The Pro’s and Con’s of Working Remotely in a Post-pandemic World

The Pro’s and Con’s of Working Remotely in a Post-pandemic World

We know it may never seem like we will be truly be in a post-pandemic world, but we can all agree that things have gotten better. And for both employers and employees who have been navigating working remotely, the decision now is what to do? Do we as employers allow our staff to keep working remotely or require they return to the office? And if we’ve gotten used to working from home, are we ready to go back? In this article we will highlight why continuing to work remotely might be the best option for you as an employee or employer. But we will also explore why remote working has some pitfalls you should consider.

First the plus side. If you have been working remotely for the last year, you have no doubt seen these benefits:

  • A better work/life balance. When you are home all day you have the flexibility to do the “home” things that need to be done. Need to be home when a repairman is due? Done. Need to be able to take your child to the doctor? You can work a modified schedule to make that happen. Need to pause working to move laundry from the washer to the dryer? Go do that. Overall, this reduces stress level because these things aren’t sitting waiting for employees after already putting in a full day of work away from home.
  • Cost Savings. It escapes employees and employers how much it costs to leave the house every day to go to work. Gas money and car wear-and-tear, parking expense, food, dry cleaning of clothes and public transportation are all expenses of working out of the house. These expenses can be saved when working from home.
  • Time. When you don’t have to catch a train or a subway or a bus you save time. When you don’t have a morning or afternoon commute you save time. When you don’t have to go out and get lunch at a restaurant you save time. This can be traded in both increased work time and in better work/family balance. For example, if you normally commuted 45 minutes one way to work that’s 90 minutes a day. If you estimate 230 working days a year, that’s 345 hours a year you are saving by not going to work! Crazy!
  • Less Stress. Because you have more control over your time and environment, it leads to a less stressful work situation. Not having to commute to an office can decrease stress right there because you’re not showing up to work anxious already.
  • Healthier Eating. If you’ve done the commute and trudged into office day after day, you might also be a “grab and go” fast food junkie. They kind of go together. Even if you are conscientious about packing your lunch, it is hard to consistently pack a healthy lunch because healthy foods don’t always transport well. Sometimes convenience wins out. If you are at home, you have the luxury of a full kitchen and time. Both of these allow you the ability to plan and cook food that is healthier and is better for you.

That is quite a great case for remote working, right? Seems like working from home wins out. But let’s consider that maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks of remote working.

  • No water cooler conversations. This is one of the things that gets mentioned again and again in conversations with folks about the downside of not being in the office. You don’t realize how much work happens in passing conversations until those passing conversations stop happening.
  • Total dependence on technology. When you work remotely, your internet connection and your laptop ARE your job. If you get the blue screen of death or a worker down the street accidentally cuts your internet cable, you are out of work. There is no paper back-up when everything you do depends on a connection to the outside world.
  • Physical space for a home office. Depending on where you live, you may not have a logistical space in your home and facilitates working from home. During the pandemic when you and your partner were both working from home and your kids were doing school as well it might have gotten quite crowded. Even if you live alone, you may just not be set up to work efficiently from your house all day every day.
  • Less defined work hours. While working from home does afford great work/family balance, it does also make it hard to define when the work day is over. When you are in an office, you can pack up and leave and go home. And while you might check your email from your phone, you don’t have to. But if you are home and have taken a couple hours during the day to help a child with school or take a parent to the doctor, you might feel like you need to keep working well into the night. Keeping a schedule that doesn’t have you overworking can be hard.

What if you’re an employer? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a remote workforce?

On the plus side you have these positives:

  • A huge talent pool. If you are hiring a remote-only workforce, you aren’t limited to candidates living near your brick-and-mortar building. You don’t have to settle and you can select from candidates from all over the country or the world depending on your requirements.
  • A happy workforce. Since the pandemic, employees have said that they would like to remain working remotely if that was an option. Keeping employees satisfied is certainly worth the consideration. There is much less stress with working from home as we noted above and the opportunity to offer your employees a better work/life balance will go a long way in employee retention.
  • Cost reduction. Having a remote workforce reduces corporate expenses in a variety of ways. From hard costs like office supplies and real estate to soft costs like unscheduled absences, companies can save significantly with a remote workforce.
  • Increased productivity. Companies find that having a remote workforce actually increases employee productivity. Because they have the freedom to work at their pace, employees take fewer breaks and will work outside regular office hours. Not having the distractions of “office noise” allows for increased focus and effectiveness.

But it’s not a perfect picture for employers either. There are some drawbacks:

  • Finding the right employees. While you can cast a wider net for talent when hiring remote workers, not everyone is suited for working remotely. Making sure when hiring that you have ensured that candidates have experience working remotely and are sure they can work in that isolating environment. Do not expect that someone who says they can work remotely will be successful if they haven’t done it before.
  • Team building. When everyone is working in their own homes, fostering a team environment will be more challenging. So much of what keeps a team engaged are regular in-person meetings and the “water cooler” daily interactions. It will be incumbent on management to provide opportunities for teams to maintain contact and for all members to feel included, particularly if some members work remotely and some are in office.
  • Communication. This is a biggie. And probably the deal-breaker of remote working. Regular communication between remote workers and management, other team members and the office in general is key to making sure the remote workforce feels valued and heard. And it’s key for management to know that the remote workforce is being productive.

As you can see there are pro’s and con’s to working remotely for both employees and employers. The most important factor to consider is whether there is are systems in place and a commitment to transparent communication and mutual trust. If that’s all working, everything else can be figured out and it can be a positive experience for everyone.