The advancement of digital technology has led to the development of software platforms that have transformed the perceived boundaries of the traditional office space. Remote workspaces have grown exponentially, and many industries have embraced the trend.
The need for work/life balance is a constant struggle for many employees, and working remotely allows the flexibility to be near family or home while still managing office and job workflow duties. In an ideal situation, working remotely is the best of both worlds.
Yet, this option isn’t a fit across all industries or job descriptions. Working remotely pros and cons need to be weighed by both the employer and employee to ensure that the arrangement works for all involved.
What Does Working Remotely Mean?
Working remotely refers to meeting the obligations of your job from someplace other than the traditional office environment. Many traveling sales executives work remotely by the very nature of their position.
For many of us, though, working remotely is often perceived as working from home…or maybe even from someplace a little more exotic (like the beach!). While remote work was once considered an anomaly, today it’s becoming a new normal for many industries.
According to a 2016 Gallup Poll, working remotely was an option embraced (in some capacity) by nearly half (43 percent) of Americans.
While many workers in the U.S. still adhere to the traditional office dynamics, on a macro level remoting has had a much more dynamic impact. According to an international study: “70 percent of professionals work remotely — a phenomenon known as telecommuting — at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week.”
Challenges of Working Remotely
Some industries like IT have openly embraced a remote workforce. The freelance workforce also naturally fits into the remote workspace, and this particular niche has grown to include writers, rideshare drivers, creatives, and many other independent contractor professions.
However, working remotely is not a one-size-fits-all model that molds to all industries and individuals. While remote work allows for flexibility and perhaps a stronger work/life balance, this alternative office option comes with unique challenges.
Employees interested in pursuing their company’s flexible work initiatives need to reflect on their own habits and motivations. Before an employee packs up the computer and heads to a more lax location, success in remote employment depends on many factors:
Is home a place where you can do your best work? Consider the noise factor and any distractions that come with working from home (or a coffee shop). If you can tune out the buzzing all around you and focus on the work, then remoting may be a good option. Those who are easily distracted, however, may need to stick to the office.
Some employees need guidance throughout the day. If you can’t work without micromanagement or someone watching over your shoulder to keep you on track, then working remotely might not be the best option. You need to manage you for remote work to be a success.
Camaraderie vs. Alone Time
The perception of a team environment is extremely rewarding for many people, and an office environment often is a team structure. When you work remotely, you may have less access to co-workers—at least in a physical sense. Almost two thirds of telecommuters find working remotely socially isolating.
Individuals who prefer independence may fare better in a remote situation. If you thrive in an office filled with co-workers and crave the company, you may not enjoy working remotely. More than one third (38%) of telecommuters feel it worsens collaboration. However, with Skype and other conferencing software platforms you may find that the team is only a call away.
Work is 24/7
Flexjobs notes that the ‘lack of boundaries’ of remote workspaces also is a downside. Working from the office means that the job often ends when we get in the car and head home. A remote workspace, though, doesn’t come with the same end-of-day finality. Emails or calls could bombard an employee at all hours, blurring the definition of the workday.
Remote Work Statistics
Nearly half of Americans and 70 percent of the world work from a location other than the traditional office space. While we know how many employees are embracing the trend, what do corporations think of telecommuting?
Glassdoor’s list of “13 Companies that Let Your Work Remotely” included Humana, tech giants Dell and Apple, Amazon and American Express. This list is merely a small sampling of the remote options that are available to employees. Many small businesses likely embrace the trend, too.
One of the reasons why employers might have warmed up to telecommuting could be because managers discovered that remote workers may be more productive. According to statistics from Global Workplace Analytics: “American Express workers produced 43% more than their office based counterparts.”
For many workers, the option to work from home or elsewhere was a positive perk for which they would sacrifice other financial gains. Global Workplace Analytics also noted that “36% would choose (working remotely) over a pay raise” and that “a poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed that 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.”
Benefits of Working Remotely
Workers are willing to sacrifice their salary or even a pay raise for a remote working option, but the question is…why? What are the benefits of working remotely?
While the answer could differ from individual to individual, work/life balance and the frustration of a daily commute both contribute to the push for a remote option, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
Working remotely could mean significant fuel savings and more money to a household’s financial bottom line. Global Workplace Analytics noted that “92% of employees are concerned with the high cost of fuel and 80% of them specifically cited the cost of commuting to work.”
However, time is precious for many families. Eliminating the commute means more family time, and this is yet another big benefit.
Many employees might also love the freedom that working remotely allows them. They can take the computer into a library, a coffee shop or maybe even the DMV.
Benefits of Working Remotely for Employers
Employees love the flexibility and the work/life balance that working remotely offers them, but there also are many benefits for employers. Allowing employees to work from home may lead to improved job satisfaction. Happy employees are more likely to stay with the company.
Allowing employees to work from home could cut down on costs associated with sick days, as Global Workforce Analytics also notes that “unscheduled absences cost employers $1,800/employee/year; that adds up to $300 billion/year for U.S. companies.”
Companies that embrace a fully remote workforce also could save significantly on costs associated with office operations (like electricity, lease costs, etc.), and, according to Global Workforce Analytics: “Nearly six out of ten employers identify cost savings as a significant benefit to telecommuting.”
The biggest benefit for employers, however, is employee retention. Training a new employee costs thousands of dollars. High turnover rates can drain the financial bottom line significantly, and taking measures to improve employee satisfaction and retention is in an employer’s best interest.
Other Considerations: Cybersecurity
Technology has advanced to allow for the introduction of many digital platforms that bring the office into the home. However, security for many companies remains a concern when taking the office into the remote realm.
Data breaches have affected many corporations, most notably Anthem, Target, Yahoo and credit reporting agency Equifax. However, even the Internal Revenue Service has been the target of hackers.
Protecting proprietary information is crucial when the workplace goes digital. Allowing employees to telecommute means deploying mobile security systems to protect both the employee and employer. CTS provides employers with its Complete Field Office. The package includes all the resources and technological capabilities needed to safely take the office mobile.
Ultimately, working remotely is a perk that many employees favor in their job hunt. While many employers leave the door open for employees to choose an alternative work setting, not all industries can or will fall in line with the trend. For those who do, though, it must be understood that expanding the boundaries of the office also means implementing higher security measures to safeguard proprietary information and protect both the company and the employee.