With the increase in remote work where people and businesses need to work remotely, how do they do it?
Remote employees work either from home or outside of the traditional working environment, such as at an office or on a specific job site. It increases morale and encourages successful completion of tasks and goals in a much more efficient, timely, and cost-effective manner while also protecting the health of employees.
All remote work can be summed up into two distinct categories:
A fully remote job allows an employee, whether they be part-time, full-time, or on a freelance basis, to work 100% from home without needing to commute to an office location.
A partial remote job offers employees some remote work capabilities but does not allow the employee to engage in their work without visiting the office or job site at least some of the time.
So how does a company decide whether they should remain fully remote or consider part-time office visits? This largely depends on the type of job, but the three deciding factors usually are:
Travel is a necessary part of the job.
Staff meetings and face time is required.
Certain aspects of a particular job cannot be done from home or outside of the office.
Whether full-time or part-time, one thing is for sure, remote work is no longer considered a trend but is now a fully viable option, as is confirmed by numerous studies and statistics, which we will address right now.
Remote Work Statistics Show a Dramatic Increase Since Covid-19
The main reason why employers are open to adopting remote work is to have happier and more productive employees. When employees are productive, they contribute to overall business success. Recent statistics and surveys highlighted by remote time tracking software vendor, timedoctor.com show that remote workers are more productive than those who work in a fixed office environment.
According to recent survey data, employees who work from home, even as little as once per month, are 24% more productive and happy than those who never get a chance to do their job outside of the office environment.
58% of surveyed remote workers believe their motivation levels are higher when working from home than when working at the office.
Remote work is helping older employees remain in the workforce longer – employees over 64 are working more hours and more years than at any other time in history.
87% of remote workers feel more connected to their fellow employees and upper management through the use of modern-day technologies like video conferencing than do their office-bound colleagues who have no need and do not make use of such remote-access tech.
Both businesses and remote employees can benefit economically from remote work – it has a huge effect on salaries and business costs:
Remote worker salaries are usually the same and sometimes higher than those of office workers. Companies can afford to pay them more due to the cost-saving characteristics of remote work, specifically when it comes to office and maintenance costs (e.g., office space, lights, water, computers, etc…).
Remote workers automatically increase their income as they have no commuting costs. For comparison, the average American employees’ commuting cost is estimated to be around $2,600 per year.
Remote workers also get more tax breaks than office workers do, such as home-office deductions, which ends up putting more money in their pocket at the end of the tax year. Again, this can be seen as a bump in salary provided by an employer without them even having to pay for the increase.
Are you still not sure just how much your business can save if you choose to switch to remote? These stats should give you a good idea:
According to a study by Ohio University, companies who allowed a minimum of 100 employees to work from home at least half of the time could save up to $1 million per year.
Companies who hire remote workers experience 25% less turnover and so do not have to continuously spend money recruiting and training new employees.
The above statistics do not just apply to smaller or lesser-known businesses either. There are many well-known companies who have successfully applied remote work policies and achieved great benefits by doing so.
How Remote Work Works: Three Examples
The following 3 companies and their accompanying statistics give credence to the fact that businesses of all shapes and sizes can derive massive benefits by providing flexible remote working policies within their organization.
According to the American health insurance company, offering remote work positions falls right in line with their company’s mission to help people achieve well-being.
While their full-time remote workers still get all the same benefits as office employees – medical, dental, paid time off, and maternity leave – they also receive all the added benefits that having a flexible remote job offer like more time with the family and less time getting ready for and commuting to work.
25% of Dell employees work from home. They work full-time or as little as a few days per week.
The two main benefits the company cites for offering such liberal remote work policies are money and environment.
Dell says that it saves roughly $12 million dollars in real estate costs each year and has reduced both the company’s and its employees’ carbon footprint just by offering flexible workspace options.
The largest online retailer in the world, Amazon, hired 1,750 remote customer service associates in the fall of 2018 and this Spring (2019) is looking to hire 3,000 more.
For Amazon, it is all about maintaining a flexible workforce year-round, which allows them to “scale up” and add more hours during peak buying seasons as well as keep a full-time staff on the payroll without having to add any extra overhead costs.
Let’s Debunk Six Common Remote Work Myths
With all the statistical evidence pointing towards efficacy, efficiency, and cost-saving benefits of remote work, you would think that all businesses would adopt it. Yet, business owners and upper management are still skeptical about it. Let’s take a look at their common concerns and debunk them one by one.
Myth #1: “Our Systems Will Fall Apart if we even try Going Remote”
Even though there’s an increasing number of companies that offer remote jobs these days, there is also a large number of small (and enterprise!) businesses that do not believe remote work is feasible.
DID YOU KNOW: Some companies are shifting back to a 100% on-site job model, their reasoning being remote work caused drops in productivity. IBM is one of those big players. Back in 2017, they decided to call their remote workers back to the office, because according to them, productivity will only be optimal in an office environment.
Is IBM right? Is more work achieved when employees are at the office?
Studies have actually shown that productivity, for most business systems, increases with remote work, which is also backed up by a study published in Harvard Business Review that measured factors affecting productivity levels of businesses.
“A controlled environment provided by a home office or remote locale can allow employees to better focus on the task at hand when compared to a busy and noisy office.”
Yes, offices are conducive for streamlining a certain business workflow or system, but they can also be distracting and unmotivating. Think of how hard it would be to concentrate on work when others are talking on the phone or chatting with one another.
Myth #2: “Remote Workers are Slacking Off and Harming My Business”
What many business owners seem to forget is that employees can slack off at the office too. The most common reason behind it is that they are stuck there for an “X” amount of hours and feeling the “punch-the-clock” syndrome where they are just buying time until it’s time to go home.
Myth #3: “It’s really hard to communicate effectively with remote workers.”
In this digital age, there is really no reason why there should be any communication problem between managers and their remote workers. Problems are only present if the company does a bad job of adapting to remote work conditions.
The following 3 tips can help most companies promote a remote-friendly communication atmosphere:
All employees, both office and remote, need to be able to access and use the same communication tools.
Always look for newer and better communication technologies to keep remote workers more connected to the home team.
Arrange in-office meetings to ensure that remote employees stay motivated.
“There are so many communication platforms to choose from nowadays that “lack of communication” is really just a bad excuse for not going remote.”
Here are a few communication tools that are often used in remote business environments:
Big Blue Button (video streaming)
Skype (client conferencing)
Slack (written communication hub)
Discord or TeamSpeak (voice communication hub)
Myth #4: “Remote workers should be available around the clock. They are home anyway.”
They are employees, not slaves, and a good employer will never try making them available whenever they feel like checking in.
Just as office workers have work-life separation, remote workers should have it too!
Some extra hours might happen when the workload increases, but only if employees agree and are paid for it adequately!
There should be no assumptions when it comes to remote work schedules. Both managers and remote workers are expected to agree upon defined working hours just as if they were actually working on location.
In order to reduce any work-time confusion, online team boards can be accessed and used by both managers and remote workers to list and track working hours and availability.
Myth #5: “If my employees go remote, their social skills will suffer in the long run.”
Remote workers are often very active members of society. In fact, they usually have more opportunities to engage socially with their family, friends, and acquaintances as they are not tied down to their desks to the extent that office workers are.
“With today’s technology, bosses and managers can arrange online meetings with both on-site and off-site workers as needed, and set up chat rooms for casual chatting too.”
The same technology can also offer remote workers access to their co-workers during downtimes and after hours in order to foster human contact – an online coffee break, if you will!
Myth #6: “Remote workers can never truly be part of a company culture.”
Google and other big players have created strong company cultures through their on-site “extras” like gyms, recreational activities, and food services, this is not a requirement or a necessity to build unity.
“Lack of banter and hallway chats between co-workers doesn’t translate to not being a part of a company’s culture.”
There are companies that are able to foster their company culture and help their remote employees feel like they are a part of the organization with many of the technologies previously mentioned above.
HelpScout, a help desk software company employs an entirely remote staff and boasts an 81% employee engagement with the latest tech. They also design hiring processes and remote work strategies that way and their employees feel like a crucial part of the team.
Now that the myths are dispelled, it’s time to see what marvelous technology is driving the change towards remote and flexible work conditions in a growing number of industries.
Remote Work Technology & Tools
The shift towards a complete or semi-remote work staff is possible with project management, file sharing, chat, voice, and other tools. How can these tools help businesses and remote workers?
#1 Chat Tools Contribute to Remote Work Success
Successful remote work is only possible with the right communication methods.
When time is of the essence there is no better technology than chat software. Remote workers can instantly connect with co-workers, a group, or managers and quickly get feedback or supply time-sensitive answers.
Today, most chat tools come inside an all-inclusive suite that also offers email communication, video conferencing, and live group streaming (teleconferencing capabilities). Slack is one of the most widely used all-inclusive communication tools among remote workforces as it includes instant messaging as part of its core feature.
#2 Video Tools help with Visual Cues
Chat can only do some much, and we might miss important visual cues or misinterpret a poorly constructed reply. Well, there’s plenty of video tools that help solve this predicament.
Whether it be video slides or being able to check-in with a remote worker face-to-face, video software is the go-to tool to connect a remote workforce on a more personal and detailed level.
So what made them good now? Well, better internet connections with lower ping play a big part. Most users today have a reliable internet connection that can handle any type of teleconference easily. Gone are the days of pixelated videos and distorted sounds. The top 3 video conferencing services are Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet who are all competing rapidly to add features and even virtual reality to mimic in-person meetings.
#3 Project Management Tools Keep Everyone on Track
Did you know that many project management tools were originally designed for in-office use only? Given that they help with remote work so much, it’s hard to think of any other way to use them.
Their feature lists are so inherently remote work friendly it makes sense they have become one of the pillars that support remote work.
A good project management tool will have task and activity tracking, giving you much needed remote supervision and overview. A single glance is enough to see who’s doing what and what phase of the project they are in.
Choosing a project management tool that is geared towards remote work, ease of use and a good learning curve present the most important aspects. Trello is a good example of project management tools that cover all of these points.
#4 File Sharing Tools Eliminate Redundancy
“Without an easy way to access and share files and data remotely, everything would come to a grinding halt. This is what makes file sharing, file hosting, and file management tools the bread and butter of remote work.”
Cloud sharing services and cloud file management systems are an optimal solution. Sharing and access to company files are simple, and real-time syncing is their best feature: everyone will have the most up-to-date version of all data. Most services offer access to file history where you can view any changes, and roll back any changes if necessary.
They have security features like password protection and encryption, which makes accessing and editing possible only if you have the right credentials.
While many of the cloud-based file management systems do come with a price tag, companies that don’t have specific requirements and wish to experience the benefits of remote access file sharing can start with a simple option first.
Google Drive is an alternative in case you’re a business that doesn’t need to keep files under your own control/compliance. It offers a free cloud-based file management system for personal use or Google for Business version with benefits not found in free versions.
Having an easily accessible file sharing tool is not only a luxury but a necessity that keeps remote workers up to date on the latest developments, and helps them collaborate too.
It is hard enough to gather employee feedback and offer quality work appraisal even with office employees, what to say of remote workers? The whole ordeal is usually very stressful for anyone involved, since their performance is being rated, and is there really a good way to track it in the office?
Evaluation and feedback technologies address this issue by garnering continuous feedback without the need for face-to-face meetings, or frequent check-ins with your employees.
These solutions work great for in-office workers too. It’s a better solution to invest in such software than looming over their shoulders and asking what they are doing and when they will be done with it.
Engagement tools also use continuous feedback mechanisms to improve efficiency and boost employee morale. The difference lies in what they measure: they keep track of specific metrics that help determine possible problems with the remote staff.
Most engagement tools also have real-time and advanced solutions to minimize their effects or possible occurrence.
Hivedesk is an extraordinary engagement tool that helps managers and project supervisors track remote workers’ productivity levels, as well as informs them of when their remote staff is online and which projects they are currently working on.
While remote work seems to be feasible, it’s hardly a walk in the park. Before you decide you will introduce remote work options to your company, it’s best to look at the breakdown of benefits and drawbacks.
Remote Work Pros & Cons for Employers
Employers know that if they want to hire and retain the right candidate for the job, they need to provide them with the right work and life balance. 68% of the Millennial workforce is more interested in remote jobs than traditional office jobs, so it’s no wonder that so many employers are looking for ways to go remote.
Going Remote Comes With Its Own Set Of Advantages
As an employer, you are probably well aware of all the pros that remote work brings to employees. But what about you?
Is remote work good for your business? Are there any benefits at all? Oh yes – here’s five of them:
#1 You Can Reduce or Eliminate Office Space Expenses
Purchasing or renting office space takes a big chunk of money from any company. While the actual cost can vary from one location to another, in general, office space is not cheap. Take yearly cost to rent office space, per employee, for 3 major cities within the U.S. as an example:
In San Francisco, you will have to pay $13,032 per employee.
New York is even more expensive with $14,800 per employee.
Washington, D.C is not that far behind with $10,522 per employee.
The Global Workplace Analytics Statistics has estimated that the average real-estate savings for full-time teleworkers are around $10,000, per employee, per year.
These savings can drastically offset the yearly office space rental cost for most companies. To get a better idea of just how much the savings can be, compare the average yearly savings with the yearly costs mentioned above for the 3 major U.S. cities.
#2 You’ll have Greater Efficiency & Productivity
Allowing workers to set their own hours allows them to work at their peak times – when they feel most efficient and productive – whether that be in the morning or at night.
This is not just theoretical rhetoric, it is based on factual statistics:
A study done by Stanford University proved that remote workers, specifically remote call center employees, increased their productivity levels by 13% when working from home.
A similar study done by the University of Texas showed that telecommuters actually worked 5-7 hours longer than office workers do.
There are other driving factors behind higher productivity levels among remote workers:
Reduced Commuting Time: Allows remote workers to spend more time on important work tasks other than on driving to and from work.
Fewer Sick Days: Workers with families can meet their personal obligations and do not have to take time off from work in order to do so.
Less Stress: Remote workers find it easier to balance work and life responsibilities when they can remain in familiar and comfortable surroundings such as their home.
Fewer Distractions: Believe it or not, remote employees often find that they have to face fewer distractions at home as they can control their environment and schedule, an option not available to employees working in an office environment.
Again, all these productivity benefits are not mere hearsay but actual experiences reported by companies across the globe.
Bynder, a global digital asset management company, found that 40% of their employees experienced more productivity and focus when working from home as it made them feel more focused and productive due to the quiet and flexibility provided by their home surroundings.
#3 You’ll Also Notice that You Have Higher Employee Retention Rates
When a seasoned employee leaves an organization, a great deal of investment and experience goes with them. This can partially be rectified with remote work: Often times employees have to move to another part of the country or to another part of the world.
Before there was really nothing an organization could do to retain them if they did not have a presence in the employee’s new location.
“Today companies can actually follow their employees across the globe, if need be, through modern-day technology and flexible remote working options.”
While relocating may be an unavoidable circumstance of life for many employees, job satisfaction does not have to be. Companies can do a lot to ensure that their employees stay happy and so stay with them. A major part of keeping employees happy is offering more remote work opportunities.
According to the 2018 State of Remote Work report, companies who offer remote work opportunities have 25% less turnover than companies who do not offer such options.
Companies that provide more remote job opportunities also open themselves up to:
Increasing the Candidate Pool: Remote work sometimes requires “remote hiring” which allows companies to tap into a larger pool of the global workforce. Not only can this help them uncover untapped potential but also help them find candidates seeking more long-term job opportunities.
Keeping Millennial Employees Happy: As Millenials already comprise the largest portion of the global workforce, it is important for companies to give them what they want: Freedom and flexibility! What is the simplest and most cost-effective way a company can provide them with these two things? Remote work!
#4 You Won’t Have to Supervise That Much
Everybody loves employees who need less supervision but still get the job done in an efficient, organized, and timely manner.
Such employees save time and help managers and bosses focus on more important issues like developing goals, creating company-wide strategic plans, and steering the workforce in the direction of the company’s mission.
Finding this kind of employee is hard. They are often few and far between, but most successful remote workers will have such traits. There are plenty of tech options which allow them to work independently and with less supervision:
Mobile & Cloud-Technology: Allows for remote access any time of the day or night – no need to wait for the boss to open up shop to get needed files, info, and data!
Video Conferencing: Makes it easy to connect with remote employees from around the world in order to collaborate and communicate on specific projects. Managers, themselves, do not even need to be in the office to hold a meeting and definitely do not need to be present to hold their employee’s hand. All that is needed is an internet connection, a computing device, and some video conferencing software to get the message across!
Collaboration Hubs & Performance Tools: With such tools, managers can now upload what work needs to be done, instructions on how it has to be done, and actually track the progress and offer feedback to employees about their work. Basically, they can supervise from afar and at one go instead of having to hold individual sessions with each remote worker to instruct, motivate, and track their progress.
The main thing managers have to keep in mind is to set up a remote work plan ahead of time tailoring technology to suit the needs of each project, task, and worker.
American Express has done a great job of this with their 9-year workspace strategy, BlueWork.
Their remote-work strategy has allowed them to leverage remote-access technology and save anywhere between $10 to $15 million dollars per year on real estate expenses, all the while motivating and encouraging their remote staff to be more productive without even having to personally supervise them face-to-face.
#5 You Will Save Money Because of Lower Salary Expectations & Cost
According to Glassdoor, a company review, and job listing site, almost 80% of employees prefer additional and new benefits over a pay raise.
Companies who offer remote work policies have taken notice of this fact and also include a comprehensive benefits package for their remote workers while at the same time offering them a smaller salary than on-site employees.
There are nine tried and tested benefits to offer remote employees that can compensate for lower salaries, as well as keep remote workers happy and on board for longer periods of time:
Health & Wellness
Modern Technology (phones, laptops, etc…)
Home Office Upgrades (workspace)
Home Services (providing cooking and cleaning)
Training Programs/Skill Development
Flexible Leaves & Absences
Do not offer remote work options as the only benefit. An increasing number of companies allows remote work, so those who have additional benefits will easily snatch your employees from you.
Remote work doesn’t mean, however, that some employers will automatically pay their employees less than what their local in-office workers get.
Some employers have even found it more economical and practical to do so, as having to pay remote workers according to where they live – a popular measure of pay among remote employers – can often be more expensive and quite confusing.
Basecamp, a project management software company, has recently decided to pay all their remote workers the same salary as if they were working at an IT company in San Francisco, the headquarters of the company itself, even though none of the remote workers are actually from there.
Disadvantages You Could Face when Going Remote as an Employer
The list of advantages makes the whole remote work deal sound like it’s too good to be true. Well, there are disadvantages too. Employers must overcome some major hindrances to suit the needs of the new remote workforce. Some of these include:
#1 Finding the right kind of employee
If remote work can offer so many benefits like reduced costs, higher productivity levels, and happier employees, then why isn’t every business increasing their flexible work policies?
The main reason? It’s very difficult to find remote workers with the needed qualities to work remotely. Remote work requires a vastly different skill set, attitude, and personality. Here’s a list of skills that an ideal remote worker will have:
The ability to follow and create work schedules and business plans.
Time management skills.
Ability to work in a virtual environment.
Good to excellent problem-solving skills.
Strong communication skills (written & verbal).
A willingness to reach out for help and ask questions when needed.
Proper and reliable home-office setup and equipment.
General character qualities that suit an unsupervised, remote work environment like self-motivation, self-discipline, integrity, resourcefulness, flexibility, and adaptability.
The list of skills and qualities that mark a successful remote employee is quite exhaustive – but this is an IDEAL candidate. Many of these things can be picked up and learned too, so don’t dismiss those who might lack some skills but show promise.
In many cases, if an employer is able to find and attract a remote employee with just 3 of the attributes listed above, they consider it a successful hire.
#2 Communication and collaboration gaps between managers and employees.
Being able to tap into a global workforce marketplace through remote work options is fantastic for increasing the potential candidate pool and finding high-quality employees outside of a company’s locale but it can also come with one major drawback – the language barrier.
There are certain nuances between native English speakers and those who speak English as a second language.
Image by freeillustrated from Pixabay
Technical terms will not be a problem but certain adjectives and other business terms used to encourage, motivate and emphasize importance can go unnoticed by foreign remote employees. In such cases, even the best communication technology will not be able to bridge this language skill gap.
The lack of face-to-face communication is another hindrance that has no real workaround. It is just easier and more efficient to fully explain the specifics of certain project details in person. There is always going to be some level of miscommunication when interacting with a remote employee via email, chat, online work hub, or a video conference interface.
In-person employer and employee gatherings, especially when delivering key instructions and project expectations, as still the preferred form.
The miscommunication seems to occur when trying to convey expectations about new project details and goals. The consequences of such miscommunication are increased project costs and increased time delays!
Opening up a virtual office to remote employees can also mean opening up a host of cybersecurity issues for a company as well.
Virtual offices and cloud-based systems are for the most part decentralized and spread over a wide area and to a large number of people. Many businesses believe that makes company data more susceptible to cyber attacks, as well as employee errors.
Company data can be accessed by remote employees through multiple computing devices such as personal laptops and mobile phones, all of which can be stolen and hacked into.
Securing a disbursed network of data and various computing devices can be difficult and usually requires the assistance of a competent IT team to get the job done properly.
This is why companies switching to remote work will have to invest quite a lot of team into teaching their employees about best practices when it comes to cybersecurity, password strength, using public Wi-Fi and more.
#4 A reduction in a company’s ability to brainstorm.
Online communication channels and messaging apps have made online brainstorming sessions a possibility amongst remote workers. For the most part, such sessions actually produce quite productive and creative brainstorming results.
“The problem begins when creative tension is needed. It’s those constructive disagreements among team members that bring about radical innovation.”
Remote brainstorming sessions can dissolve into chaos because it’s so easy to misinterpret what others really mean with their typing.
Remote work brainstorming sessions are more about agreeable and cordial individual input and not about dynamic tension that drives next-level creativity, which is only possible through person-to-person interactions.
# 5 Micromanaging issues regarding scheduling and tracking.
Perhaps, the most challenging aspect when it comes to scheduling remote work is balancing between different time zones.
How to schedule a meetup when one remote employee’s workday is another employee’s work night?
Tracking issues are another problem often faced when managing remote staff.
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels
When all that is needed from a remote employee is to turn their work in on time as scheduled, tracking is a breeze. However, when remote workers are paid by the hour it becomes more difficult to track how efficiently they are using their time.
A remote employee can sign in on time and complete their work on time but can still be slacking off most of the time.
In this case, paying a remote worker on an hourly basis would be a waste of money. The problem is that it becomes more difficult to see when and how an employee is working when paid by the hour then when paid by the project/on a salary basis.
Usually, more technology and more systems need to be set in place to track hourly employees effectively which can lead to higher IT costs.
Remote Work Pros & Cons for Employees
What’s good for the employer is also beneficial for the employee. Let’s take a look at how remote work affects employees and what benefits (and possible disadvantages) it can bring to their careers and daily work life.
Benefits of Having an Employer who Supports Remote Work
There’s no better feeling than being able to work on your own terms, which is exactly what going remote means. Here are some of the best advantages of working remotely.
#1 Changes to the Work-Life Balance
A work-life balance simply means harmonizing the two most important aspects of an employees life – work and personal. As life has become more hectic and fast-paced, modern-day employees are finding it harder to give the energy needed to produce both a successful work-life and home-life.
This is especially true when considering that today employees are spending more of their time at the office and less time with their families.
More energy for the boss, less energy for the kids.
Employers have recognized this fact and that is why remote jobs are on this rise – they help give back their employees personal time to not only be with themselves and their families but to do those things they love to do.
The work-life balance obtained by remote work has also given remote workers the ability to shape important decisions that have impacted their lives and the lives of their families in a positive way.
A recent survey showed that 24% of remote workers say the advantages of working from home has influenced some of their major life decisions.
#2 Remote Work is also Time-Saving
Driving may be fun when going on a road trip but there are very few employees who would rank driving to work as one of their favorite activities.
Yet, for most employees spending a significant amount of their time driving to and from work – nearly an hour each day, on average – is a necessary evil that has to receive a paycheck.
Not with remote workers though. They can either eliminate this dreaded hour completely or cut it down significantly, depending on how much time they are allowed to work away from the office.
Just how much time can remote work save an employee on average? A part-time worker can save 11 days a year by working remotely part-time!
What can a remote worker do with all this extra time? Anything they want really – sleep, work out or work more, spend time with family, friends or pets. It will make the happier because they will actually have a life outside of work!
#3 Remote Work leads to Increased Productivity
More productivity is not just a benefit that employers reap from remote work but employees also get to take advantage of it as well.
Why would employees be more productive at home?
Well, eliminating the commute is a big stress-reliever and time-saver and this alone allows them to have more positive energy to do more work.
The other reasons for increased productivity among remote employees are as follows:
Fewer office distractions.
Fewer office politics.
Less senseless and non-productive meetings.
Quieter work atmosphere.
Scheduling flexibility – ability to set own hours, work longer, and complete tasks at highly-productive peak times.
Working in a more comfortable surrounding.
Higher productivity due to remote work is not just a random event either but a majority consensus.
66% of working professionals feel that they would be more productive working from a remote location than working in a traditional office setting.
Drawbacks Employees Might Experience on their Remote Work Positions
There are some disadvantages that can happen if remote work conditions are not set the way they should be. The most common include:
#1 Remote Work Might Turn Into Never-Ending Work Day
For many employees, the best part of going to an office job is leaving it at the end of the day. But what if you could never leave the office?
This is what it can seem like for many remote workers. They get stuck in the rut of always working.
The office is right there, so why leave that task for tomorrow?
The problem with this attitude is that instead of improving one’s work-life balance, it actually disbalances it – remote workers end up working more hours at home than they ever did at work, which means less time for leisure and family.
The worst thing a remote worker can do is continue to act as an office worker.
The potential for longer working hours at home is much greater than at the office. In fact, most employers will actually tell an employee to go home, especially if they have to pay them overtime if they continue to stay.
Image from Pexels.com
At home, however, an employee can stay as long as they want and work as long as they want and studies have shown that they actually do.
Remote work sometimes equates to endless work, which totally defeats the flexibility and personal freedom that remote work is said to promote.
#2 It’s super easy to burn out
Along with longer work hours comes burnout. The potential for remote workers to use their flex times and schedules to work more hours is definitely high.
One of the main reasons for overworking to the point of exhaustion among remote employees is that they often feel indebted to their employers for the ability to work at home and so want to show them that they actually perform better outside of the office.
Another cause is the employer: they often give remote employees shorter project and task deadlines in order to make sure that they don’t slack off at home.
#3 Working from Home can get Lonely
Another unintended but very real consequence of remote work is loneliness. It is one of the biggest drawbacks to working remotely and is caused by working too much in an isolated environment – away from co-workers and supervisors.
The more a worker is away from the office, the more likely they will feel lonely. Over time, this can lead to serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Employers would do well to have their full-time employees come in at least once a week for a chat so that they can meet with other members of the staff and feel that they too are a part of the company team.
Remote Work in 2019: How to Maximize the Benefits and Minimize the Drawbacks
So how exactly does an ideal remote job look like? How to avoid the drawbacks, and find the best benefits? The following 4 tips will help employees and employers alike.
Tip 1: Self-Introspection & Self-Reflection
What traits are really needed to be a good remote worker? The following questions should be important to both sides.
Can you work successfully unsupervised?
Is one of your main aims in life to spend more time with your family and have more time to do those things which nourish your personal life?
Are you good at meeting deadlines?
Do you have the right equipment and proper space at home to complete assignments and communicate with supervisors, co-workers, clients, and customers?
Do you need regular interaction among work staff to feel that you are part of an organization?
They will help employees do a little bit of self-assessment while giving employers a good starting point on what type of employee would be a good remote employee.
Tip 2: Remote Work Trends
Remote work candidates should review the most recent trends in remote jobs to further pre-qualify themselves. Here are the most up-to-date remote work trends for this year (2019):
Remote work employers are now requiring more advanced levels of digital and tech skills from their remote employees.
In-office days are becoming more prevalent and actually being enforced by employers to reduce the chances of burnout and loneliness among their remote staff.
More “specialization” will be required this year from remote work employees.
Co-working spaces are on the rise and should continue to increase in popularity replacing the traditional “at-home” remote workspace.
These will also help employers determine whether they are on par with their competitors when it comes to remote work positions.
Tip 3: Finding Remote Work
You’d be surprised at what kind of jobs can be done remotely nowadays! Still, let’s stick with the basics here and see the top 9 most common remote working jobs. These are easiest to find and easiest to get hired for.
This list can also be used as another pre-qualification layer to see if any of the jobs here are a good fit for a specific individual.
Web Designer/Graphic Designer
Customer Service Management/Rep
The above should not be treated as a comprehensive list of remote jobs by any means.
There are more technical and more advanced remote work opportunities available on the market but these are the most basic ones which can suit almost any qualification level and remote work experience.
Tip 4: Working Effectively Remotely
Lack of training is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome with remote work. Employers just do not seem to help out much here.
Image from Pexels.com
Employees, employers, the following is a list of some suggestions to apply immediately for remote job positions:
Find a suitable workspace which allows for the specific job requirements to be fulfilled. This can be at home or at a coworking space.
Have the proper materials and equipment ready to fulfill all job requirements. This seems like common sense but some remote workers start their remote work careers without the required equipment to perform even the basic tasks related to their jobs.
Schedule working hours. Working hours should be at those times when the remote office environment is most conducive for work (i.e., when the kids are at school).
Communicate regularly with co-workers and supervisors to stay on top of recent updates and changes, as well as to maintain an open communication channel with in-office staff.
Define quitting time to avoid burnout and monotony.
With such expectations, it would make sense that the majority of companies who already offer part-time and full-time remote positions would have solid remote work policies set in place.
Unfortunately, this is NOT the case.
Out of the 63% of companies who offer at least some remote work, only a handful of them have set remote work policies in place. Such an oversight which can lead to various employer-employee issues like a manager-employee disconnect, uninformed job expectations, and outright confusion in regards to scheduling and job requirements.
Informal policies are not enough to achieve a successful remote working relationship with employees.
“Only a strong and clear set of policies will give remote workers a foundation and roadmap from which they can organize their remote working life.”
Here are nine tips on how to shape your remote work policies:
#1 You NEED to Define Work Schedules
Setting schedules within a remote work policy helps create uniformity and orderliness among remote work staff.
If a company allows workers to set their own schedules, then that should be stated.
If they prefer that their employees should be available during set times, day or night, then that should also be clearly stated right from the start.
The key here is to make availability rules that pertain to all remote workers or some will feel slighted if they are not allowed to set their own schedules while others are.
#2 Identify and Define Remote Work Positions
Eligibility policies clearly state whether or not a company has any positions that can be done remotely, and if so, listing those positions within the policy so that all employees know which ones to apply for and which ones to avoid should they be interested in remote work.
Not all jobs can be done remotely!
Positions like customer support management, however, can easily be done in a home environment or at a coworking office, such as a call center, as it usually does not matter where people are calling from or where they are receiving the call.
#3 Communication and Responsiveness
This policy stipulation is all about organizing communication expectations so no one, remote employee or supervisor, will be unclear as to when to respond to a request and which communication mechanism to use.
If no set response time is required that should be stated within the policy as well.
#4 Set up Productivity Measures/Metrics
Employers need to know how best to measure their remote workers’ productivity levels and the remote workers need to know how they are being measured so that they can perform their duties to the best of their abilities and within the expected time frames.
It is easier to measure productivity by work outcomes than it is by hours. Such outcomes could include:
Number of Cases Resolved
Time to Complete a Project
Amount of Client Interactions
There are many more measurements which could be added to this list but any measurement will depend on the actual work type and expected employee output as defined by the company.
Do NOT fall into the trap of micromanaging your employees here! As long as work is done within the defined deadlines, you have nothing to worry about.
#5 Define how to Report and Handle Tech Issues
What should remote workers do if they experience tech issues?
Without a clear outline or plan of action in this regard, remote workers will often panic and become stifled by unexpected tech problems.
Nothing could be worse for a remote worker than trying to meet a deadline or handling a customer complaint while having a technical issue with nowhere to turn or no one to turn to to get it resolved!
Most companies have on-site technical support which remote workers can contact should a situation arise. All the contact details including the modes of contact should be clearly stated within a company’s remote work policy for easy reference.
#6 Define Equipment Needed for Remote Positions
All of the items and equipment needed by remote employees should be listed out in detail within the company’s remote work policy.
Also, the policy should clearly state which equipment the company will provide, like a desktop, laptop, or mobile phone and which equipment the employee is expected to pay for themselves, such as a high-speed internet connection, in order to fulfill the job requirements.
Such an outline will help pre-qualify potential candidates.
#7 Proper Environment
Health and safety standards are a key component in maintaining a successful work environment.
As some companies maintain a certain set of standards for their office environment, they may also deem it necessary to maintain the same set of standards for a remote employee’s work environment too.
The policy should stipulate whether a company-sponsored health and safety check will be needed before the employee is approved for the position.
#8 Security Measures
Cybersecurity is a high priority among companies who offer remote jobs.
As much of the organization’s information is being accessed outside of the office, it is a priority to keep such data safe.
Therefore, security measures should be clearly stated within the policy so that remote workers know when, where, and how to access company data, software, platforms, and applications so not to cause a potential security breach.
For example, if a company deems using your own device for business as a potential security threat then they should list that out within their remote work policy to let their remote workers know that they should only conduct business on their business devices.
#9 Rightful Termination
Rightful termination is a mandatory item in most corporate work policies and so it should also be so for a company’s remote work policy too. Within the policy, it should clearly state that an employee will not be terminated on grounds that they work remotely alone.
In other words, employees can not get fired just because they work remotely should a company decide to terminate or limit its remote work policy.
As many managers are still leary of the remote work environment, they may wish to reduce such positions by getting rid of remote workers, which is not a good procedure for a company who is trying to attract and maintain remote workers.
In order to protect remote workers and a company’s remote work strategy, a rightful termination clause should be enacted within the policy to secure the two.
Useful Remote Work Tips for Employers & Employees
The statistics, trends, and experiences among the current and future workforce as it pertains to remote work all seem to signify that working remotely will be the norm in the upcoming years.
A survey can do wonders when it comes to gaining insight into how current staff members feel about remote work. Not only will it help a company decide whether a flexible working policy is currently the right strategy but it can help uncover certain beliefs that prevent workers from accepting remote work opportunities.
If your workforce doesn’t think highly about remote work, you’ll need to invest in some education first to get them on board.
#2 You Need to Identify Which Positions are Good for Flexible Jobs
Not all jobs can be done remotely, so it’s important that you evaluate whether remote working logistics can be applied to a specific position. Just because a particular job cannot be done remotely full-time, that doesn’t it can not be done at least part of the time.
For those jobs that just can’t be done remotely, you can flexible working options like coming in earlier or later, compressed workweeks, or task-sharing opportunities.
#3 Choose the Right Communication Channels
How to keep remote employees connected and in the loop?
As an employer, you’re don’t really have to enable office small talk and even some friendly banter, but with remote workers, you will need to make some effort so that they can enjoy this type of conversations.
Employers need to figure out which collaboration tools can best help remote workers stay in touch with the office staff, as well as motivate them to attend outside-of-the-office events with their fellow in-office co-workers.
Managers can hold annual, semi-annual, or quarterly meetings, as well as arrange get-together functions like happy hour, luncheons, or dinner to keep remote workers connected, happy, and feeling like they are still part of the team.
#4 Have a Transition Timeline Structure
Companies should not expect to implement their remote work objectives at one go. In fact, that would actually be detrimental to the program itself.
Company-wide transitions take time. Do not rush them.
Everyone will have to get used to the new way of working and all the hiccups that will happen along the way should be ironed out before offering full-time remote work opportunities.
Wise employers will start off with only a few positions at first – that too, only part-time. Then, collect all the feedback between remote workers and managers and see what needs to be improved upon before advancing to full-time remote work staffing.
#5 Go Through the Final Details
Take care of the final details before you actually switch to remote or flex options. Here’s a quick checklist of what to take into account:
Which jobs will offer remote working options?
Which workers will be picked first for remote working opportunities?
Which equipment will be supplied to remote workers?
Which equipment do remote workers need to purchase on their own?
Which cybersecurity policies should be set in place to protect the sharing and transferring of company data between remote work staff and office staff?
Is there a feasible exit plan, should the remote work program turn out to be a failure?
When is the best time to launch the remote work program?
Employee Tips for Being an Efficient Remote Worker
Remote employees are obviously going to be the backbone of the entire work-from-home program, therefore they should be given some wise counsel so that they can start their remote work careers on a positive note.
The three most important tips an employer can give their remote working staff when just starting out are:
#1 Have a Structured Workspace
A designated workspace will do wonders for motivation and productivity. If possible, limit work to a particular room which is closed off from others in order to keep necessary work material organized and structured.
If a separate room cannot be made available for this purpose, then a designated desk or corner of the room will do.
Before ending your work, everything should be put in place and secured so that important materials and equipment are not tampered with and can be easily located when needed again.
#2 Have a Schedule
A schedule is a good way to preserve energy and maintain focus, productivity, and motivation. Schedule your next working day or night at the end of each working day or night.
Do not just schedule work hours and tasks but also breaks to make sure that “free time” is being used wisely. Schedule priorities first so that they are finished first.
#3 Minimize Distractions
A lot of work can be done at home but so can a lot of “slack”. When remote workers slack-off it is usually due to home distractions. These distractions are most usually browsing the web and checking social media accounts, watching TV or listening to podcasts/radio.
Trying to juggle more than one task at a time is detrimental too. It has been estimated that constantly switching between tasks reduces productivity by 40%.
Planning personal time is ok but try not to include it along with the work schedule.
It’s more than obvious that remote work is the future, and the future is happening now. The only real choice you have left is whether you will adapt to it or not.
Recent statistics and actual real-life examples from big-name businesses and their employees have shown the positive impact remote work has had on the way society operates and splits its time between work and personal life.
One important thing to keep in mind is that remote work is not for every business or for every employee, even though it offers quite a number of benefits to both employers and their staff.
There will always be at least a small number of businesses and workers who will not or can not take advantage of remote jobs. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can automatically dismiss it. Take cues from others within your industry: if they can make it work, so can (and should!) you.
Remote work is not going anywhere and will only continue to rise in the future. Smart employers will do their best to take advantage of this fact by offering more remote work opportunities within their businesses.
Starting a remote work program can be scary for many businesses and employees who are not used to such flexible work arrangements.
The intention of this guide was to help ease the fear of implementing a flexible remote working strategy as well as transitioning into a remote working environment.
Take full advantage of it and grasp the future now, or your competitors will!
Daniel, Founder of MyWorkDrive.com, has worked in various technology management roles serving enterprises, government and education in the San Francisco bay area since 1992. Daniel is certified in Microsoft Technologies and writes about information technology, security and strategy and has been awarded US Patent #9985930 in Remote Access Networking