In the wake of a seemingly endless battle between allowing remote work versus completely banning it from the office, what's a workplace leader to do? With major companies IBM, Yahoo and Best Buy revoking remote working from their policies, it would seem they came to the conclusion that allowing flexible working brought a negative impact to company productivity and collaboration. However certain companies like Buffer, Zapier and Basecamp are almost 100% remote - and claim they're more successful because of it. So, how should companies feel about this style of working? The answer isn't quite black and white. Here, we muddle through the gray.
Pros of Remote Work
Attract More Talent
Trends come and go, yes, but this one only seems to be gaining strength. Since 2005 the amount of regular work-at-home (non self-employed) workers has grown by 115 percent. While nearly 43 percent of the entire U.S. workforce works remotely at least some of the time, more than 80 percent admits they would like the option to telework in the future from their current employer. By considering the option to offer this to your team, you're keeping up with the demands and expectations of your current and future employees. This may make your organization more attractive to top talent.
While it's true this is dependent on the individual doing the work, most remote employees actually get more done at home than they would have in the office. In a recent study it was found that remote workers completed 13.5 percent more calls than their office counterparts. To put that in perspective, that is equivalent of almost a full extra day’s worth of work in just a week.
Another study held by ConnectSolutions found that 77 percent of their remote team got more done because of less office distractions like noisy coworkers. It was also recently reported that only 7 percent of workers feel most productive during regular office hours. Each of your employees is different, and the work they do is different as well. Some people are most motivated to tackle their to-do list in the early hours of the morning, while others get a spark of creativity after the sun goes down. It's actually rather ignorant to expect every individual to work in the same way.
Your Company Could Save Money
This pro is a win-win when it comes to money. Global Workplace Analytics found that businesses could potentially save around $11,000 per employee per year if they let half of their staff work from home. Also, employees themselves could save anywhere between $2,000 and $7,000 each year in transportation costs.
Cons of Remote Work
Even if your company's culture is strong, keeping those relationships between coworkers and cultivating an environment when people work apart is going to be a challenge. Since phone conference calls and video chats can only get you so far, there is a definite loss of situational awareness and body language that happens when face-to-face is actually face-to-screen. It is difficult for teams to always stay up-to-date with what's happening in the office, and remote employees often feel mistakenly left out or ignored by the office team. It can also prevent interactions between coworkers that would spark innovation, or ideas that could help the company. If they're not around to rub elbows with each other, they won't.
While many employees agree that the sound of Karl crunching carrots in the next desk over is an annoying side-effect of working at the office, heading home or to a coworking space doesn't remove all distractions. If anything, it creates new ones. Laundry piles and dirty dishes can be just as distracting to some as noisy coworkers. Also, many people work outside of office hours, meaning restless children and spouses may not always respect the fact that the office door is closed.
Deciding to Allow Remote Work
Successful remote work is based on three core principles: communication, coordination, and culture. If your company is strong in all three categories, remote work might be a suitable option for at least some of your staff who show an interest in doing so.
This article may not be able to give you a clearly defined answer because deciding if remote work is feasible at your organization is a complicated decision. There isn't a blanket one-size-fits-all solution. It's up to the workplace leader to understand your building and the people who work there. If remote work becomes part of your company's culture, it's up to you to also provide the tools they need to work whether in house or away from their desk. You see the ins and outs of your organization like no one else can, while the decision to allow remote working may ultimately fall on the shoulders of teams' managers, it is the job of the facilities leader to understand how to make remote working, well work.
If you want a bit of perspective to help compare your company to the current trends happening in the workplace, here are some recent statistics pulled from organizations polled by Huff Post:
- 53% of companies continue to have standard workplaces, with nearly every employee coming into the office 4 or more days each week.
- 37% have a main office with some people working remotely.
- 10% have no office space at all.
Remote working can be a truly wonderful option for companies, however it's clear the path to success is different for each organization. Some find allowing employees to complete responsibilities on their own terms works, while others prefer the more traditional structure of a physical office space. Whichever route your company chooses to go, just remember to keep your employees at the forefront of your decision, and be open to new ideas of thinking. By understanding the benefits and the issues that come up with remote teams, you'll be much better prepared to handle both when they do arise.