Remote work is almost as polarizing a workplace topic as the open office concept. Some people swear by it and think it’s the future, while others see it as an “only in case of emergency” option that is only marginally more productive than not working at all.
There are arguments to be made for both sides. But one thing is indisputable: Remote work has become a necessity, whether you like it or not. So rather than try to fight against it, let’s look at the pros and cons of remote work and how you can accentuate the former while mitigating the latter.
The pros of remote work
Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t have to mean sacrificing productivity or taking a step backward as a company. It can help your business advance into the next stage of your growth. Here are a few examples, along with advice on how you can take advantage.
PRO: Attract more and better talent
Workers want the flexibility to work remotely, and will decline a job offer or even leave a company for a job that allows remote work over one that doesn’t, according to Gallup. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2030, when Generation Z has fully entered the workforce, demand for remote work will increase by 30% (full content available to Gartner clients). Offering remote work is a way to make your company more attractive to candidates, while sticking to a blanket policy against remote work is a good way to miss out on top talent.
Advice: Market your remote work policy as a benefit when recruiting, and look for candidates with a proven record of successfully working remotely.
PRO: Save on overhead expenses
Leasing office space can be a massive expense, especially in major tech hubs. In addition to rent, you also have to consider maintenance and upkeep along with all the other little perks (snacks, beverages) that come with running a modern office.
Advice: Use some of the money you save by reducing office space to offer remote workers a monthly stipend to supply their own snacks and coffee at their home office.
PRO: Be more agile
Remote work enables teams to be productive across locations and time zones. Agile teams that are tethered to physical offices are vulnerable to transportation delays, available conference room space, and flexible work arrangements. By enabling your teams to collaborate and work together on projects remotely, you can help them stay agile regardless of their location.
Advice: Hold weekly video stand-ups with your distributed teams to share updates and ideas, and encourage collaboration.
The cons of remote work
There will inevitably be growing pains to evolving into a company that allows remote work if you don’t already have a policy in place. But with the right approach, you can nullify these downsides and create an effective remote work policy that keeps the best of both worlds.
CON: Less face-to-face collaboration
There’s no replacement for an actual face-to-face, physical interaction. But technology has come a long way since the early days of laggy, unreliable videoconferencing. In 2020, meeting face-to-face over video can be as easy as clicking a button, without having to brave traffic or risk spreading infections to your coworkers.
Advice: Use video meetings to help remote workers feel less isolated from their teams.
CON: Remote work can be distracting
This con may be more of a myth than an actual issue. In fact, a recent Software Advice survey found that 42% of remote workers feel more productive when they work from home, with less than 10% feeling less productive. If one of your employees is struggling with productivity during remote work, investigate before condemning remote work altogether. It could be due to a technology gap or improper setup.
Advice: Make sure that all of your employees have the technology they need, including software updates and VPN access, to work remotely. Also, encourage employees to set up a dedicated work area in their home.
CON: Technical difficulties of videoconferencing
We’ve all experienced the 10 a.m. meeting that didn’t actually start until 10:15 because of all the snags and difficulties of wrangling the web conferencing tool to work for everyone at the same time (with video and audio). You may also remember that those technical difficulties were as likely if not more likely to originate from the office as they were from one of your remote workers.
Advice: Find a web conferencing tool that works with one-click meetings, test a dry run before important meetings, and stick to what works.
More remote work resources
By focusing on the pros of remote work and minimizing the cons, your teams can be more flexible and more productive. After all, remote work is here to stay. For more resources on establishing a productive remote work policy, check out our remote work resource hub.
Software Advice Remote Work Surveys, November 2019
The remote work survey referenced in this article was conducted by Software Advice in November 2019 among 912 respondents who reported full-time employment in the United States. A follow-up survey was conducted in November 2019 among 394 respondents who reported full-time employment in the United States, 140 of whom reported not working remotely on a regular basis.