You are working in your pajamas, managing your schedule, having homemade lasagna for lunch, and listening to The Beatles on your headphones – some of the most significant benefits of working from home!
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, worldwide job markets experienced a historic shift. While some companies used to offer the comfort to work from home as a one-day-per-week benefit, it has now turned into a new normality. Employers had to adapt to this modality rapidly, and although it was an overnight change, everyone settled in.
Though 2020 was considered the year of remote work, it was just the beginning. A year of the pandemic has passed, and working from home is not going anywhere. Unfortunately, like everything in life, remote work has its weaknesses. Remote work also implies losses for some small businesses and co-working spaces. These consequences come with a price, and every team member is an asset. So, what are the pros and cons of working remotely?
The Pros of Working from Home
As the world is going through a big crisis, everyone has had to adjust to cope with it, and big firms switched to a work-from-home culture to collaborate with our worldwide cause: reduce the contagions.
According to a survey from Enterprise Technology Research (ETR), working from home employees are expected to double during 2021. And by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be performing the whole week remotely. It looks like those who rejected the measure last year realized remote work is beneficial, and big companies are paving the way.
1. Everything is YOUR Choice
One of the benefits of working from home is that you can work under a flexible schedule. You can shape your routine and manage the time as you like, as long as you comply with your daily tasks.
You are in charge now, so if it suits you best to leave some tasks for the night while you eat dessert, be free to do it! You can still put in your eight hours without starting at 8 A.M. Still, if you don’t enjoy the comfort of managing your schedule, you’ll surely be able to take advantage of this flexibility some other way, like walking your dog in a break, dancing some hip-hop, or even going to lunch with a friend.
You are not tied to your home either. Though an entire nomad lifestyle is currently impossible, you can still research which locations take in foreigners. You can still do your work while traveling, enjoying some fantastic landscapes, or even surfing in places like Australia or New Zealand.
Otherwise, you may prefer to stay at home and work in your PJ’s; but that doesn’t mean you have to snuggle in your living room’s corner with an old desk and a noisy rolling chair. You can fill whatever space you like and turn it into an office, whether it’s the kitchen’s breakfast bar or a “hidden” area in your bedroom’s closet that can display a desk whenever you need it.
2. Positive Environmental Impact
Maybe you’ve already noticed that remote work supports a diversity of sustainable initiatives that help worldwide economic growth and inequality reduction, building enduring cities and responsible consumers.
If making eco-friendly choices – like using less paper or turning off the light when you’re not using it – reduces enormous quantities of carbon emissions, imagine what would happen if half (or more) of daily commute car travel stopped.
A point to emphasize about working from home is that by reducing employers’ and employees’ daily work travel, their carbon footprint significantly reduces. Plus, it provides them with a faster and cheaper way to work and do their daily errands.
Considering that 1 in 4 Americans expect to work remotely during this year (approximately 39 million people), reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be the equivalent of 6,000,000 cars off the road for an entire year.
That said, the bad news is that when working from home, you are likely to use more energy, as you spent most of the day connected to some device (desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, or tablets). So, if you want to help this positive impact to continue, here are some eco-friendly working from home tips to follow:
- Turn the thermostat down: a couple of degrees can significantly lower carbon emissions and cut your monthly gas and electric bills.
- Embrace natural light: be careful when choosing your home office room; natural light is essential to feel healthier and happier.
- Avoid using the printer: you don’t need all those printed documents; you can store them in the Cloud!
- Unplug devices from the wall: it’s a massive waste of energy and can increase your electricity bills!
3. Increased Productivity and Performance
Fewer distractions, fewer office politics, a quieter noise level, and replacing the office with your favorite home spot are factors that lead to higher productivity and efficiency at work, which benefits both employers and employees.
Many people altered their daily routine during 2020. Those who used to work at the office had to experience an entirely new modality for managing projects, creating “panic productivity.” Millions of remote employees reported increased productivity in the early months of the pandemic. They attributed the early perception of this to the adrenaline boost they got from the sudden shifts in the nature and location of their work. People started working like crazy in the hopes of staying visible to their bosses, relevant to their team, and not losing their minds.
Individuals need to feel productive to be efficient. When employees can see their productivity and results, their claim to recognition increases, leading to career growth and future rewards.
Companies need to recognize and reinforce their employees’ values to shape strongly consolidated and self-secure work teams. Like Franz Kafka, a German-speaking novelist and short-story writer said:
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”Franz Kafka
But productivity isn’t the only proof of success in remote workers. When done right, remote work allows companies to focus on performance. This concept includes team member’s engagement, commitment, learning, growth, innovation, and contributions to the community as a whole, turning productivity into one factor of the overall performance. Then, focus on your productivity levels to achieve great results, but remember that your entire performance would be the one that determines what you can do from what you can’t.
4. Save More Money
Transportation, car maintenance, monthly parking fees, a professional wardrobe, your morning coffee, or bought-out lunches, all of these expenses are gone when working from home, and for good! Visualize how this significant cost reduction can impact your annual savings.
Your bank account will notice the difference. You’ll save all the costs of commuting and all the other expenses you made when going to the office. According to Global Workplace Analytics, a typical company can save around $11,000 per year for every team member who works from home at least some days of the week. And if most businesses keep up with their post-pandemic policies, they’ll see significant long-term cost savings. Companies like Twitter, Square, and Facebook have already confirmed they’ll continue with this scheme.
This significant economic benefit of remote work will continue as more companies make it a permanent solution. Take advantage of it! Invest in the essentials to comfortably live and work from home, like an effective internet connection or high-quality electronic devices. You -or your pocket- will thank me later for this advice!
You may want to read: Jobs for Stay-At-Home-Moms
5. Healthier Lifestyle
Based on the new flexible working routines, working from home has also shown to lower stress levels, provide more time for hobbies and interests, and improve personal relationships, especially with our relatives. Therefore, during this last year, employees tend to be happier and more loyal to their employers and work teams.
Well-being and personal health are vital to achieving practical results. 72% of employers say remote work has a high impact on team member retention due to their happier work-life balance. Coworker and manager relationships improve without the distractions and politics that come along with an in-office job. Following a balance between work and personal life, the meetings you attend, and the breaks you take, you’ll be able to apply a similar type of structure to your work at home and fall into a more productive routine.
If you stick to your schedule, you’ll find working from home gives you a real sense of accomplishment. But if you are having some trouble with distractions, here are some ways that’ll help you keep productive:
- Set up a dedicated workplace: you need a comfortable space to work without interruptions or distractions.
- Establish a routine: try to work at the same time every day; it’s a helpful signal to start your day and practice healthy boundaries.
- Be aware of the ergonomics: though the couch seems tempting, a chair that supports your back will be the best.
- Take breaks: get up, move around, take your pet for a walk, or have lunch with a friend, but avoid working for more than three hours at a time.
The Cons of Working from Home
Though the words “remote work” become more and more trendy each day on the Internet, during 2020, millions of companies perceived the benefits of working from home and applied this modality to their long-term routines.
Unfortunately, some businesses claim that distributed teams didn’t work out for them and failed to build remote teams. But why does this happen?
1. Lack of Communication
Communication between remote workers requires several channels: phone, email, video calls, text, direct messages, and more. But none of these will make a difference if the person isn’t on the other end. There are times when you just need everybody in a big room together to solve things. But in remote teams, it’s impossible, so you need to develop the right communication strategies.
Every question, every answer, every approval becomes a document on a remote team, even write-ups; making it great for records but high loads of information to sort through. With all the instant messaging apps, video call software, project management tools, and God-blessed email, it’s no surprise employees are worried about information slipping from them.
The key is that remote workers learn to balance various and sometimes overwhelming communications streams. So, take advantage of virtual meetings, direct contact with your team is essential for aligned results.
Eliminate or avoid insignificant emails; Basecamp or other project management tools can help you take a more decisive view of this and keep track of what everyone says in one place. Remember, occasional emails are sometimes necessary. And last but not least, invest in communication and technology infrastructures!
2. Finding Motivation
Whether you are working in an office or at home, it’s crucial to achieve results that increase your empowerment. If these get lost in the way, they’ll tend to decrease your motivation and productivity at work, risking the achievement of desired business goals.
The problem with motivation is that remote teams lose the casual desk-to-desk talk with colleagues at the office or the morning coffee chats with the whole team, which can be excellent sources of external motivation. Though self-motivation is key to your success, it’s not always enough to keep a man going, and your remote team should be aware of this to achieve outcomes.
Define what productivity means for your team. Use tools to keep your team motivated, like Google Drive, where you can synchronize everything at the same time. Keep track of your colleagues, not only about work issues but also about their personal lives; it’ll help you know each other better and understand your needs. But keep this in mind, your self-motivation will be indispensable. As our loved Jim Carrey said:
“I would visualize things come to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”Jim Carrey
3. Absence of Community and Teamwork
While some employees are pretty thrilled about the idea of working alone and without distractions, some might find it difficult to spend long hours in front of their screen, lacking face-to-face interaction and immediate communication.
The absence of a community that in-office work provides can sometimes lead to isolation and lack of collaboration. Though several platforms, like Zoom or Skype, can connect team members through video calls and conferences, it’ll be times when they are not as efficient as sitting together and brainstorming ideas.
This lack of community can have different origins, but it’ll probably increase even more if colleagues experience cultural barriers. Some countries expect their employees to agree on everything; others encourage them to discuss different perspectives. All unique expectations will arise with workers from different cultures, from their standard behavior to their communication preferences.
So, to preserve a sense of community in your remote team and immediate goals down the same path, you may want to take into consideration this advice:
- Acknowledge your company’s primary aims and foundations to the group: make sure everyone is familiar with the culture and central values.
- Encourage an online meeting place: set the platforms together and use them! Slack is an amazing channel for random discussions.
- Try to meet in person, at least once a year: some teams may find it impossible due to their faraway locations, but if you have the chance to meet your team personally, go for it!
4. Low Reliability and Unmonitored Performance
How can I know my colleague is working? How can I trust he is online if I cannot see him? Can I trust my workmate with urgent tasks?
These are some of the doubts that jump into your head when you start working from home. The problem is that reliability in remote teams becomes a severe issue if team members don’t trust each other or have the chance to meet. Though working alone can be a tough job, there are some points you cannot forget, like maintaining contact with your team members or following your shared projects. You’ll have to prove worthy to trust!
As a remote team member, check on your performance at work every day and learn how to self-regulate your tasks. Document your processes; a detailed record of your work will help you feel more organized, as well as trustworthy to your teammates.
If you are online, stay online, don’t leave your communication channels open if you are off; it’ll help your colleagues know when they can reach out to you. And encourage feedback meetings; employees need to know they’ll receive sincere comments for their results. As Bill Gates once said:
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve”.Bill Gates
Remote Work It’s All About the Balance!
Man is a creature of habit. There is nothing you can not get used to doing. Some will have the advantage of choosing, while others will have to take the risk. But none of you will fail if you dare to take advantage of the context and make the best out of it.
You’ll soon learn to avoid your dog’s distractions or the noises from the neighbors. You’ll even find yourself getting more done when working remotely; the key is to learn how to self-regulate and communicate with your team. Knowing your weaknesses will allow you to improve your performance and become more effective.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about co-workers stopping by to ask “just a quick question” because you’ll be home, watching the sunrise, having a nice cup of coffee, and starting your day.