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Advantages and disadvantages of remote work

There are both advantages and disadvantages to remote work. Here are some things for businesses to keep in mind as the world emerges from lockdowns and into a new working environment.

Advantages of remote work

Work-from-home routines were quickly adopted by some organizations. Others had to set up systems before they were able to work remotely. In the long run, organizations found that this new way of working was beneficial once they worked out the kinks.

1. Balance between work and life.

A most common complaint in today's world is the difficulty of striking a good work-life balance. It is hard to find time for family when you work eight or more hours a day, especially when you factor in your commute and sleep. Working from home eliminates lengthy commutes, enabling more time with loved ones. And on days when employees aren't required to attend video meetings, they can dress any way they choose -- including pajamas. A better work-life balance and a sense of comfort result in less stress.

2. Productivity is High

A Great Place to Work report found that workers who work remotely reported stable or increased productivity levels compared to those who work in offices. The biggest gains in productivity were seen in April and May of 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak. Due to the elimination of daily commutes and lengthy in-person meetings, this was largely possible.

3. Availability

It is easier to work from home because a lot of the factors that cause tardiness are eliminated or reduced. Eliminated factors include oversleeping, being stuck in traffic and waiting in a long line at the drive-through to get morning coffee. Rolling out of bed and starting work is a huge time saver.

4. Low absenteeism and turnover

The ability to work remotely can aid businesses in retaining employees and reducing absenteeism. When remote workers don't feel micromanaged and believe their employer trusts them, they are more likely to develop positive feelings toward organization leadership. This will encourage loyalty and dedication among workers, reducing their desire to check out other employment opportunities. Even if workers aren't looking for new jobs, they might be less inclined to call out of work at random.

5. Saves Money

It's easier for businesses to rent smaller office space, or even move to a remote, cloud-based operation entirely, with remote teams. This saves organizations money on rent, utilities and other office supplies.

6. Work Flexibility

Remote work means employees can work from anywhere -- not just their home. Coffee shops, beaches and other countries are now options. It is possible for organizations to extend operations beyond a typical 9 to 5 workday if asynchronous work is utilized appropriately. Those who work night shifts or have small children may benefit from flexible hours. It is extremely valuable for companies with limited staff who wish to extend their working hours. 

7. Improve workplace technology

The pandemic forced organizations to scramble for the right tools to enable remote work. It was necessary for many companies to upgrade their systems because they were using outdated tools. Many businesses were already experimenting with telework at the time and could more easily handle this challenge. Even they had trouble scaling remote working privileges from a few employees to an entire company.

Cloud-based tracking, timekeeping, task management, business messengers, video conferencing platforms, and video conferencing platforms replaced legacy systems and physical office processes. Then they needed VPNs and other cybersecurity tools to secure these systems. 

Disadvantages of remote work

While remote work has its advantages, it also has its disadvantages. Here are some things to consider before making it a permanent part of the work environment.

1. House Obstructions

Employees can be distracted by many things at home that can interfere with their concentration. Some of these factors include screaming children, noise from passing traffic, ringing doorbells, dogs barking and household chores. If employees continue to work from home, it's important that they have a dedicated workspace, access to childcare and a schedule.

2. Loneliness

Remote work -- especially for those who live alone -- can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Even if an employee has their own office in a physical office building, they see others in the hallway, elevator and parking lot throughout the day. They also interact with people at gas stations, coffee shops and restaurants during their commute to work and their 
lunch. Only pleasantries are exchanged, but social interaction occurs in person interaction. Employees who work from home miss out on these conversations.  

3. Lack of work-life balance

Teleworking can sometimes allow for a better work-life balance, but many teleworkers experience the opposite. There are some employees who find that work is increasingly spilling into their home life. It can start as something simple, such as responding to an email after clocking out for the day. The result can be multiple emails or putting in extra hours after hours if workers aren't careful. For some, this turns an eight-hour day into a 10-hour day or more. When work is performed in the home, the line between work life and personal life becomes blurred, leading to burnout and low morale.

4. More of digital meetings

When a company's employees are dispersed across the country, leadership will want to keep track of them to some extent. In a remote work world, this means managers can no longer walk across the office to check in on their employees. Instead, they need to schedule virtual meetings to discuss routine project management tasks. While digital meetings can be less disruptive than in-person meetings, they are rarely the highlight of the workday. And having too many meetings often causes frustration among employees.

5. Cybersecurity concerns

An organization's top priority is always security. Remote working arrangements, however, become a critical issue for organizations. If antivirus software, firewalls, and VPN configurations are used by employees' home internet connections, the potential security loopholes can increase. When employees bring their own devices onto a business network, and work from coffee shops with free Wi-Fi, the situation becomes even more complex. Before the idea of remote work is even mentioned, businesses must be sure they can meet or exceed security expectations to minimize a cybersecurity disaster.

6. Hard to maintain confidentiality

Organizations also must contend with the possibility of confidentiality breaches. A confidential discussion could be overheard or sensitive documents could be found on an employee's computer. It is important for businesses to emphasize the importance of maintaining confidentiality, and to consider limiting the time employees spend in public areas while working.  

7. Inconsistent internet access

Internet connections are not completely stable at all times. The speed and reliability of connections can fluctuate throughout the day, regardless of electricity or internet outages. There are many people who work from home in crowded areas with slow speeds, buffering, and poor audio and video connections, such as apartment complexes and densely populated cities.

Throughout the country, there is a disparity in high-quality internet access. Reliable internet service is still a commodity in rural areas. The PEW Research Center found that Black and Hispanic households are less likely to have home broadband access compared to white households. Households reporting lower levels of education and income are also similarly restricted in terms of quality internet access.

8. Difficult for new hires

Starting a new job is stressful for most people, even under the best of circumstances. The transition from a traditional office space to a home-based office can be overwhelming for new hires. Not only do they have to learn how to perform in their new role, but they must also learn to navigate new technology. Therefore, managers may spend more time coaching remote employees.