedule accordingly.
2. You’ll save money
Remote employees can save a ton of money working from home. There is no need to spend money on fuel/public transport for the commute.
Morning coffee and lunch is made at home, and unless you have video meetings scheduled, there is no need for remote workers to wear anything more than their pyjamas.
All this totals up to an average saving of around $4000 (USD) per year in major US cities (according to the compiled results of several surveys).
3. You’ll teach yourself new skills
Remote workers don’t have time to wait around for answers from others. To get their work done, they need answers, and they need them now.
As a result, remote workers constantly find themselves learning new skills as and when they need them, on a task-by-task basis.
Just as entrepreneurs must proactively create their own solutions, remote workers must do the same, acting entrepreneurially by taking their work seriously, carefully planning their work activities, and always striving for the highest quality in their work.
4. Increased talent pool for businesses to pick from
As well as the above, a major positive element of allowing remote workers to be a part of your business is that the potential talent pool expands immensely.
It’s common that the best candidates won’t live within commuting distance and can’t, or aren’t willing to relocate. Assembling a team of top employees through remote work from all over the country or even the world is more than doable nowadays, thanks to a variety of interactive technologies.
All this means that expensive business trips are virtually eliminated, the need for physical office space is reduced, and increased productivity of employees is due to the flexibility that remote working allows.
While remote working hours may be less than traditional, the ability to check emails at any time can often lead to more work being done.
OK, so what about the disadvantages?
1. It can be a challenge to keep everyone fully in the loop
Even with all of the modern advancements in technology regarding communications and collaboration (conferencing apps, emails, SMS, cloud-sharing services, etc.) nothing can beat being physically present when thrashing out ideas.
Sure, fully remote teams can meet daily and do their best to keep each other in the loop, but what about when the teams have traditional office workers, as well as remote workers?
The guys and gals in the office are having daily chats at the water cooler, and thrashing out ideas on whiteboards, how are the remote workers kept in the loop? It’s possible, but it is a hurdle that must be overcome.
2. Remote workers can find it harder to feel part of the team
A lack of team cohesion can come as a result of having teams full of remote workers. Remote meetings aren’t the same as in-person discussions.
The usual difficulties faced are that it may take longer to establish trust, and develop smooth working relationships within a remote team than with an in-person team.
There is also the risk that remote employees will be focused only on their part of the work, with the knock-on effect that there is less focus on the bigger picture.
It takes a lot of work to make sure everyone is up-to-date with each others’ progress, and this is something that can be a drain on productivity.
3. Keeping motivated and focused can be tough
Motivation is a big issue when it comes to remote working. Some people simply aren’t suited to remote work. These types don’t have the discipline or temperament to thrive in a solitary environment.
Even if you can stay motivated to get your tasks done, there is the tricky business of keeping yourself focused to contend with.
Sure, you don’t have people coming past to ask your thoughts on the weekend’s game/the latest soap opera scandal, but your home is full of things that can sap your concentration away from your work.
Parents might find themselves overwhelmed looking after children, while non-parents can easily find themselves lost in their record collection picking some tracks out to put on to “help them stay in the zone”.
If you’re not careful, these distractions can multiply when working remotely, it takes a lot of willpower to keep your defences up against them.
- The risk of burnout
While remote workers can often be more productive than their in-office counterparts, one of the biggest problems remote employees face is burnout – it is a very serious risk to their health.
Sure, working from home has been shown to bring an increase in productivity, but it also means that you can find it difficult to disconnect from your work.
Remote workers often find themselves just doing a “little bit extra” before they go to bed, just because they can. As a result, quality downtime away from your workstation becomes rarer and rarer, and mental health certainly suffers as a result. Office employees might stay late, but once they go home, they’re home, and an switch off.
For remote employees, home is the workplace. This is something that must be properly understood before anyone embarks on a career working from home.
So, what’s the answer?
As you can see, working remotely comes with significant advantages and disadvantages. And what works for one company, team, or individual won’t always work for the next.
But as technology continues to advance, and our world grows more, and more connected, it becomes clearer and clearer that remote working is going to play a crucial role in the future of business.
It’s worthwhile, to honestly consider both the pros and cons of remote work before deciding whether or not it’s right for you, or your employees.
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What do you think are the major advantages disadvantages of working remotely? Did we miss any? Do you have any tales that you would like share with us? Let us know in the comments below…