Remote work: Working remotely pros and cons
What is remote work?
For those wondering ‘does a remote job mean working from home?’ the resounding answer is, kind of. Remote work, also called telecommuting or telework, is a work arrangement where employees perform their jobs and responsibilities from a location outside of a traditional office or workplace. Rather than commuting to a physical office, remote workers use technology and digital tools to work from their homes, co-working spaces, coffee shops, or other locations where Wi-Fi is readily available.
Remote jobs have been around for some time; however, the pandemic certainly added a very bright spotlight to the idea as people scrambled to keep their businesses running – somewhat steadily. Business owners were glad to have people working from home when they couldn’t come into the office, and workers were glad to do it. Now that employees can come back to the office, many don’t want to – at least not full-time. And employers are giving them the option to continue to work remotely on some, if not all, days. A McKinsey study found that out of 25,000 American workers surveyed, 58% had the opportunity to work remotely at least one day a week, and 35% had that opportunity five days a week. Out of those given that opportunity, 87% took it. Those are pretty exciting stats for those wanting to work remotely.
One of the biggest considerations of working from home is technology. Remote work heavily relies on digital tools and communication technology, including email, video conferencing, project management software, and cloud storage, to enable team collaboration and productivity. Consultants and freelance workers, in particular, find remote work to be a very effective way to deliver their expertise and services as it aligns naturally with their line of work. Depending on the project load, this work style makes working with multiple clients at the same time very easy for consultants.
The remote working style benefits both employees and employers by reducing costs, increasing productivity, and providing a better work-life balance for workers. However, it also presents challenges related to communication, collaboration, and maintaining a sense of company culture when employees are not physically present in the same location. Keep reading for more on the pros and cons of remote working.
The pros of working remotely
Let’s start with the pros as there are many. There are numerous advantages that contribute to the growing popularity of remote work among employees and business owners alike. Take a look below:
Employees really appreciate the ability to work remotely as it allows them to create more flexible schedules that better align with their personal lives. This freedom and flexibility tend to lead to improved work-life balance and reduced stress.
It truly depends on the individual, however, many remote workers find themselves with higher levels of productivity. Having the ability to design their work environments to suit their preferences, reduced distractions from co-worker conversations, and just a more Zen-like feeling contribute to this increase in performance.
There are cost savings that come with remote work. Employers benefit from reduced overhead costs associated with maintaining physical office spaces.
Employees see savings on commuting, work attire, and daily meals. Those quick coffee breaks with a colleague each day could cost upwards of $20 each week. And avoiding the daily commute can lead to less stress and more time for personal activities or professional development. In addition, fewer commuters on the roads means less traffic congestion and a smaller carbon footprint, which is a benefit for everyone.
Casting a wider net for employment
Opening your business up to remote working gives you access to a wider talent pool. You can tap into a global talent network, as you’re not limited to hiring people who live in close proximity to your business. This certainly answers the question, ‘can you work remotely from another country?’ fairly easily. Having this larger talent pool affords the opportunity to have a more diverse and skilled workforce, and to more easily find someone who is the right fit in terms of skill, experience, and salary requirements.
Mental health and well-being
Working remotely allows employees more time for exercise, healthier meal choices, and the ability to create a workspace that promotes physical and mental health. In addition, it makes it much easier to juggle the responsibilities of work and personal life. The flexibility of remote work helps alleviate the pressure people feel when faced with choosing work over personal life, and this can greatly improve overall well-being as well as employee morale.
When you consider all the benefits of remote working, it’s hard to understand why all businesses wouldn’t offer or want this option. The truth of the matter is that remote work style is not optimal for all business types, and not everyone thrives in a remote working environment. We dive into the cons of remote work below.
The cons of working remotely
While remote work has many advantages, it also comes with its share of challenges and drawbacks. Like the pros, the cons of remote working do not apply to all, as it really depends on what best fits your business and staff. Let's take a look.
Isolation and fear of missing out
Some remote workers may experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, as they miss out on the social interaction and camaraderie that can be found in a traditional office setting. Working remotely leaves some individuals feeling like it’s next to impossible to build professional relationships and company culture falls by the wayside. It's a fair feeling, even with all the advancements in technology to make communication more streamlined, you can't beat being together, in–person.
This one really depends on the type of work you do and the size of your team. Effective communication can be more difficult in remote work environments, and this can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and a potential lack of clarity in tasks and goals. As a boss and owner, keeping communication breakdowns at bay should be a top priority to maintain an efficient workplace.
Under-supervised and over-distracted
There's a hefty amount of both trust and responsibility that comes with remote work. Employees will typically have more autonomy, but less oversight from managers can, and at times this can lead to concerns about accountability and productivity.
Along with not being under direct supervision, home environments can be filled with distractions that hinder productivity, such as family members, household chores, and pets. Remote workers really must be extra focused to block these distractions out and make the most of their work time while remote. It takes some getting used to and really requires some balance. In fact, some remote workers find themselves over-focused and forget to take breaks or notice when the workday is over.
Tech and time zone issues
It almost goes without saying, that working remotely demands a high dependence on technology. This can quickly equate to technical problems, including internet connectivity issues and software glitches, which can easily disrupt workflow and completing tasks to meet deadlines on time. Tech troubles aside, if you've got remote staff spread out around the country or people working remotely in another country, you will run into possible scheduling challenges with those in different time zones. In addition, you may experience delays in email responses.
Remote work introduces security risks, as sensitive data and company information may be more vulnerable to breaches. Training of staff and installation of security tools and virtual private networks (VPNs) is essential with remote work. It's important to note that the impact of these disadvantages can vary depending on individual circumstances, job roles, and the company's policies and culture. Remote work isn't suitable for everyone and is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Effective remote work requires effective communication skills, self-discipline, and the right technological infrastructure to overcome these challenges. Employers and employees can work together to mitigate these drawbacks by implementing clear policies and strategies to ensure successful remote work arrangements.
Tips on how to stay productive
Staying productive while working remotely can be a challenge without having the right strategies and habits in place. It's fairly easy to maintain and even improve productivity with just a few simple steps you should encourage your employees to take. You can apply these to your own work as well. For starters, it helps to have a designated workspace that is free from distractions and as comfortable as possible. This will signal to the brain that it's time to work. Along those same lines, it’s incredibly helpful to create a daily routine with consistent working hours. Having a schedule can help employees stay on track and maintain a work-life balance. And while you don't need to insist your employees wear formal office attire, changing out of pajamas or loungewear can help workers get into a work mindset.
On the flip side, while having a routine is essential, don't be too rigid. Allow for some flexibility to adjust schedules when needed. In addition, short, regular breaks can boost productivity and creativity. Encourage employees to use these breaks to stretch, take a walk, or do a quick mindfulness exercise. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep contribute to improved focus and energy levels – all necessary to perform the job effectively.
Some remote workers find it useful to take advantage of time management methods like the Pomodoro Technique (working in short bursts with breaks) or the Eisenhower Matrix (prioritizing tasks) to structure their day. It’s helpful to start the day by setting clear objectives and prioritizing tasks. Some who work remotely find it helpful to share their goals and progress with a mentor or colleague to help them stay accountable.
Knowing what needs to be done helps with focus. Productivity tools and apps like project management software, to-do lists, and calendar apps are helpful in terms of trying to stay organized. It’s important to focus on one task at a time. Multitasking can reduce the quality of work and decrease overall productivity. Though it may seem difficult, it’s important for remote workers to learn to say no so they don’t overcommit to tasks or projects. Set realistic expectations about what can be accomplished in a day.
Whether you are a business owner or an employee, probably one of the toughest aspects of working from home is dealing with distractions. Work hard to identify and minimize distractions by silencing your phone, turning off social media notifications, or using website blockers. Also, clearly define your work hours and communicate them to others in your household. It may take some time for the family to comply, but by providing the details and your expectations of their behavior while you’re working is a great first step to minimizing interruptions. Doing this also helps create a separation between work and personal life.
Work on keeping your home office or workspace, including digital files, organized. This helps eliminate wasting time searching for things as you need them. It’s important that you maintain regular communication with employees through video calls, chats, and emails to stay in the loop and feel connected. One of the most common dislikes of remote working is feeling like you’re disconnected. Keep the company culture intact by staying connected.
Remember that productivity levels will vary from person to person, so it's essential to find what strategies and routines work best for your team. Experiment with different approaches and make adjustments as needed to optimize remote work productivity.
The future of remote work
As we look around, it doesn’t seem likely that remote work will suddenly stop. Rather, it seems to be catching on more and more. The future of remote working is expected to continue evolving in response to various trends and developments. While remote work can offer significant benefits, it will also require continuous adaptation and the development of best practices to help in maximizing its advantages while mitigating its challenges.
What we do see increasing are remote co-working locations and offices. Some popular names in this space include Regus and Impact Hub. These spaces help cut down the private life distractions and allow for teams to come together in-person on an as-needed basis. It reduces the cost of traditional office spaces by only paying for the time and space that you need.
As we head into this uncharted territory, we’ll see together how remote working evolves in the future – and as we see changes happening, we’ll be sure to update this post!