Mersive Solstice

The Pros and Cons of the Work-From-Home Workforce: Is it Here to Stay?

9 min read

Before the pandemic, working remotely was a benefit for a small percentage of the workforce. COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of our daily lives, including our productivity. Employees and organizations alike have seen shifts in daily schedules, meeting activity, and the use of productivity tools. As workplace shifts continue, the benefits and limitations of a work-from-home (WFH) workforce are becoming more apparent.

Working from home on tablet

How Has Remote Work Shifted the Future of Work?

According to Gallup, the number of Americans working remotely has dramatically increased since March 2020, and for many organizations, remote and hybrid work models are here to stay. Companies now recognize that many employees have grown accustomed to working remotely, and there is some resistance to the idea of returning to the office full-time. According to FlexJobs’ Annual Survey, over half of respondents (58%) want to work remotely full-time post-pandemic, while 39% of respondents want some sort of hybrid work environment.

On the flip side, an increasing number of studies and articles have highlighted detrimental impacts of long-term work from home for both organizations and employees. Both Microsoft and Poly released recent studies citing negative impacts on social connection, collaboration, innovation, and company culture, among other troubling trends. Other articles have exposed the isolation many have felt, along with the lack of opportunity for community building, networking, and mentorship opportunities.

While many jobs will always require showing up on-site, employers have realized that more jobs can be done remotely. Organizations are shifting their employees to remote and hybrid workplaces because they understand the benefits for employees and business growth.

Many companies and their employees see remote work as a benefit. However, a significant workplace shift also comes with its own set of negative impacts. If your company wants to move to a remote or hybrid work environment permanently, there are many work-from-home pros and cons to consider.

Let’s start with the good stuff.

 

The Positive Impact of Working From Home for Employees

For your employees, there are many tangible benefits to working remotely. There are so many positive impacts to working from home that many employees want to keep working this way. Some benefits worth considering for your employees include increased flexibility, no commute time, a better work-life balance, and improved mental health.

Increased Flexibility

Working from home comes with more flexibility, which means that your employees can start and end their day as they choose, as long as their work gets completed. Remote working allows for more flexibility in your employees’ schedules for important events and appointments without taking time off. It also provides flexibility in where they work. Maybe they think well on their feet and like to take their meetings as they take a walk around the neighborhood. Or, maybe they tend to be the most productive from their favorite chair or their personal home office. Working from home provides flexibility in when and how your employees accomplish their work.

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No Daily Commute Stress

Saving time by eliminating the dreaded rush-hour commute is one of the favored outcomes of working from home. For many, the average daily commute is between 5 and 13 miles each way to/from work. This commute time also digs into personal budgets over time. A remote workplace allows workers to save money on gas and other commute expenses and still productively work from home.

Stronger Work-Life Balance

Working in-office full-time can bog down your day and leave you with little to no time for yourself, especially when going into the office requires a long commute. Working from home can be invaluable for your employees when it comes to allowing for more time for family, events, and other activities and obligations in their personal lives. Consequently, working from home can also result in more mental and physical energy for your employees.

 

Improvement of Mental Health

Your work and mental health are intertwined. For many, working from home leads to a reduction in work-related stresses – like round-trip commutes and office distractions — which can take a toll on mental health. If you have mental health concerns, flexible work from home options may help you improve mental health for yourself and those around you.

 

The Positive Impact of Working From Home for Organizations

Companies across the globe have had to make a significant shift to a remote workforce. This change caused organizations to reconsider many aspects of their business. The significant benefits of remote work for your organization can include saving on office resources, taking advantage of a more comprehensive range of talent from anywhere, productivity increases, and effective communication.

Saving on Office Resources

If your employees work remotely, there are clear cost savings for both your company and your employees. While your remote employees save on travel costs, your company can save on expensive office space, office resources, and facilities management. If you plan to have a hybrid workplace, your company can reallocate those funds to better technology to support hybrid meetings and remote participants or spend less on a coworking space environment.

Recruit Talent from Anywhere

Choosing your work environment and location is a critical factor for many job seekers. Allowing for remote work enables your organization to hire from a larger and more diverse talent pool without the limits of your local network. This expanded talent pool means you have a greater chance of finding the best employee for the role. Employees are also seeking roles with remote opportunities; 58% of workers from a FlexJobs survey reported they would look for a new role if remote work is not an option.

Increased Productivity

According to Global Workplace Analytics, over two-thirds of employers reported an increase in productivity among their teams. Working remotely results in fewer office distractions which can lead to better focus on your employees’ projects. Your employees are also able to take breaks when needed, which can improve overall performance.

 

Effective Communication

The growth of the hybrid workplace and the work-from-home workforce has led to both new technologies and the acceleration or improvement of existing technologies. Tools that help facilitate communication between team members – no matter where they are located – are more important than ever. Collaborative solutions that enable employees to connect to remote team members and share ideas, content, and more are becoming standard across conference rooms, huddle rooms, and other meeting spaces. Effective communication and collaboration technologies reduce the need for unnecessary business travel and commutes, uniting workers from afar.

 

The Negative Impact of Working From Home for Employees

While there are many benefits to working remotely, many drawbacks have also surfaced – and the shift to a WFH lifestyle has posed new challenges for many workers. Some employees may have issues shifting out of their office routine, while others thrive on remote independence. Some disadvantages for your employees that are worth considering include remote work fatigue, lack of social interaction, home distractions, lack of space for a home office, and overworking.

Remote Work Burnout

For many, a calendar full of video meetings that last hours or even all day becomes very fatiguing and can lead to remote work burnout. Comparatively, video meetings make your brain work in a very different way than traditional in-person meetings. Earlier this year, Stanford released their findings on ‘Zoom fatigue’, illuminating ways in which video conferencing exhausts us both mentally and physically. Many companies have established some best practices for video meetings and other remote work tactics that can help ease the fatigue felt by team members.

Lack of Social Interactions

Humans are social beings. One of the most common disadvantages of working from home is the lack of social interactions with your coworkers. While organizations are inventing new ways to keep up communications and engagement while remote, many people find it doesn’t fulfill their need for human interaction. Work at a physical office can provide valuable social interactions from simple water cooler banter to networking, mentorship, and team building.

Poor Work-From-Home Environments

Interruptions can quickly derail your productivity in a home office setting. It can also be hard to focus on your work if you don’t have the space for a desk or must work from your couch or another less than ideal space. It’s vital to create a work-from-home environment that allows you to work productively for the long haul. Without the proper space and environment for productivity, remote work can be a challenge.

 

Diminished Work-Life Boundaries

It can be effortless to remove the line between work and personal life in your work-from-home situation. Unfortunately, our work time and personal time easily overlap when working at home, which results in the feeling of needing a mental rest from your work. This lack of boundaries leads to increased stress and overworking, and can seriously impact physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

 

The Negative Impact of Working From Home for Organizations

Working from home has many benefits for both your employees and your company, but the disadvantages of a remote workplace still exist. Remote working can impede your organization’s communication and collaboration. Some of the disadvantages to consider for your company include siloed teams, lack or overdependence of technology, and difficulty building company culture.

Siloed Teams

When employees work exclusively from home, they likely only interact with their coworkers via email, instant messenger, and occasional calls. And they often focus this time on interaction with their own teams and have more limited opportunities to interact with those outside of their team or department. This lack of interaction across different teams and departments can lead to siloed ideas and potential groupthink. It can also be challenging to build relationships with coworkers in the same way as in an office setting. A remote workforce can lead to your employees lacking relationships and mentoring opportunities from other coworkers.

Decrease in Collaboration & Lack of Innovation

Face-to-face interactions with coworkers help your employees collaborate to solve problems and brainstorm. Casual conversations in the office can spark big ideas. With fewer people in the office, the resulting decrease in spontaneous collaboration, brainstorming, and ideation can lead to a lack of new and innovative ideas. Remote workplaces make it challenging for your employees to navigate people-related problems as well. In a virtual setting, there is no natural way to have those casual interactions that are surprisingly vital to effective collaboration and teamwork.

Lack or Overdependence of Technology

A significant downside of the remote workforce can be both the lack or overdependence of technology for your employees. Because remote work requires technology to accomplish work and communicate, your employees are dependent upon it. At the same time, this overdependence can stifle creativity and result in less collaboration than what may happen in an office setting, where social interactions and collaboration tend to flow more freely. Ensuring that your employees have the necessary resources to accomplish their jobs – whether working from home or from the office – is crucial. However, exploring and implementing solutions that promote more natural collaboration and sharing is also important.

 

Building Company Culture is Challenging

If your organization is remote, fostering company culture can be challenging, especially with your new employees. Company culture builds upon your employees coming together and engaging in team-building activities and company-wide events and meetings. This company culture can be difficult to create when your entire team is virtual and somewhat disjointed. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot build an effective company culture in a remote or hybrid workplace, however creating this culture may look different than if your team was fully onsite.

 

Is Work From Home Beneficial for Your Company?

As your organization weighs the advantages and disadvantages of a work-from-home workforce, it’s vital to focus on the goals for your company and your employees. While remote work certainly has its benefits for both organizations and employees, it’s important to acknowledge that there are potential disadvantages of remote work models and consider what will be best for both your organization and the productivity and well-being of your employees.

For many organizations, a hybrid workplace model will be the most effective for the health of both the organization and the employees, offering the benefits of working from home and the valuable social interactions, collaboration, and community-building that is fostered through in-person time in a physical workspace. Perhaps most importantly, the hybrid workplace offers the flexibility for employees to choose which of these environments best suits their purposes on any given day depending on their personal situation, work preferences, and the task at hand.

This is not to say that there won’t be challenges in developing your hybrid workplace. Indeed, we’ve listed many potential challenges of the remote work component in this post. Many of these challenges revolve around communication and collaboration and these will be essential areas to focus on in the dynamic hybrid workplace environment. The ability to effectively collaborate with colleagues from anywhere is what will make the hybrid workplace work. In upcoming blogs, we’ll take a look at what organizations can do to support effective communication and collaboration in the hybrid workplace.

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