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There has been a lot of chatter around the benefits of remote work and how it can help improve employee retention, productivity, and loyalty while reducing costs. But given how much attention this topic has received in recent years, you might be skeptical if there are any downsides to telecommuting or working from home. We have all heard stories about employees who work from home all the time and never leave their pajamas, or people who slack off because no one can see them do it. Given the rapid adoption of remote work programs, is there some truth to these notions? There are plenty of reasons why remote work isn’t for everyone; but with the right implementation and management strategy, it can be an excellent solution for many organizations. Here’s a closer look at some of the pros and cons of remote work.
Check-in, Collaboration and Communication
The distributed nature of remote work makes it difficult to maintain real-time communication and frequent check-ins between colleagues. This can be tricky if you are managing or leading a team or want to ensure communication is occurring between employees who don’t share the same physical space. Remote workers may miss some of the social cues that help people communicate in an office setting, such as eye contact, subtle gestures, and physical proximity. Remote workers may also be more susceptible to distractions that make it difficult to stay focused and engaged.
Time Off and a Sense of Well-Being
Working remotely isn’t just about logging miles in the office; it’s also about having time to relax and recharge so you can return to work feeling refreshed and re-energized. Unfortunately, time off is often the first casualty when work is trying to catch up with hours. Employees might feel pressure to make up for the hours they don’t work because they are not physically present in the office. This might cause some employees to feel guilty about taking time off. Remote workers also have different needs when it comes to time off. Some people are happier working from home and don’t need a lot of time off. Others might want to take advantage of social activities or other opportunities that might be rare when working from home.
Commuting and Mental Health
According to the findings of a 2018 survey, the average American spends 41 minutes getting to work each day. While driving to work sounds like an inconvenience that no one would want to deal with, it turns out driving to work can be good for you. This is because when you drive to work, you are able to reflect on your to-do list, your goals for the day, and your long-term career plan. All of these things help improve mental health and decrease stress. A study conducted by Stanford University found that people who walk or cycle to work have lower levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol. This is because you are not stuck in traffic and can instead focus on your mental to-do list.
The biggest potential pitfall of remote work is that employees are less productive than their office-based colleagues. However, this disparity is often overblown, and there are also ways to help remote workers stay on task. Remote workers may spend less time on unimportant tasks, such as attending meetings that don’t have clear goals or have no clear outcome. It’s also possible that employees who work remotely are more engaged with their work, spending less time surfing the web or checking social media. In fact, some remote workers report being more focused and productive than their office-based colleagues. Other remote workers report feeling less stressed, which might translate into more productivity.
All in all, remote work is a great solution for many organizations. While there are potential drawbacks to telecommuting, these issues can often be mitigated with the right implementation and management strategy. More importantly, remote work can significantly benefit employees, especially those with families or those who have disabilities. If your organization is considering implementing a remote work program, it’s important to consider how the program will be managed and implemented. Remote work can be a win-win for employees and employers if it’s implemented correctly.