Since the COVID-19 outbreak, companies have allowed employees to work from home, also known as working remotely or telecommuting, especially if their physical presence in the office is not necessary. In an ever-changing world, where working from home is the new norm, businesses are still struggling to get the right formula. The battle to have flexible schedules for employees and still deliver exceptional customer service and value remains a tug-of-war. Business owners and management are working on and reworking strategies. Human resources teams are working harder than ever as policies, rules, and regulations continue to evolve daily.
Hiring remote workers have continued to grow significantly in the past few years but working from home is not for everyone. Some people thrive in a structured office setting with colleagues around them while others prefer the quiet solitude of being at home. Working from home and remote work can mean many things: It could mean living somewhere where employees do not have to drive to work every day, or it could be working from home a couple of days a week or every Friday. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of working onsite in the office vs. working remotely vs. a hybrid structure combining both to determine which one is right for your business.
Working in the Office
Some employees flourish in a more defined office environment with managers and coworkers within closer proximity to work together as a team and brainstorm to share ideas and the workload. Employees working in an office have advantages and disadvantages, as does hiring personnel remotely.
Pros of Working in the Office
More Control Over Company Procedures, Guidelines, and Security Risks. Employees working in the office guarantee improved workplace standards and procedures with less security risk.
Company Culture and More Structure. Employees working in the office better influence positive company culture. Some employees perform better with the added discipline of the office structure with regular hours and supervision.
Focus and Productivity. Working in the office means your employees can keep their work and home life separate to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by family members, home maintenance issues, and other responsibilities at home.
Collaboration and Innovation. Employees have more access to managers’ motivation and coworkers’ inspiration for new innovations, project collaboration, teamwork, and brainstorming ideas.
Optimized Workspace, Technology, and Resources. Employees can be more productive and efficient with functional optimized workspaces and more access to printers, copiers, computers, and other office resources.
Coworkers Social Connection. Working in the office allows your employees to collaborate easier face-to-face with other colleagues to build relationships for more social interaction and feel more connected for better mental and emotional health.
Client Interaction. Depending on your employees' position, they may have more opportunities to interact with clients in the office.
Incentive for Career Advancement. Working in the office gives employees more face time with managers and mentors who can help them succeed. Employees' work performance may improve in the office hoping for the opportunity of career advancement and to be noticed by leadership for a job well done.
Cons of Working in the Office
Greater Overhead and Operating Costs. The cost of real estate, office space, parking space, ongoing operating costs, maintenance, and utilities including electricity, heating, water, and phone service, in addition to optional employer-paid staff lunches, snacks, and beverages, are all very costly.
Excessive Meetings and Distractions. Working in the office can lead to noisy open cubicles with loud conversations, unplanned meetings, and coworker interruptions that interfere with the task at hand and other commitments.
Work Balance. Working in the office can lead to the need for working longer hours, including working weekends and evenings.
Office politics and Drama. Working in the office can lead to dealing with unhealthy office politics, gossip, negative associates, and other coworkers’ troubles.
Daily Commute. The cost and time of daily commutes and the risk of transportation in inclement weather can cause stress and affect the overall health and well-being of employees, as well as any costly travel reimbursements.
Limited Candidates. Requiring employees to work in the office limits the talent pool of candidates for open positions.
Both businesses and employees benefit considerably from remote work. Employers enjoy the rewards of happier, more productive employees, and lower operating costs, while remote workers love the freedom and flexibility that working from home brings. When businesses offer great working conditions and a positive company culture, there are diversely talented candidates worldwide to help achieve the company’s goals. On the flip side, the pros and cons of working remotely are the same but the opposite of working in the office. In addition to the many advantages of remote work, fortunately for the disadvantages, there are solutions to rectify them with the right communications, procedures, policies, and tools.
Pros of Working Remotely
Decreased Overhead and Operating Costs. More employees working at home can significantly improve the bottom line by reducing the high cost of operating expenses with less office space needed.
Access to a More Diverse and Larger Talent Pool. With nearly no geographical limits, employers can attract better talent when it is not exclusive to local hires, specific areas of the country, and even worldwide.
Improved Performance and Higher Productivity.
No Commute, Saves Time – By eliminating their commute to work, inclement weather, heavy traffic, and employee tardiness, remote employees can easily start their workday on time being more productive.
More Focus - Working at home also allows employees to focus more on the job and projects with fewer distractions from socializing, unimportant meetings, and avoiding interruptions from coworkers. Fewer disruptions produce more concentrated work, fewer errors, and increased productivity compared to in-office employees.
Less Office Politics, Gossip, and Negativity. Employees spending a lot of time together can lead to office politics and employee gossip creating uncomfortable situations and forcing managers and HR to address it. Remote communication between coworkers eliminates most of this saving time and increasing productivity.
Happier Healthier Employees with Lower Absenteeism.
Flexi Time - Remote employees can usually work a more flexible schedule that can be adjusted more in line with their personal obligations and natural level of energy during the day. The traditional 9-5 working day no longer applies. Flexi time also makes it easier for remote workers to incorporate exercise into their day.
Personalized Workspace - Employees can arrange their workspace at home that best suits them and their personalities.
Lower Absenteeism - Not being exposed to sick coworkers in the office will reduce illnesses. By contrast, sick remote workers can stay home allowing them to take care of themselves while still being productive at home but lowering absenteeism.
Cost Savings - The pressure of budgeting for the additional cost of daily transportation to the office, a business wardrobe, and the expense of eating out with coworkers are removed saving the employee money and making for better work satisfaction.
Improved Loyalty and Job Retention. Happy, satisfied employees lead to improved loyalty and a sustainable employee culture keeping employees engaged and content.
Forced Modernization and Technology Adoption. Companies sometimes avoid upgrading to new equipment and technology due to the upfront cost. Employees going remote drives employers the opportunity to implement new technology to adopt modern tools and processes to be more productive and innovative.
Eco Friendly. Reducing the carbon footprint of daily commutes to the office, especially commuting alone and not carpooling, or using public transportation is better for the environment.
Cons of Working Remotely
New Security Risks. Remote work brings new risks and challenges to the organization when employees have the independence and liberty to work anywhere using public Wi-Fi or personal devices. Solution: Employers can appoint an employee dedicated to monitoring security risks. Security risks can be reduced by defining what networks and data should be accessible remotely. Establish clear and effective procedures and policies for employees working in public places and on personal devices.
Total Dependence on Technology. Employers need to ensure that remote workers remain current with technology that changes rapidly with laptops, emails, smartphones, systems, and software. Employees need to keep up to date on any new processes and stay in contact with coworkers and clients. Computer issues and software problems can occur. Solution: Ensure that remote workers receive adequate training and clear instructions on any new technology or software. Provide a point of contact for computer issues for tech help. Create a process that will help non-tech remote workers to identify the problem with instructions and cheat sheets.
Home Distractions, Limited Awareness of Activity and Projects. Remote workers can be easily distracted at home with children, pets, TV, hobbies, nice weather, errands, dinner that could be started, or laundry that needs to be finished. It is difficult for managers to check on the activity of remote employees or the progress of projects when they do not work in a physical office. Solution: Schedule frequent and open conversations or video calls about the progress of tasks and projects. In smaller offices, remote employees can check in with supervisors at the start of their day to discuss daily tasks and projects and touch base again at the end of the day to discuss accomplishments and any challenges they are encountering. Assigning tasks and projects with completion deadlines should be given dates to check in with supervisors on the progress of projects.
Burnout and Work/Home Life Balance. Remote workers sometimes feel overwhelmed when their workplace and home life overlap. Solution: Advise remote workers to have a clear separation between work and home/family life. Encourage employees to stop checking work smartphones for emails, calls, and messages after hours.
Feeling Isolated, Lack of Community, and Teamwork. Remote workers may feel isolated, lose motivation, and miss social interaction and engagement with other employees. Working from home can make it more difficult to work on projects with coworkers, brainstorm ideas, and have face-to-face meetings with managers and colleagues. Solution: Managers should schedule, at a minimum, weekly video calls for “face-to-face” time with individual staff to make them feel more noticed, connected, and not alone. Be sure to acknowledge birthdays, special occasions, and accomplishments. Remote employees should also schedule frequent video calls to collaborate with team members to brainstorm, discuss ideas and assignments, stay on task, complete projects, and stay connected. Leadership should schedule video sessions with team members, other departments, and coworkers, to brainstorm ideas for new projects and innovations. Leaders should create virtual team-building exercises to get the department together on video calls to just chat and play games. If employees live nearby, plan occasional lunches and get-togethers. Create channels or groups in your company communication tools exclusively for social objectives and inspire others to also.
Overlooked for promotions. Remote workers may be concerned about not being recognized for good work, accomplishments, and missed promotion opportunities. Solution. Managers should frequently sing praises to employees and reward them for a job well done. Openly discuss with employees their goals and ambitions at the company and make suggestions on how they can accomplish them.
Hybrid Structure – the Best of Both Worlds
Whether it is because employers are ready for employees to resume working in the office after 2 years of the COVID-19 scare, or to save overhead costs and improve the bottom line with employees working from home a few days a week, a hybrid setup may be the answer. Employees commuting between the office and work could mean working in the office a couple of days a week and remotely from home the other days. Or it might mean working in the office in the morning and working from home during the afternoon.
With a hybrid setup, it is the best of both worlds. Employees get the structure of working in an office and the autonomy of being able to work remotely. Working from home a few days a week can be incredibly rewarding. Employees get time to decompress after a long day at work, spend time with family, and have fewer distractions, but also get the benefits of working in an office to focus on responsibilities without home distractions and maintenance issues getting in the way. Working in the office a few days a week provides more access to managers while also being around other coworkers. There is more opportunity to network, build relationships, and have impromptu meetings. Workers also have more access to resources in the office, such as printers, copiers, and computers.
Before transitioning employees to a hybrid remote structure, onsite vs. remote work policies and procedures must be implemented:
How much time will be spent in the office vs. remotely from home
How will specific activities and tasks meet expectations and be completed: how, when, where, and by whom?
How will meetings and team projects be managed?
How will communications and meetings change?
How and by whom will the new arrangement be managed and evaluated?
How do we keep up? What can we do to meet these challenges head-on? The balance lies between attractive salaries, benefits, and flexible schedules all while ensuring inclusiveness and diversity to be able to employ reliable, forward-thinking employees that embody integrity and compassion.
All these changes and strategies can be exciting yet at the same time challenging, stressful, and expensive to the company and organization as a whole. On the flip side, the growing number of those working from home fully or even in a hybrid situation face the challenges of isolation, lack of camaraderie, and burnout. HR personnel must constantly invent new ways of keeping employees engaged, connected, and content while cultivating and enhancing company culture and camaraderie.
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