It’s integral to team success that everyone is working at their best, wherever that may be. With technology no longer being a factor of limitation, remote working is not just a concept, but a reality. In today’s business environment, both large and small companies alike are considering and implementing remote working. 79% of knowledge workers in a global survey by PGI said they work from home, and 60% of remote workers in the survey said that if they could, they would. Clearly, on the employee side, this method of working is something which is greatly desired. However, before you consider working remotely or offering the option to employees, you should examine both the pros and cons.
The topic has been widely researched as organisational adoption has increased in popularity. As such, we decided to collaborate with our friends over at TimeDoctor, who have written an article regarding the retention of remote workers. This article focuses on the advantages and disadvantages of remote working, specifically the three main factors we believe are worth considering.
Arguably, the greatest advantage of remote work is the flexibility it provides. It allows employees to manage their day appropriately, according to the task they have set, opposed to a rigid time structure. Allowing individuals to work at their most productive hours of the day and have a greater independence with time management. Remote work has shown to be very well received by those who require the flexibility it provides. For example, if an employee needs to handle an inevitable personal issue, remote work allows them to do this with greater efficiency. It also allows the employee to work anywhere they wish, whether that be at home, in a coffee shop or sitting in the park. Meaning the opportunity to be free to decide where you’d like to work, means you can create the ideal workspace for your needs. Flexible work equals happy work.
Learning new skills
By changing the way you work and the environment which you work in, you must adapt your methods of operating. As such, you learn new skills. Whether that be developing a capacity for self-management or attention management. Remote working encourages an almost entrepreneurial nature, as you are now in control of your time and achieving daily goals. You are no longer as governed by someone else as you might be in an office. As such, you can learn new things when you wish to, read that new book in between performing tasks perhaps. If the work is done effectively, you can manage your time how you wish. Remote workers may find themselves a lot more productive in their learning, as they can allocate time to the planning and preparation of tasks more effectively. Although as a Productivity Ninja, you should try to be in control and manage your time as much as possible no matter if you’re working remotely, or from the office – it can often be easier when your line manager isn’t right next to you.
It’s cheaper! This applies to both the company and the employee. Companies of all sizes report significant decreases in operating costs. To further this, a recent PGI study, shows that the average business would save up to $11,000 per employee per year if employees worked remotely just part-time. Such savings are shown in office supplies, utilities, real estate costs etc. The study outlines the saving of an employee working remotely just half the time. It is clear to see the savings that could be made by those who incorporate a full-time remote option to the workforce.
On the employee end, Harvard Business Review and an independent study reported that remote working reduced the daily costs to workers. Further to this, they are more productive, more willing to work overtime, and more likely to stay with the company longer. There is a clear saving to employees through the reduction in commuting costs. A recent report by Nutmeg.com suggests workers in the UK spend an average of £50,000 on commuting over the course of their career. And now think how much money you’ll be able to save through eating at home most days.
Remote Working Challenges
By working remotely, you can no longer just knock on someone’s door or head over to their cubicle to discuss a task or project. It’s more difficult to communicate, and effectively at that. Therefore, it’s important to actively encourage the path of communication. This could be done by using applications such as Skype, Slack or Asana. A study found that 87 percent of remote workers feel more connected through the use of video conferencing. It could be improved by blocking out time each morning to discuss with the team, what will be done that day. This is a method we use with our Productivity Ninjas and rest of the team. It’s essential that communication is not lost, despite people working remotely. For the team to be successful, all members need to be engaged and contribute value. Don’t let the fact that someone can’t be talked to face-to-face, inhibit the working relationship and the task at hand.
Interaction is lost
Further to the point on communication, interaction between employees is essential and that can be lost through remote working. In a recent study, 87 percent of professionals think face-to-face meetings are essential for sealing a business deal, while 95% said they are key to successful, long-lasting business relationships. However, according to statistics published by the Guardian, 90% of workers say flexible working doesn’t impact their ability to collaborate with colleagues. Whether it be stopping by someone’s office to discuss a project, chatting in the break room over coffee or grabbing after work drinks. These types of social interaction with peers is not possible when working remotely. A way to combat this, is to spend some time in the office. A lot of companies who offer remote working, insist that a couple of days a week/month/quarter are spent in-house. This is to maintain physical interaction and allow for traditional communication and collaboration. Although, by having time to yourself away from peers, can indeed help reduce distractions.
Although office distractions are reduced when working remotely, another set of distractions replace them. Depending on the individual and their environment, these can be lesser or greater. Naturally, personal distractions can spring up and it can be difficult to maintain focus. For example, a lot of those who wish to work remotely are enticed because they can manage things at home. Although, this could possibly increase the distraction to work. To try and reduce this possibility, employees could be held accountable for their tasks and level of productivity. A way of doing this can be through setting daily deadlines or investing in time tracking software that will automatically track how much time your remote employees are spending on certain tasks. An automatic time tracking software will show you exactly where remote employees are spending time. Not only does this help improve the employer and employee relationship by making time tracking easier, but it also increases productivity.
If you are interested in working remotely or implementing it in your organisation, we run time management workshops which provide insights into how to stress less and achieve more. Working remotely comes with both advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to note that what works for one team or individual, won’t necessarily work for another. So, give it a try and see if the style suits your lifestyle and business.
By Miles Singleton
Miles is Think Productive’s Editorial Content Producer.