The Pros and Cons of Letting More People Work From Home

Working from home has been on the rise for around a decade, but it was during the COVID-19 outbreak that the idea had taken hold out of necessity. 

While many companies initially struggled during the first weeks and months of lockdown, and they may still not be entirely sure of its effectiveness, polling does show workers have an overall favorable opinion of the practice. For those businesses that were already offering this incentive before lockdown, quarantine has validated the execution of those decisions and proven that having been prepared was a smart move.

Looking ahead, some businesses are likely to reopen offices with regular or reduced staff. While others, like several major tech companies, are implementing policies to transition to a fully remote workforce to cut costs, commute times, and make life easier for employees who struggle with the high cost of living in areas like San Francisco and Seattle.

To put it mildly, remote work has been a major disruptor. Here’s how employees say they are fairing with what they like and dislike the most.

What Employees Like Most

  • Having more freedom in their schedule is a significant benefit.
  • Working from anywhere means not being stuck at the same desk and view each day.
  • If kids are home from school or sick or don’t have to sit in traffic, there is more time to take care of and be with family.

What Employees Struggle With

  • When you live where you work, you might not fully unplug, or you will find yourself checking your phone when you should be focused on family; coworkers might also feel it’s appropriate to schedule meetings outside of regular working hours.
  • Loneliness is a big problem and can contribute to severe mental and physical issues.
  • When you are all in a Zoom call and not at the same conference table, collaborating and communicating is more complicated.
  • Distractions from home should be considered and avoided; just because you are home doesn’t mean you are available for chores, helping a neighbor, or doing something else, like walking the dog.
  • For team members working on different continents, attending meetings can be almost impossible.
  • Between distractions or not having someone looking over your shoulder, staying motivated can be challenging.
  • When you work from home, it can feel like you are on an extended vacation. Taking time off, especially if you usually stay at home, can feel strange or ineffective at making you feel relaxed and rested when you return to work.
  • Home internet isn’t always the same as a business line, and your connection may be spotty or slow.

What Businesses Like or Dislike

For businesses, employee wellbeing is important, but there are aspects of remote work that can become difficult to manage. Here are some of the main challenges that businesses have to realize if they make remote work permanent and the benefits.

Benefits of Work From Home

  • Cost savings through reduced building-related expenses.
  • Employee productivity is higher with a remote workforce.
  • Remote work as an incentive can help attract and retain employees.

Problems With Work From Home

  • Managing projects becomes more difficult unless the company can track, assign, and manage workflows – Monday, Asana, and ToDoist are a few examples of project management tools companies use to manage these challenges.
  • Remote collaboration is more complicated and requires the right people to lead teams and meetings.
  • While not true for all companies, those looking to build a remote workforce, including people who may move overseas, will have to figure out solutions to living in different time zones.
  • A major hurdle for companies is the idea that employees can’t be trusted. There are many opportunities for remote workers to take advantage of remote work opportunities, but companies may not be better served with intrusive tracking programs or check-ins throughout the mornings and afternoons; finding a healthy balance is key.

Moving towards a partial or fully remote workforce may be the future. After COVID-19, as we wonder how safe dense urban areas are, the cost of doing business in expensive office buildings, or demand from employees to have freedom with where and how they live, the conversation will continue. It is up to companies to start figuring out how they want to handle this future.