Remote Work: A Double-Edged Sword

In almost any business today managers are asking themselves, should I introduce remote work? What consequences will this have on my employee’s productivity? Will this benefit them? Is the lack of in-person communication going to cause some difficulty in effective communication? The number of people working from home has increased to an all-time high of 43% of Americans spending at least some time working from home, an increase of 4% over a 4 year period as shown by a Gallup study. Do companies have an obligation to adapt, or will the move towards remote working just fade away?

All of these are valid questions, and for the time being, no one seems to agree on the right answer.  Some believe this new wave of remote work allows companies to save money without affecting their output. For example, employers save an average of $10,000/employee/year in real estate costs. This carries significant impact for companies of all sizes, from startups to multinational conglomerates. Managers, however, must also understand that the lack of personal interaction between employees might create a socially isolating gap which will result in lower productivity and engagement. This is shown by companies whose people work in tight-knit face-to-face groups having job satisfaction that was 30% higher than their counterparts.

Both these interpretations need to be evaluated differently depending on many factors. First being the industry in question, construction, for example, is not compatible with remote work but software development is. Secondly, the factor should be the repetitiveness of said job. The more routine work generally benefits under remote work, however, creative work flourishes in collaborative environments. This begs the question, should companies sacrifice human interaction and allow their employees this newly found flexibility? If so at what cost?


Remote Work Cost Saving


When companies look to adopt remote work as part of their operational standard they hope to benefit from it in many ways. One reason they may look into it is that research shows companies save around $11,000 annually in expenses when an employees work from home even half the time. Moreover businesses now know that remote work also benefits employees as they set to save around $2,000 to $7,000 annually in costs such as transportation and the likes. This movement has gained so much traction that the Congressional Budget Office is set to implement remote working into its regular workflow for these cost-saving reasons.

Surprisingly, Global Workplace Analytics found that remote working cuts cost and creates an effect on the bottom line directly, as employers are now able to pay their workers a relatively smaller amount of money. This is shown through the 36% of employees that would choose the option to work from home rather than receive a pay raise. Moreover, 37% of technology professionals would take a 10% pay cut to be able to work from home. This urges the question of whether or not your current employees would take these pay cuts, or would you now be able to attract and hire new employees that cost less?


Talent Pool


The issue of remote work not only affects you in terms of costs but also what talent you attract and retain. Remote work and flexible hours is now a part of what potential employees take into consideration when choosing companies and deciding how long they will stay with said companies. 45% of millennials working for companies that are the “least flexible” in terms of telecommuting will leave within the first 2 years, compared to 35% in companies with the “most flexible” schedules. That’s around 5.6 million employees that are more likely to leave your company due to the absence of remote work. 32% of people surveyed said they left their previous place of employment due to a lack of flexibility. Furthermore, 35% of employees currently in the workforce say that remote working is the perk they look for the most when considering which company to work for. This means that allowing remote work will not only retain a significant amount of employees it will also allow you to attract a larger pool of talent altogether, especially considering only 12% of companies offer this benefit.

One might ask if this is all true, why doesn’t everyone work from home? Why do companies still insist on doing things “the old way”? Communication. Social Interaction is a very large part of how we as humans connect with others around us. 67% of employees cited that friends are a reason to stay in a company. Additionally, 67% say that colleagues can encourage/help them do a better job. These are intangible benefits of in-person social interaction we lose once we step into our home offices rather than our on-site ones. Social interaction also helps foster a greater environment of collaboration as 25% of employees frequently go outside their department to look for knowledge. In the future, when more expansive and difficult challenges arise, we will need collaborative communication between people to occur to solve them.


Remote Work Communication


Even with the introduction of many communication technologies such as Slack, Skype and Hangouts, one of the biggest worries companies have when considering introducing remote work is a decrease in collaboration. Research shows that 62% of employees feel that remote work is socially isolating, which then leads to as much as a 21% drop in performance. This becomes more evident in workers who are 100% remote, which are the most disengaged group of workers. These employees are 35% less likely to strongly agree their co-workers provide them with meaningful feedback. This then cultivates a negative culture which closes lines of communication on people’s jobs performance and productivity between the employees and their managers. This becomes more apparent when 30% of these employees are less likely to strongly agree they have talked to their manager about steps to take to reach their goals in the past six months.

We at Beaconforce believe that for a productive, happy, and fulfilled employee, we must keep these lines open. This means that timely two-way continuous feedback between employees and managers is crucial for employee success and happiness. We also believe that social interaction plays a significant role in employee satisfaction as shown in the research above.


Written By: Adam Fuchs, Communications Associate at Beaconforce


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