Over the course of the last six months, the nationwide COVID-19 crisis has changed virtually everything that we had previously taken for granted in the world of business. At this point in time, it’s too early to say with certainty what workplace norms will look like once the pandemic has passed. What does appear to be beyond doubt, however, is that certain best practices that have been adopted by employers out of necessity during the pandemic will remain in place for years to come.
Take the transition to remote work, for example. Even before the onset of the pandemic, growing numbers of employers across the US were already beginning to allow their employees to work from home. Now that social distancing has become public health imperative number one, those employers that were late adopters to flexible work have been forced to suddenly – and completely – transition to the WFH model.
In other words, remote work has become the norm much more quickly than anyone had ever predicted. This has created certain challenges, certainly, but it also presents some valuable opportunities. To be able to make the most of their present circumstances, it’s important for employers to understand both the benefits and drawbacks of having their employees work from home.
The Pros and Cons of Managing a Remote Workforce
As is the case with any workforce model, there will be some ups and downs as you learn how to manage your distributed workforce. The key to making the transition as smooth as possible both for yourself and for your team – as we hinted at above – is to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of having your entire workforce work from home.
It can all be boiled down to one simple question: Is working from home conducive to employee productivity, or does it inhibit it? In other words: Are employees more or less productive while working from home?
Before we attempt to answer that question, let’s break down some of the (by now well-established) benefits and drawbacks of having your employees work from home:
- Boost in focus and employee retention. A groundbreaking 2-year study conducted by researchers at Stanford University recently found that employees who work from home are more likely than their in-office counterparts to put in a full day’s work and remain focused. The study also found that employees who routinely work from home are 50 percent less likely to quit their jobs.
- Potential to save money. Managing a workforce that works under a single roof often requires employers to spend huge amounts of money on workplace construction costs. On the other hand, managing a remote workforce can present an employer with the opportunity to avoid those expenses.
- Decreased levels of stress among employees. Stress, obviously, tends to hinder employee productivity. When your employees are forced to spend long stretches of time each day commuting to the office, they’re much more likely to arrive stressed – and, as a consequence, to be distracted, unproductive, and irritable throughout the day. By eliminating the need for a daily commute, your employees are more likely to remain stress-free and engaged with their work on a regular basis.
- Not all home workstations will be distraction-free. Previously, we mentioned a Stanford University study which demonstrated that employees tend to be more productive while working from home. While that can safely be assumed to be generally true, there will also be some exceptions to the rule. Some employees, inevitably, will be more prone to distraction while working from home. If you have one (or more) of these individuals working among your distributed team, it’s possible that your whole workforce will be slowed down as a result.
- Less camaraderie amongst team members. Working within a single, brick-and-mortar workspace provides employees with regular opportunities to bond and build friendships. For obvious reasons, this becomes a bit more complicated when everyone is working remotely.
- Lack of direct oversight. In order for employers to be able to know which employees are ready to be promoted or to be assigned sensitive projects, it’s important to be able to engage with them face-to-face. Of course, video conferencing platforms now enable employers to connect with their employees even while everyone’s working from home. But there’s something to be said for the fact that employers can no longer engage with their WFH employees in spontaneous conversation in the hallway or in the breakroom.
The Bottom Line
Okay, back to the question that we posed earlier: Is working from home conducive to employee productivity, or does it inhibit it?
As we’ve now seen, the answer to that question isn’t so clear-cut. There’s reliable research out there which has shown that employees, in general, tend to be more productive and less distracted while working from home. At the same time, individual preferences and work habits differ, and employers should be careful to avoid assuming that all of their employees will perform better while working from home.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that there is a wide degree of variability between teams. With that in mind, it’s important for employers to communicate closely with their individual team members and leverage technological tools that will enable their remote teams to collaborate most effectively.
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Are you looking for talented candidates in your area who will be able to help your remote workforce thrive? If so, Patel Consultants has the expertise and resources that you’ll need. Email Nick Malefyt at email@example.com or contact our office today to get started!