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A few months back, Yahoo! stopped its remote working program. Best Buy followed suit by announcing that it was also discontinuing remote working. Apart from the top management philosophy behind these decision, remote working has it’s own set of pros and cons. It enables employees to have a good work-life balance as it allows them to render both professional and personal duties. According to a Microsoft whitepaper, employees feel that working from home helps employees in saving fuel, avoiding traffic, and having a quieter, stress-free atmosphere.
On the other hand, the paper points out that some employers are uncomfortable at the idea of working remotely. They feel that there’s a “loss of control” and that without direct oversight, “they can’t witness productivity firsthand.”
Though it has long been considered as an employee incentive, employers have also come to realize the importance of remote working as it results in cost-savings and boosts employee productivity and satisfaction. If the work can be done independently and productivity can be measured, there exists a case for considering remote work as an option. But here the key lies in effective management – which a good manager does by setting up tasks and assigning responsibilities, and not just by having an oversight.
Advantages of remote working
1. Increased productivity
Happy employees lead to happy customers – when the employees feel that they have a degree of freedom and flexibility as to how they fulfil their duties – their productivity, which is a direct result of work satisfaction, goes up.
2. Employee Perk
Remote working acts as an incentive for employees by offering them an option to set their own work hours and breaks, provided they take ownership of their work.
3. No Commute
While working from home employees can save on valuable time which would otherwise be spent travelling to the office. Commuting to work can be a significant cost in terms of time, energy and money.
4. Reduced office costs
Companies can save on office costs such as electricity, space & staff management costs. Lesser no. of employees at the office also means a lesser no. of support staff.
Remote working can drastically decrease a company’s carbon footprint as it eliminates a number of employee commutes and also leads to reduced use of air conditioning.
6. Fallback option
In unforeseen events such as stikes or rough weather, companies having the necessary communication infrastructure in place can resort to work from home as an option to work normally.
Disadvantages of remote working
Though remote working offers plenty of benefits for both, the employee and the employer, it does not come without its own share of downsides.
1. Risk of alienation
For employees working from home for a long duration, alienation might gradually crop up and they might feel cut-off from their fellow colleagues. This can be avoided by a variety of ways such as use of advanced communication tools such as real-time messaging or online collaboration tools where they can work together online and share documents. Offline events and activities every now and then – aimed at increasing camaraderie, can also help reducing the risk of alienating the remote worker.
Companies must ensure that the technology being used by the remote employee is secure enough and they should provide a secure IT infrastructure to ensure that sensitive information is kept safe.
3. Distractions at home
A lot of distractions can crop up while staying at home with young children and spouse. These tasks end up prolonging one’s work day. At the end of the day it could so happen that you have done less of your office work and more of the household chores.
Remote working isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy, enterprises and startups alike must analyze their own business scenarios to understand whether they should adopt a remote working culture for themselves. Although it works as a good morale booster as well as an incentive, but it could be counterproductive if the business objectives are compromised. Personally I feel that the pros of remote working far outweigh the cons and every enterprise should at least consider a mixed setup of on-site working and remote working to measure the results achieved using both, before ruling it out altogether.