Remote and flexible work arrangements: The pros and cons

Remote and flexible work arrangements are becoming increasingly common. While they work well for some companies, other organizations have found the disadvantages outweigh the potential benefits.

Are employees more productive working on site or remotely? Is a flexible work policy right for your company? We examine both sides of the issue...

Are employees more productive working on site or remotely? Big companies like Yahoo!, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard have returned to requiring staff to be physically at work and say productivity has increased since they pulled workers back into the office, according to Lauren Farrer writing about why some remote work policies fail. On the other hand, a 2016 survey by TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm, found that most remote workers themselves say they believe they are more productive out of the office.

Does your company align with the giants listed above who have retreated from allowing people to work remotely? Or are you more like Apple, Microsoft, and Hilton that do allow it? Which way is best? Let’s examine some pros and cons beyond productivity.

The pros and cons of flexible and remote work arrangements

Pro: Allowing remote work can save overhead costs.

Employers can save $11,000 per year for each employee who works remotely, says Jessica Howington writing for Flex Jobs. The savings come from overhead that is no longer necessary because the employee is not coming into the office.

Con: Remote work might entail additional costs.

Employees who flex between working remotely and on site need office space in two locations, so the savings disappear. Plus, the employer might be picking up the tab for all or part of the home office expenses of telecommuters, including additional digital security measures to protect company data.

Pro: Allowing remote or flexible work can lower absenteeism.

Employees can work from home if their child is sick and can’t go to school. Work is not disrupted when a blizzard hits unless, of course, the power goes out, or a true disaster affects safety and property.

Con: Flexible work policies have the potential to be abused.

In her decision to bar remote work at Yahoo!, CEO Marissa Mayer specifically cited remote team members’ absenteeism hampering the completion of projects, according to Julie Bort’s article for Business Insider. Writes Bort about Mayer, “She felt like people who were supposed to come into the office were often abusing the right to work from home, using excuses like bad traffic, bad weather, or ‘waiting for the cable guy.’”

Pro: Allowing remote and flexible work expands your hiring net.

Remote options provide “opportunities to people with disabilities, military spouses, caretakers, and those who live in remote rural areas,” writes Mark Menke for the LinkedIn Talent Blog.

Con: Communication suffers without physical presence.

Even with all the digital communications platforms now available, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation. When that doesn’t happen, there is greater potential for miscommunication. Remote workers often feel isolated, despite efforts at virtual team building. They miss out on spontaneous discussions at the coffee machine and the many small decisions that get made every day in any office.

Those water cooler chats that proponents of telecommuting call distracting actually serve a purpose. “People are more collaborative, more inventive when they come together,” says Yahoo!’s Mayer. Employees’ enthusiasm, connection, and sense of being valued are essential to team synergy. If people aren’t physically present, all those things are likely to suffer.

Is a flexible work policy right for your company?

We trust that you will make a wise decision about whether allowing remote work is or is not beneficial to your organization. Whatever your policy, our goal is to help businesses like yours experience the benefit of the best team you can assemble. Contact us today to start the process of finding the top talent you need.

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