Remote working is no longer a nice to have. Increasingly it’s become a “must have” for many people when they look for their perfect job. If 2020’s pandemic has taught us anything about the way we work, it’s that working in the office is no longer a necessity. Research has showed us that working remotely has been effective for many people. Data from Gallup revealed that between 2012 and 2016 remote working increased by 4%. This is increasing over the last few years as more people are choosing the flexibility of working from home.
Working remotely is effective for many reasons. For a business, it’s an opportunity to build trust and accountability with employees. This ultimately impacts performance, productivity and employee engagement.
What are the pros and cons of working remotely?
Here are some of the pros of working remotely which we will go into detail later on.
- Increased flexibility
- Increase financial wellbeing
- Positive employee branding
- Lower costs for a business
- Lack of socialising and face to face communication
- Distrust and micromanagement
- Ineffective communication
What are the benefits of working remotely?
Flexibility is up there in the pros. Gallup research revealed that 54% of office workers say they’d leave their job for one that offers flexible work time. This flexibility allows employees to balance family and work life. Life admin tasks that would otherwise fill up the weekend can now be done during the week because you aren’t tired and exhausted from commuting and spending the day at the office.
The flexibility to work from wherever you want could be financially beneficial for many people. For example you could be earning a big city salary while living in a smaller town, saving on your living and commuting costs. A study from FlexJobs revealed that remote workers save around $4000 annually by working from home, which comes from saving on commuting costs, as well as saving on coffees and lunches and a professional wardrobe.
This positive impact on financial wellbeing can make employees feel more motivated and happier about their job.
Offering remote working is a good way to recruit people as well as retain your employees. More people are looking for perks such as flexible working when they apply for jobs and if your organization does that, it’s a huge benefit for you as you will attract more candidates. This opens up the talent pool so you can recruit people from other locations. According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 51% of those surveyed reported that remote work opportunities helped attract candidates to the company.
It’s also a way to retain existing employees and top performers. One study found that workers that worked from home were more productive, reported feeling happier and quit less than those who weren’t working remotely.
Cost saving for a business
For many organisations, offering remote working is an effective strategy for saving on business costs. If less people need to be in the office, you can hire out a much smaller and cheaper office, or have no office at all! A recent study by Gartner found that many CFOs are looking to shift a significant number of their employees to working remotely, even after the threat of COVID-19 has passed. Gartner interviewed 317 financial leaders across a number of organisations. Some respondents to the survey said that they would look at permanently transitioning to remote working. Around 4% of the respondents said that they would leave 50% of their workforce remote. 17% said they would keep 20% of their staff offsite and another 25% said that 10% of their workers shouldn’t return to an office. Many organizations have now decided to offer more remote working opportunities or go completely remote. For example, Siemens announced that they will be offering their employees 2 – 3 days working from home under their new “mobile working” scheme.
Learn best practice on the Performance Management Academy
Join the Performance Management Academy for free, where you can connect with other HR professionals to learn about best practice, as well as take free courses on Continuous Performance Management.
What are the disadvantages of working remotely?
Working remotely can have some disadvantages however these can be easily overcome if effective processes are put in place.
Lack of face to face interaction
Many remote workers cite the lack of face to face interaction as one of the biggest disadvantages of remote working. According to the Institute of Leadership and Management, the lack of face to face communication can lead to feelings of isolation and paranoia and many employees felt overwhelmed with the number of emails.
However to reduce the feelings of isolation, it is important to schedule weekly social catch ups with your colleagues whether it is through video conferencing, or if you are able to, in person.
Poor management techniques
For remote working to be effective, there needs to be good management. Managers who haven’t been trained effectively to manage remote staff, may resort to micromanaging — making employees feel demoralised and not trusted. Unfortunately, this is a concern among many organisations. Research from Microsoft found that almost 73% of employees and managers said they didn’t trust their remote working colleagues to get on with the job. However, this is far from the reality. According to the study, 70% of employees claim that they get more done when they are away from the office than when they are at their desk. And two in five people said that they are more creative when working flexibly.
Traits of good managers include trusting their employees by making them accountable and by allowing them to take ownership of their work.
Lack of effective communication
Effective communication can be a challenge for many remote workers. According to the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), remote workers reported unclear and inadequate communication and often felt a lack of shared purpose and identity.
This can be easily overcome by collaborating together on shared goals and through communicating each employee’s purpose and role in achieving the overall objectives.
Having the right technology can help to clearly communicate goals, align your team and prioritise tasks. For example, if you usually discuss tasks in the office, a lot of things can get lost in passing and forgotten about. Recording tasks and goals on a system that is accessed by your whole team, can reduce this by removing any uncertainty.
Having regular scheduled check-ins and catch ups also allows you to talk about your tasks and key priorities.
Is working from home more productive?
Some managers feel uncomfortable with the idea of their employees working from home. For these types of managers, all they care about is presenteeism. And if you are working from home, “you must be watching the telly or procrastinating.” However, research shows that people who work from home are more productive. According to Owl Labs, 79% of employees reported increased productivity and 78% reported less stress, as well as increased job satisfaction.
Another study also compared office workers to remote workers and found that office workers on average spent 66 minutes of their day discussing non work topics whereas remote employees only spent 29 minutes. This adds further evidence to the fact that working from home is more productive for many employees.
As more people are requesting flexible working, organizations are also finding that remote working makes employees more productive. 72% of companies with remote work policies say that it makes their workers more productive.
How do you effectively manage a remote team?
Regular communication as well as clear goals is key to managing teams remotely. Managers should formalise virtual face to face communication with their team to discuss priorities and tasks for the day. Regular scheduled check-ins also help to discuss progress of tasks as well as talk about any other issues or concerns that an employee might have. Communicating achievements and celebrating wins is also important to help your team feel appreciated, recognised and motivated.
If goals aren’t clear to your employees, it can bring up a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. It’s essential that goals are clear and visible for all team members so that they have a shared purpose. In John Doerr’s book“Measure What Matters”, we learn that“lack of alignment is the number one obstacle between strategy and execution”. Well-written goals, clearly aligned to your organization’s strategic objectives, help your team to understand how they contribute to the big picture.
What technology do you need to work from home?
The right technology and tools give structure to remote working. You need ways in which you can communicate effectively, whether it’s a way to chat with your colleagues or a way to communicate tasks.
Project management tools like Trello and Asana are a great way to track specific tasks if you want an overview of all the activity that’s happening in your team.
You also want to make sure that you aren’t just relying on email to communicate because that can be overwhelming for many employees. Try to use more informal means of communication such as Slack, which lets you chat to your employees. Video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts are helpful for meetings and face to face communication.
Performance management technology can also help with understanding how your employees are performing. Clear Review for example enables organizations and managers to make goals clear to the rest of their team. It gives you visibility on the progress of your employees’ goals and objectives as well as any feedback they get.
Find out how you can maximize productivity, even when your team is remote.
Download our eBook on “Maximizing productivity in the new normal.” This eBook explores our 5‑step productivity model which is built on key elements of performance management and employee engagement.