Is Remote Work Beneficial for Businesses? Weighing the Pros and Cons
During the first COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the percentage of employed people working from home nearly doubled. At first, many newly remote employees and employers thought the switch to remote work would be a short-term, temporary measure, soon to revert once the virus was contained. But now, though we’re all trying to regain a sense of normalcy, it seems that a shift in cultural ideas about where and how people can work has persisted.
Pre-pandemic, remote work didn’t seem like a real possibility to many people, but now the notion is quite popular. Still, many people have expressed concerns about its viability as a permanent workplace structure.
Whether remote work is here to stay is hotly debated. Proponents tout its positive effect on employee morale and productivity, and its potential to save companies money, while opponents say it’s inefficient, makes collaboration impossible, and prevents managers from overseeing their employees and monitoring project progress.
Us here at Mind & Metrics are living examples of a collaborative remote team. We can personally vouch for the benefits of remote work and our ability to remain productive and engaged in our work. However, our methods of tracking our progress and opening lines of communication haven’t been without hiccups - in fact, some of our current processes have been put in place specifically due to past shortcomings. Remote work requires unique planning and methodologies to be effective, and figuring out what works takes trial and error.
Let’s dive into the benefits remote and hybrid workplace structures can offer, and the challenges that come with them. Along the way, we’ll offer a bit of insight on our strategies for breaking down communication silos and measuring productivity in our remote workforce.
Benefit: Flexibility in hours and location can increase productivity
We tend to associate being in the office with productivity, and home with leisure time. However, physically being in the office doesn’t automatically mean one is being productive 100% of the time. And in fact, research conducted over the pandemic showed that previously in-person workers who switched to remote during the pandemic tended to be as much, if not more productive at home than they were in the office.
Viewing productivity as simply having “butts in seats” is outdated in many cases. The most accurate way to measure productivity is not just by time spent working, but rather via setting and monitoring milestones. Breaking down your organization’s overall goals into measurable steps and tracking your employees’ progress towards them will tell you more about your team’s productivity than tracking the number of hours your employees spend sitting behind their desks.
At Mind & Metrics, we view success as an outcomes-based measurement, and we’ve developed a way to easily keep track of our progress towards our goals using project management software ClickUp. By laying out all our goals for each quarter and the steps required to complete them, we can easily tell how far along we are in our projects, and identify any issues or inefficiencies along the way. This helps us ensure productivity.
Challenge: Too much flexibility
Though flexibility is one of the main perks of remote work, a remote workday can’t be completely without structure. It’s impossible to foster a collaborative environment if every employee is operating on an entirely different schedule. While employees can have more freedom with choosing when their workday starts and ends when they’re remote, having everyone keep to similar schedules and setting regular meetings for colleagues to touch base with one another is essential.
Everyone should have open digital lines of communication where they can be reached in a timely manner. Email works, but using an instant-messaging system, such as Slack, is often preferable. Since IM-ing more closely resembles in-person communication, it allows for a quicker back-and-forth.
Executives need to set clear expectations as to when employees should be available from the get-go. Work hours, digital methods of communication, and meeting times and dates should be understood by and accessible to all.
At Mind & Metrics, each week we have meetings on Monday and Wednesday mornings. We use Monday to go over our tasks and progress, and on Wednesdays we touch base and update one another on our current priorities.
Benefit: Employee benefits
For many workers, the ability to work remotely is considered to be a major perk. In a survey of more than 2,000 full time workers by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, nearly 50% of those surveyed said they would take up to a 5% pay cut if they could retain the ability to work remotely at least part-time after the pandemic. Employees have more time in their day since they don’t have to commute, not to mention the money they save on gas or public transportation.
The lack of a commute is also correlated with higher productivity; when employees don’t have to spend time commuting, they have more time to recharge after work, meaning they are more likely to have more energy and motivation during the workday.
Suffice it to say, hybrid environments are highly attractive to many workers, and can even replace other types of benefits. This can help cut costs for employers, as can the reduced turnover rates associated with happier employees.
Challenge: Lack of oversight
One of the biggest concerns that managers tend to have when it comes to remote work is, “how can I be sure everyone is getting their work done?” This can be overcome by having a method in place for employees to track time, and by setting clearly defined goals divided into measurable milestones.
At Mind and Metrics, the way we track our tasks and set deadlines in ClickUp provides a bird’s-eye view of our progress. Each member of the team is assigned their tasks and due dates, and can easily track how far along they are in their projects. We can check on our coworkers’ progress as well, and tag each other in any tasks we have any questions about. Using ClickUp allows for full transparency and easy communication, and ensures accountability.
We’ve found processes that work for us, but getting here took lots of trial and error. We are always re-evaluating the way we work, and finding ways to keep better track of our progress.
All businesses, remote or not, need to define processes for tracking progress and ensuring employees are working efficiently. That being said, adapting to remote work requires dedication and meticulousness, and a team dedicated to transparency. The processes used for tracking in-person productivity will not work in a remote environment, since there is the need to compensate for a lack of in-person communication. Companies looking to make the change from fully in-person to a remote or hybrid structure will need to re-evaluate their processes in order to adapt successfully.
Is remote work worth it for your business?
Do the benefits of remote work outweigh the difficulties it presents? Are there ways to close the gaps in communication that come with allowing employees to work in separate locations? And how do you ensure accountability and facilitate project management?
We’re the first to vouch for remote setups in these discussions, but these solutions are never one-size-fits-all. And the bottom line is, though remote and hybrid work environments will continue to be prevalent going forward, this type of workplace is not going to work for every employee or company. However, the challenges may be easier to overcome than you think.
Want more information on how you can lead a productive, engaged remote or hybrid workforce? Check out our free eBook, “How CFOs Can Lead the Remote Workforce of the Future”. Get an understanding of whether it financially makes sense to implement a remote or hybrid option for your employees, and learn strategies for facilitating remote collaboration.