work from home

Working from home in the context of today’s and future technological advancements is something that comes quite naturally. Allowing for flexibility is a requirement employees start having more frequently, and the benefits for companies can be huge. While it might seem like a blessing, and the solution to many problems, working from home has its downfalls too. In this article, we’ll be looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly of working remotely in today’s world.

Remote work. The good

I was thrilled when the legislation in my country allowed companies to offer the work from home benefit to its employees. I was thrilled at the idea that if I need to, or feel like it, I can take a day or a few days and work remotely. You might expect a delivery, have some workers in your house doing some repairing jobs, or your dog might be sick. Alternatively, merely needing the time to be quiet at home to work on something that requires full concentration.

Even if it’s just a few days here and there, or working only from home, remotely, the advantages are on both the employee as well as the company sides. The 2019 State of Remote Work report published by Buffer, a social media management platform, found that 99% of respondents prefer to work from home at least part of the time for the rest of their careers. Another survey, by Staples, released in February 2019, found that 64% of employees work at least part of the time remotely and that 67% would quit if their workplace became less flexible.

It’s probably also a personality trait, to prefer working in a different environment than your home, while some other people feel they’re more productive and happy if they are not interrupted by the office chatter and work quietly from home. For some, the commute is a nightmare, so they are thrilled at the idea of sparing that time. Colds and food poisoning make it miserable to go into the office, but staying in and work remotely is doable so that employees will take fewer sick days.

In a survey by Microsoft, Work without Walls, the top ten listed benefits of working from home for employees are around the ability to keep a work-life balance, save gas and avoid traffic and long commutes, be more productive overall, fewer distractions and a quieter, less stressful work environment, the ability to spend more time with their families and overall be environmental friendly as well.

For companies on the other side, having a motivated and more productive employee that on average puts in longer hours is always helpful. Companies that only have remote employees do save costs on office space, supplies, and snacks. Not being forced to hire from a specific city or area, you can choose the best people from anywhere, and get market insight from those geographies as well.

Employees will be more motivated, won’t be thinking about vacation all the time and will be in general more loyal and less prone to leave the company. The ability to allow employees to work from home depends on the nature of the job and the business. Working remotely is more prone in tech-related jobs, where programmers are keen on having a quiet time at home to be able to concentrate uninterrupted on the code writing or checking they need to do. It will be less frequent if at all possible in retail or healthcare, for example.

With all the video conferencing options and the collaboration tools available online, it’s easier than ever to work from basically anywhere. Be it a full arrangement as in the case of some start-ups, or a benefit one employee can take for a few days here and there, working from home has its benefits. However, this is not all sugar and honey, so let’s look at the bad and the ugly.

Work from home. The bad and the ugly

Remote workers face critical challenges in being as engaged as the ones in an office with their peers; they’re less satisfied and even less productive in some cases. The 2019 survey by digital workplace solution provider Igloo found that remote workers find enormous challenges around being included in meetings and general office environment as the current technical solutions don’t provide what they need. 

According to the same survey, 57% of the remote workers feel left out as some communication happens in person, 55% of them feel left out of brainstorming sessions or meeting because they are not working in the office, 43% are unable to access other people or groups in the company, 39% are not able to access information and resources, 33% felt they’re missing on changes and policies while 19% are unable to access resources and documents, not reach out to people. These are vital pitfalls any company considering working from home, especially 100%, should cater for before employing such remote workers. Otherwise, the business won’t enjoy the benefits of having this working style implemented.

Another study, by leadership training firm VitalSmarts, made in 2017, found that 67% of remote employees felt their colleagues weren’t fighting for their priorities, 64% felt that their colleagues made changes to the project without including them. Such office politics that remote workers were affected by do hinder the success of working from home, and a business doing this should be aware of the means to avoid such things.

Easy ways to do this are constant and frequent check-ins with the remote workers, ideally, through video conferencing so faces and expressions can be seen, making sure technology is easy to use, communication is streamlined, and policies are in place and followed upon. This is valid for all businesses, having employees working entirely remotely or just taking a few days here in there to work from home.

One last pitfall that might not be justified though is that remote workers fear being left out when it comes to career advancements and promotions. Still, an August 2019 report from HR software firm Ultimate Software, titled “The Remote Workforce Becomes the Empowered Workforce,” found that remote workers are 40% more likely to have been promoted within the past year and in general report higher job satisfaction than in-office workers.

“For a long time, we’ve been worried that remote workers are being left out or left behind. The data in this new report show us remote workers are not only being treated equally, but they’re also thriving—and a big part of that is thanks to the emergence of HR-focused technology that enables a seamless connection between the office and virtual employees,” said Annmarie Neal, chief human resources officer at Ultimate.

While, as previously mentioned, working from home is not a one size fits all, companies thinking about this have multiple options on how to implement it and think of the benefits they want to gain. Still, when considering doing this, businesses need to account for the possible pitfalls and make sure they are ready to counter them or even better, prevent them right from the start by implementing the right tools and processes to follow.

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