Remote working is the Marmite of the workplace. Some advocate it whilst others despise it. Either way, it is a hot topic right now, and one worth having a conversation about. Here we delve into the pros and cons of remote working for businesses. We also take a look at what stance top companies are taking on it, and why.
Advocates of remote working will tell you it has revolutionised their business. Research suggests that remote workers are more productive than employees who work in the office. What’s more, remote working is what the younger workforce want - a survey found that 85% of millennials would prefer to telecommute all the time.
Employers can benefit from a far broader talent pool when they are not restricted geographically. Adopting remote working allows companies to recruit from anywhere in the world - offering limitless opportunities compared to office-based positions.
Another perk is far lower office rents. Remote working has seen companies downsizing their offices, as well as favouring co-working offices, in turn saving money on office space. And this trend is set to continue, with industry experts predicting year on year growth in co-working spaces.
Further cost savings can be made by employing remote workers as, more often than not, remote employees use their own technology; hardware they have paid for themselves. This can save companies thousands, and means the worker is using the tech they are most comfortable with.
However, allowing remote workers to use their own tech can be a massive threat to security, and this is one of the biggest arguments against remote working. Tech giants such as Google and Facebook are famed for rejecting telecommuting. They are amongst the largest collectors of data in the world, so something as simple as an employee working in a public space could be catastrophic for them.
Data confidentiality has been a trending topic in business news in the last decade with the rollout of GDPR. Companies are increasingly aware of how they store sensitive information and their vulnerability to cyber-crime. This has undoubtedly been a factor for the numerous companies - Yahoo included - who have made headlines for bringing employees back into the office. By having employees under their own roof, businesses can control cyber threats much more easily.
That said, for the average business this can be cleverly managed and resolved with clearly defined remote working policies and employee training. This could include policies and training around working in public spaces, use of secure wi-fi, firewalls and anti-virus protection, and storing sensitive data. To maintain data security, businesses should ensure that training is ongoing and that remote workers are up-to-date with company guidelines and best practices.
Many businesses are shifting towards bringing employees back to the office, on the grounds that a more traditional workforce means better collaborative working. Whilst industry 4.0 is doing its best to innovate, in terms of workplace VR, and holographics, these are still in their infancy and online conversation cannot rival face to face communication
“When you only see teammates in chat or a weekly video call, it’s hard to develop the tight-knit camaraderie that makes for truly great teams.”
Fast-paced companies, or in fact any company which can be subject to rapid changes, can benefit greatly from in-office employees. By having employees physically close, it is far easier to call snap meetings, or communicate in person for a rapid response.
That said, evermore advanced tech such as Trello and Slack enable smooth collaborative working. Group chats have the ability to streamline discussions in a way that is trackable and reliable. And multi-user kanban style boards allow task ownership to be assigned, making it easier than ever to manage remote teams and for teams to work collaboratively.
If home working is what your employees want, then flexible working practices could be the alternative which strikes the balance between the two. Flexible working is reported to be in the top three factors considered when making career decisions for 40% of workers. There is a broad spectrum of flexible working arrangements, but what it means in general is that employees get to choose their working hours and schedule; or have independence over their working location.
Flexible working could see you benefit from ‘the best of both worlds’, improving productivity and giving employees what they want, whilst also keeping a reign on data security and in-person collaborative working. The drawbacks, however, are that it still relies on workers being geographically close. This limits the available talent pool to those happy to commute to the office at least some of the time, and increases the need for costly fixed desk spaces and tech investment compared with truly remote workers.
When it comes to embracing remote working, the long and short of it is that you must do what works for you. You should weigh up the pros and cons which will be heavily dependent on the nature of the company, the industry, and your business’ unique needs.
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