Businesses worldwide have had no choice but to close their offices and, where possible, move their staff to a remote working arrangement in response to government guidance, helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keeping their employees and clients safe.
Remote Work Strategist, Laurel Farrer, said that it typically takes six to twelve weeks for a smooth transition from on-site working to working remotely. Of course, this is under normal circumstances, and many workers were blindsided when their employers suddenly asked them to remain at home rather than attempting to come into work back in March of this year, with most companies opting to act before the government enforced a strict lockdown for those who are not key workers.
No one expected us to be in a pandemic situation in 2020, but businesses are finding themselves having to adjust to these unprecedented times on the fly and, since there was no option to offer staff a smooth transition into remote working, many have faced teething problems.
Despite these challenges, experts agree that the shift to remote working will not transpire as a temporary measure in light of COVID-19 and, instead, will redefine the future of work.
If we really are looking at a new way of working in the future, it’s important that we understand the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely.
Positive Effects of Remote Working
Working from home saves a lot of time and money for your employees, especially if they have a long commute to make every day, and that can have a positive impact on your business as well.
If your staff are working remotely, they will likely have more time to do things they enjoy or to get more sleep in or housework done. This will all inevitably have a positive effect on their happiness and motivation in the long run.
Of course, no travelling to work also means no lateness! Which can be a massive bugbear for employers.
When fewer employees work on-site, you won’t need as much office space which can save you a lot of money every month if you are renting a business property. Having more employees working from home will also reduce your costs on office materials and equipment.
There are also commuting costs which can take a good chunk of money out of your employees’ pockets. So, it is a win-win situation in which both employees and the company can save a lot of money.
You can argue that employees working from home are more productive than those working in the office – something that has been investigated and proven by numerous studies.
For example, a study from Stanford found that employees working from home are, on average, 13% more productive.
However, note that this will not apply for all workers as some will find working from home difficult when it comes to being able to concentrate on work.
Recruitment and Retention Flourishes
Remote working is a desirable benefit that many job seekers look for in new employment, and employers who offer this in their recruitment and talent acquisition efforts will likely benefit from more successful recruitment and retention.
It’s harder to organise your day when you’re mandated to work on company premises. But when you’re at home, you can pretty much manage your time in whatever way fits best with your life and other commitments – so long as you are putting in the expected number of hours and your output does not suffer for it.
For the most part, all you need to work remotely is a computer connected to the internet and a mobile phone, which means that employees can set up their office wherever they want. Also, they can arrange their workspace as they like.
Remote workers are likely to only take sick leave when they have serious medical problems that require them to go to a doctor or hospital as they are already at home and are able to slouch around in their PJs and work from the bedroom if needed – something that is obviously not possible when you work from the office.
Negative Effects of Remote Working
Work-Life Balance May Suffer
Working remotely isn’t just a different way to work – it’s also a different way to live, and it isn’t always as perfect as it may seem. In fact, many remote workers struggle with unplugging from their work which may have a negative work-life balance.
Remaining disciplined throughout the day is an important aspect of working from home as it will help to avoid certain distractions when you need to knuckle down with your work. For some people, this is easy to do, but it can be a struggle to switch into ‘work mode’ when working from home.
To avoid distractions and stop productivity from suffering, remote workers should make sure their work environment is tidy before starting work and that they have organised themselves in the right way.
Lack of Connection
Remote employees can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the company. Not being able to connect personally with team members may cause remote employees to feel like they are not a part of the company’s culture and important company moments.
Read our post on how to stay connected while working remotely for some great tips on how to combat this.
Lack of Communication
Communication problems are something every company that has remote employees is trying to improve. As these employees are often excluded from every-day, spontaneous happenings in the offices, it is important to present some of that culture to them.
Lack of communication, in the long run, often causes lower levels of engagement and motivation. Therefore, employers should put more effort into encouraging remote employees to join the conversation and feel like a part of the team.
Reliability and Accountability Suffer
When employees work remotely, management can experience less control over their staff. It is not easy to manage and track everything that a remote employee does, especially if their work is not highly measurable.
For this reason, it is extremely important to build a strong sense of trust in your staff.
If your business deals with sensitive data, remote working can introduce new risks and challenges. When you put something online, especially when it goes public, it’s almost impossible to take it all back.