In today’s global business work, the number of people working from home is on the increase. According to the Latest Telecommuting statistics, GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, 3.7 million Employees (2.8% of the workforce) work from home at least half the time.
Remote working is defined as employees operating away from their place of business. A remote worker could be operating on the road, at home or from abroad.
Whilst working from home sounds very appealing to most people, there are advantages and disadvantages to being a remote worker. For the purpose of this blog post I have listed my top 3 advantages and 3 disadvantages of remote working.
1. Reduced Costs
Working from home is sure to have a positive impact on your wallet or purse. Think of the money you would usually spend in one day working in the office. Travel costs to get to and home from the office, car parking (if you are not fortunate enough to have company car parking), lunch or coffee breaks AND let’s not forget the costs of purchasing new work wear to impress your boss and colleagues. Lower costs for remote workers mean that they can really enjoy the salary that they have worked hard for.
2. Increased Productivity
We have all been there. Monday morning and we have a list of tasks we want to get through. We get up extra early to get to the office early, quickly run into a huge traffic jam due to a road traffic accident, get to the office 1 hour later than expected then your boss calls a very important yet unexpected meeting which lasts for 2 hours. Before you know it you are half way through your day without getting to one of the items on your list. Working from home can a significant effect on your productivity, there are more opportunities to carryout ‘deep work’ due to less distractions or interruptions or even the time used to travel to and from work can be used to get more tasks completed.
3. Less Absenteeism on your Record from Sick Days
Travelling to the office when sick is never a fun experience. You also have that feeling of responsibility to avoid passing on your illness to fellow colleagues. When you’re at home, you can take care of yourself and still get work done. Remote workers tend to have less sick days than employees who travel to the office every day to work. The CIPD’s Survey from 2012 states that 56% of employers found that absenteeism dropped after they adopted flexible working practices. The average UK employee takes five days a year sick leave, according to separate research from the CIPD from January, and reducing that even by a day or two would, of course, reduce disruption and loss of productivity in your business. In fact, XpertHR’s annual survey found the cost of absence equated to £553 per head on average in 2012, up from £442 in 2011.
1. Less Connection with Colleagues
Working from home can at times feel isolated. Even when interacting with co-workers via communication and collaboration tools, it is sometimes not the same as being in the office environment, hearing colleagues discuss projects or even eating lunch together. A number of remote workers will admit to going to a local coffee shop to work, just to take in the background noise or travelling to the office a few days per week to have that important connection with their colleagues.
Google, for example, believe that employees should literally be within touching distance from each other – they believe this leads to better ideas, more ‘light bulb’ moments. See the book How Google Works.
2. Possible Distractions
Remote workers need to remain disciplined throughout their day in order to avoid certain distractions while at home. Whilst some people find this easy to do, others can struggle to switch into 'work mode' when at home. To ensure there are no distractions remote workers should make sure their work space is tidy before starting work. Mobile phones and at times instant messaging tools can also be an unwelcome distraction. A successful remote worker will be sure that he/she creates dedicated times for email, phone calls and other communications.
3. Work/Life Balance Challenge
Although remote working is more flexible and if managed correctly can improve your work/life balance; many people can struggle to differentiate between home and work. If, for example, you work for a global company with colleagues all around the world, you may find yourself at home at 9pm in the evening sending an email or instant message to your colleague in the States, then before you know it, its 11pm GMT and you have been online since 8am GMT. When working from home it is important to make clear distinctions between your workplace and home space.
Although there are many advantages of remote working which are beneficial to you as an employee and your employer, like anything, in order to be successful, you must set clear guidelines for yourself and also be open to flexibility. At times a blended approach to remote working can be very effective, with some employees working from home 2-3 days per week and working from the office at other times. The experience of remote working can be different for each individual and company.
Read more stats about remote working in our info graphic.
You may also be interested in our blog post 'How to improve collaboration with remote workers'.