The trends which are driving digital transformations within each industry around the world are also changing the way workers look at how they do their jobs. Smartphones, cloud computing, and fast data access drive the demand (and the potential) for working remotely.
There are numerous collaboration tools which continue to evolve the way we all communicate with one another. From Slack to Pages to Google Docs, remote teams get work done faster than ever before because the world has become the new office place.
About 1 out of every 4 workers in the United States is working remotely at some frequency today. That figure has doubled since 2005. It doesn’t include freelancers, the self-employed, or independent contractors not hired in the traditional sense either. When those workers are added to the total, over 40% of the current U.S. workforce works remotely in some way on a regular basis.
Technology is not the limiting factor it once was. Companies find that hiring remote workers comes with some unique advantages. Employees gain the convenience of working where they want to be instead of commuting to a cubicle or shared working space.
There are disadvantages to this setup which must have a thorough examination as well. Here are the pros and cons of working remotely to review.
List of the Pros of Working Remotely
1. Everyone enjoys the added flexibility of the arrangement.
Working from anywhere is one of the best reasons to consider this employment arrangement. Workers get to choose if they want to work from their home office, the local coffee shop, or even down at the beach. This setup allows each employee the flexibility of designing their ideal workspace to promote higher levels of productivity.
Some jobs offer an additional layer of flexibility with time management. Workers can sometimes work when they want as well. There will always be time-sensitive activities, just as deadlines or meetings, but outside of those issues where everyone must be on the same page, you can set your hours and plan your own schedule.
2. Working remotely helps you to learn new skills.
People do not succeed or fail when working remotely because of their independence and personal drive (or lack of it). Although binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix instead of working will likely get you fired from this position, the same is true for any other workspace too. Distractions are everywhere today. You must learn how to discipline yourself to work independently.
Part of that discipline involves the courage to make decisions independently. Veterans who have worked remotely for years are often misjudged as being entrepreneurs because there is one quality both have in common: the need to find proactive solutions. Your decision-making, scheduling, and leadership skills all blossom with this arrangement.
3. Everyone saves money when working remotely.
The average employee spends $10 each day when commuting to work. That means the cost of getting to your job at a traditional office averages $2,600 per year. Since that’s the median, there are some workers who pay a lot more than that. Workers in Los Angeles, for example, pay over $4,000 per year. If you’re working remotely, then this money goes directly to your checking account instead of the local fuel station.
You’ll save money in other ways too when working remotely. There are fewer lunches at restaurants. You buy your own snacks at the store instead of the vending machine. You won’t have the same wardrobe costs to worry about since you can work at home in your pajamas.
Employers save money too. Even if they offer remote workers formal benefits (and don’t hire them as independent contractors), there are fewer spatial requirements to meet.
4. There are fewer social distractions for remote workers.
There is always a co-worker or two who wants to chat about whatever happened the night before. The “water cooler” atmosphere that limits productivity at work disappears when workers are planning their schedules at home. Parents might have their kids tapping on their shoulders or neighbors knocking on their doors, but these interruptions are usually less frequent than the co-worker wanting to get paid for talking about the football game they saw the night before.
5. Organizations can recruit and retain better people through remote work.
Companies which permit remote teams create more opportunities to retain their critical workers. Although some families find a home and stay there for generations, the average household moves 11 times over the course of their lifetime. Americans move more often than most developed nations. Each time this happens, the organization is at risk to lose their vital employees. By offering this option, key personnel can stay in their positions and still contribute to the desired end results.
6. Remote workers are more productive than the traditional employee.
SHRM reports that almost 80% of workers who work remotely in some capacity report that they are more productive when they work somewhere other than their office. Having more time at home creates fewer personal life stressors too, which reduces the need to take sick leave or vacation time. Workers who have permission to work remotely are more likely to stay productive, even if they feel under the weather, because they have immediate access to the tools needed to work.
Even if a company allows workers to be remote just one day per week, that is enough for many workers to take advantage of this benefit. Fewer sick days and leave time place less financial pressure on the bottom line of the organization too.
7. The advantages available to traditional workers still apply to remote workers.
If an employee is formally hired by an organization, then they receive the same benefits and coverage if they work remotely as they would if they commuted to an office each day. That means you’re covered by unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. If something happens to you while you’re working, no matter what the reason might be, then this coverage allows you to pursue medical care or receive financial assistance while looking for a new position.
Exceptions always apply based on personal circumstances, so not every worker may see the outcomes of this benefit. Having access to it, however, gives the remote worker an extra level of security which independent contractors and the self-employed do not have.
8. There are fewer limitations on the way that you work in this scenario.
Imagine sitting in a cubicle at the office. You work well when music is blaring loudly. Your co-workers would likely complain about the noise you create if you turned the music “up to 11.” Some employers restrict personal items on desks. These issues go away when you’re able to work remotely. If you focus better with the television on, then turn it on, and get to work. Play your music as loud as you want. Keep whatever knick-knacks or family photos you want on your desk. This is your space, which means you’re in more control.
9. Employers pay for less lost time when they allow remote workers.
According to information published by Training, there are some incredible statistics about interruptions that happen in the average workplace.
• The average employee works a total of 11 minutes before they’re interrupted in their work.
• Working in cubicles creates 29% more distractions compared to workers who are in private offices.
• All it takes is a 2.8-second interruption to double the error rate in the work of an employee. If that interruption reaches 4.5 seconds, then their error rate triples.
• Frequent interruptions increase worker exhaustion by almost 10%, creating a 4% higher risk for the development of physical health problems.
• It takes the average worker 25 minutes to return to productivity after a distraction.
These issues cause almost $600 billion in lost productivity for workers in the United States. That’s why SHRM notes that 30% of employees who work remotely and repot to an office say that being at home makes them more productive over an eight-hour shift.
10. Working remotely ensures team diversity.
You’ll receive more diversity within an organization when remote work occurs. Companies are limited with their workforce in the traditional hiring relationship because they must hire people who are local or are willing to relocate to their community. Working remotely changes that dynamic. Anyone can work from anywhere to contribute. That means you have more opinions offered in the workplace, different views, and even unique working styles that help everyone maximize their potential.
11. It helps you begin building a culture of strength.
Working remotely encourages workplace strength because it maintains high levels of motivation within each worker. When the benefits of working at home (or at a preferred location) are realized by the employee, they become motivated to maintain that structure. If the passion for this begins at the top, promotes inclusion within all corporate communication, and hands-on events include those who work remotely, then the workplace culture becomes stronger, not weaker, because of this environment.
12. Working remotely enhances innovation.
Creative people push the innovation envelope every day. Working remotely gives you access to more workers with this mindset. Although being remote can impact collaboration in negative ways, having a virtual playground for everyone to come together creates fuel for innovative fires. Even if ideas aren’t blossoming from this structure, workers and employers find that it promotes highly productive work.
List of the Cons of Working Remotely
1. Working remotely makes it difficult to stay in the loop.
Even with the communications apps and collaboration tools used in the modern workforce, a digital connection is not the same as a personal one. You can work productively on a team which is fully remote, replicating the traditional workplace, but it cannot replace a brainstorming session that happens spontaneously when people talk together. There are no “common ground” solutions here. Communication gaps are real when employers allow for remote workers, and if they aren’t addressed, then productivity levels can suffer.
2. There are fewer professional social connections available to remote workers.
Many people would say that their best friends are the people they got to know while working full-time at the office. When you’re cooped up with others for 8+ hours per day, there are social connections which form. You won’t get the co-worker who takes a walk with you on a lunch break when working remotely. Employers include remote workers for holiday parties and corporate events, but it isn’t the same as a workspace which comes alive each day.
3. Working remotely can cause isolation.
Many remote workers decide to work at coffee shops, libraries, or in public spaces to feel like they belong to their community. If you’re stuck at a home office every day, then there aren’t the same opportunities to engage in small talk or social chatter. Humans are social creatures. Working remotely creates a circumstance where you’re by yourself every day, all day, without much relief.
The Gallup Wellbeing Index reports that working remotely creates more stress when compared to other workers. Being on your own creates more worries and anxiety compared to the traditional employment relationship. 30% of remote workers say that isolation is either a “big problem” or “something of a problem.” Combine these issues with the need to stay productive and you’ve got a recipe for problems.
4. Distractions are a bigger problem for remote workers.
Parents love the thought of working at home, especially with little ones in the home, because they get to spend more time with their children. Once the need to balance full-time work with changing diapers, making formula, fixing lunches, and managing the daily schedule come together, it seems like there is never enough time to get things done. Workers begin setting their time based on deadlines and schedule demands, sometimes losing track of what day it happens to be.
5. Some organizations are unable to save money with this working relationship.
Employers often shift to independent contractors or freelancers when they want people to start working remotely because their costs for formal employment sometimes go up. There are data access protections which must be funded when allowing employees to work from home. Even if a VPN is made available to each worker, the need for enhanced cyber insurance creates additional costs that are not necessary when everyone commutes to work.
Depending on the size of the organization involved, the annual premium for a comprehensive cyber insurance policy, including first-party and third-party protections, could be higher than $120,000 per year. Even entrepreneurs who want to safeguard their own assets find that entry-level premiums are about $700 per year.
6. There are new privacy concerns which could impact the way organizations do business.
Working remotely changes the way network protections offer safety. That’s because employees start accessing internal networks from a variety of external locations. Several popular spots for remote workers to congregate, like a coffee shop or a library, do not offer the same Wi-Fi security structures that an organization might need to protect their intellectual property. The threat of having data stolen is enough for some companies to lose contracts, while others may find that HIPAA and other privacy regulations become costly to enforce.
7. Companies have no way to enforce remote working conditions.
When employees are required to report to an office for work, then there is a guarantee over the quality of working conditions for each person. That guarantee disappears when remote work occurs. Only a direct inspection of each home office and potential community gathering point would give an organization this information. Even if guidelines were offered to each worker with mandates to follow specific requirements, there are few ways to guarantee that they’re implemented by each worker.
That issue creates higher premium costs of for some insurance premiums, which is why independent contractors or freelancers are utilized instead of a traditional employee. This issue goes away when it is the worker, not the organization, responsible for following safety and security rules.
8. Working remotely means you become your own IT professional.
Workers might have access to superior technologies today for remote work, but it doesn’t mean they’re free of maintenance needs for those items. It is up to each employee to ensure their equipment is up-to-date with the latest operating system, software, and apps which allow them to be as productive as possible. Unless the computer, phone, or other mobile device is company-issued, each worker must check for updates, download patches, and install items. These issues cut into the productive time of the worker. It may also increase the security risks for the organization if updates are not installed correctly.
9. It creates time zone issues for some organizations.
If an organization decides to allow remote workers, then they can hire the superstar they found on the other side of the country instead of settling for someone who is local. That means a 3-hour time difference develops for an East Coast company hiring someone on the West Coast between the employer and the worker. Hiring someone in Alaska or Hawaii deepens this disadvantage even further. You might be up and working, but it could be 5am where your superstar lives. Organizations must use an impeccable auditing system which includes discussion transcription to ensure everyone stays in the loop.
These pros and cons of working remotely prove that productivity and financial wellbeing increase when this structure is present for an organization. Workers are happier, deal with less stress, and still meet their deadlines. Although there are some potential issues with communication and collaboration, the evolution of Cloud-based computing, combined with the affordable nature of modern technology, makes it possible for more businesses and workers to embrace this relationship than ever before.