Our opinion is that, when feasible, employees should always have the option to work from home. Obviously, there are industries where this simply won’t work. It would be difficult to remotely consult with a patient for many types of physical exam (though virtual diagnosing can be done in some cases), and it doesn’t seem realistic in the fast food industry. However, when you weigh the pros and cons, working from home has a lot to offer for both the employees and the employer.
Here are twelve reasons we think remote work is a great idea, and three reasons you might hesitate to implement it at your workplace.
Technology is on your side
Technology has come a long way in the past few decades, so working from home is easier than ever before. With high-speed internet and powerful laptops that weigh hardly anything, employees can get set up with a great workspace that they can use at home, in a coffee shop, or even on the road. Network security has advanced as well, so using these laptops remotely is safer than it’s ever been. Meetings can be conducted virtually, and work projects can be submitted via email or web-based shared storage solutions.
There was a time when technology just hadn’t advanced enough to allow for efficient digital workspaces, but that time is the past. Future-thinking companies need to be using technology to their advantage or they might discover too late that an evolving work culture has left them decades behind.
Prevent illness from spreading
After the Coronavirus outbreak, the whole world became more aware of how easy it is to transmit deadly diseases. However, our point isn’t just about those extreme situations. Large offices can be hotbeds for contagious diseases such as colds and the flu.
Think about it: When one employee gets sick, it creates a chain reaction that can bring down an entire department for days. However, if a remote employee gets sick, the rest of the team doesn’t have to worry about catching and spreading that illness. That prevents concentrated cells of illness that spread from team member to team member.
People get sick; it’s just a fact of life. However, we don’t have to let illness spread from employee to employee during flu and cold seasons.
Continue operating during a disaster
Here’s another valuable lesson we can learn from COVID-19 quarantines: Workplaces that are set up to offer remote work are more likely to remain operational during emergencies. And this isn’t exclusive to disease. Workplaces are vulnerable to flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and more. A severe office flood, for example, can halt your entire operation for days, or even weeks. That’s not to mention the repair costs.
The bottom line is that companies that can function remotely are set up to weather disasters, no matter how large or small those disasters may be.
Don’t expose your workers to dangerous driving conditions
Driving to work is so commonplace in the United States that we tend to overlook how dangerous it can be. On average, there are more than 3,000 deaths per day caused by traffic accidents worldwide. https://safer-america.com/car-accident-statistics/ Offering remote work gives workers the option to skip out on a potentially dangerous (or even deadly) commute.
Additionally, extreme weather can halt your operation. When several employees call out to avoid driving during a storm, your organization could be left seriously understaffed for the day. The employees who do show up will likely be distracted worrying about their commute home and be less productive during the day.
Remote work allows employees to avoid dangerous driving conditions all year round.
Save costs on office space and utilities
Office space isn’t cheap. Not only do you have to pay for the building, whether you own or rent it, but you also have to pay for utilities such as gas, electricity, and water. Those costs can add up fast, and most of them can be avoided or drastically reduced by allowing remote work.
Another thing you might not consider is that workplaces are vulnerable to break-ins. When your workers are remote, a break-in might impact one employee. When it happens in the office, it can impact the entire operation and cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost equipment.
If you’re looking to cut costs and mitigate potential damages caused by break-ins, remote work is a great solution.
Remote work is more environmentally friendly than on-site work
To piggyback on the previous two points, remote work is more environmentally friendly than on-site work. You won’t be running utilities in a giant office space, and your employees won’t be burning gas on the road trying to get to your building. It’s a double win for the environment. If you’re company claims to be eco-friendly, you really can’t ignore the positive impact you can have by offering remote work.
Hire talent from around the world
What are the chances that all the best talent in your field resides within driving distance of your central location? Our guess is close to zero. When you offer remote work, you can hire talent from around the entire world, finding potential talent wherever it might spring up.
Additionally, your workplace will be more diverse with employees from around the globe. According to a paper published by the University of Florida, workplace diversity is shown to have a positive impact on creativity, improve the public perception of a company, and reduce the risk of lawsuits.
Why limit yourself to local talent when you have access to a global talent pool?
Increase workplace productivity
A Stanford University study found that remote workers have higher productivity and higher workplace satisfaction than their on-campus peers. Many employers overlook the fact that the workplace is filled with distractions. Whether it’s coworker chatting, event planning, HR announcements, or idle clock-watching, the typical workspace provides an enormous amount of productivity-reducing distractions. That’s not to say people can’t also be distracted while working at home, but giving people freedom to work how they like is likely to drastically improve productivity.
Increase employee retention
The same study we referenced in the previous point also found that remote work increases employee retention. This should be obvious, but happy employees stay at their jobs for longer. When people have freedom in how they work, they’re more likely to be happy and less likely to spend their time looking for work elsewhere.
This is yet another topic explored by the Stanford study, and once again, they found that remote work reduces absences by a significant amount. And that’s only one of many studies that have come to this same conclusion. (Here’s another one.)
We’ve already talked about some of the reasons remote work can improve employee attendance. You can minimize absences caused by illness or by dangerous driving conditions. Additionally, many times workers are forced to stay home because a child is sick and needs to stay home from school. If that person can work from home, they can take care of their children and still put in a full day of work.
You might be eligible for telework tax credit
Some states offer tax credits to companies that offer telework. Virginia is one state that’s had telework tax credits on the books (though the credit has since expired), and Massachusetts was recently looking into similar tax credits as a way to reduce traffic in the Boston area.
Obviously, this is going to vary from state to state, so you should look into your local tax code to see if you’re eligible for telecommute tax credit.
Many of your meetings can probably be cut anyway
The Harvard Business Review has a great article on this topic, so you should read that if you want to learn more about the modern phenomenon of meeting burnout. The short version is that workplace meeting time has increased dramatically since the 1960s, and a majority of people in high-level positions have cited meetings as a drain on productivity.
If meetings are essential to your workplace, those can always be done online via apps like Skype, Zoom, and WebEx. However, transitioning to remote work provides a really great opportunity to look into how many of your meetings are non-essential. It’s possible – highly likely, even – that you can give your employees quite a bit of their time back, increasing the productivity of your entire organization.
What are the drawbacks to remote work?
We’ve discussed twelve reasons why you should consider remote work. However, we should look at just a few of the reasons employers might be hesitant to offer work-from-home opportunities.
You’re concerned about data security
Your data is vital to your business, and keeping that data private is essential in maintaining your competitive edge. With your employees working from home – or potentially from cafes and coffee shops – you might be concerned about their data.
This is a valid concern. It’s quite easy for an employee to log onto an unsecure network, only to have their data leaked. However, network security is better than ever, and teaching your employees to be safe and accountable with that data is simple. There are several resources available to those who want to learn more (Malwarebytes Labs has a great article that will teach you the basics of home network security, for example). You can also enroll your staff in mandatory educational courses about network security, though that will oftentimes create new expenses for your company.
If you are considering remote work, you should definitely be serious about data security. You simply can’t afford to be careless with your data.
You’re worried about employee accountability
When your staff is working off campus, how can you know that they’re actually working and not binging their favorite Netflix series or getting coffee with a friend? Well, you can’t. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter.
The foolproof way to prevent your employees from slacking off on company time is to transition away from an hours-based approach to productivity. If you create project-based metrics for gauging employee productivity, it literally doesn’t matter what an employee is doing with their time so long as they get their work turned in on time and at a satisfactory level of quality.
When almost all of your employees are regularly turning their assignments in before their deadlines, but just a few are perpetually asking for extensions or simply turning things in late without notice, it’s very clear who is taking advantage of the system and who isn’t. If you create productivity metrics that make sense, you won’t ever have to worry who’s working and who isn’t.
Remote work is not for everyone
Inevitably, there are people who simply can’t adjust to remote work. Some people are better equipped at working in an office than at home. Many people find the distractions of home life to be harder to compensate for than the distractions of office life. Some people feel lonely when working from home and thrive on the social activity of a brick-and-mortar workplace. A fair amount of employees simply don’t have the self-discipline to function effectively when given too much freedom.
There’s really no way around this. Some of your employees aren’t prepared to work remotely. For those people, a workplace is a necessity. Opinion is shifting in this area over time, with younger generations acclimating to remote work faster than older ones. However, we don’t live in a world where remote work is beneficial to 100% of the population, and we probably never will. This is an important factor to consider when making the switch to remote work.
We’ve provided twelve pros and three cons of offering remote work. If you’re thinking about restructuring your company to allow for remote work, we hope you take all of these points into consideration. We also wish you the best of luck with the transition, and we welcome you to the digital workspace of the future!