Learning from 2020: The Pros and Cons of Work From Home

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Pros and Cons

If you’re one of the many individuals who shifted to working from home in 2020, you’ve learned well that the home office can be both a blessing or a curse. Much of one’s opinion of remote employment is related to their working style, but there are some key undeniable pros and cons worth considering. If you’re a leader in your organization and have a vested interest in your employees’ success, you’ll need to make tackling your working policy a priority. To start that conversation, here are eight points to bring to the table:

Pro1: Flexibility can create productivity.

Time and time again, leaders hear from their employees that eight hours spent at a desk isn’t the most effective use of their time but did you know that they might actually be right? If you have clear expectations for your employees in regard to their core outcomes, you don’t need to dictate how they should get there. As a leader or manager, your focus should be on if they achieve their goals and have the necessary tools to do so, not how many breaks they took in between assignments.

Flexibility throughout the day, away from the regular desk model, is great for individuals who prefer multi-tasking. Instead of scrolling on their phone between emails, they might finish some chores or call a friend. In a recent survey of online gamers, roughly 66 percent of respondents played online games during a work break. It didn’t make them less effective at their jobs, but it certainly gave them a much-needed stress release after conference calls. Flexibility can breed productivity because you allow your employees to work in a way that best suits their style.

Pro 2: An opportunity to reach new talent.

Based on data from 2020, the average cost-per-hire for most companies sits at roughly 4,129 dollars, and the average time it takes to make that hire is 42 days. So, what does remote employment have to do with our recruiting strategy? If you are open to remote employees, your pool of applicants could double, even triple, overnight. Instead of limiting your pool to individuals in your city or open to relocation, you have a global workforce at your fingertips.

Pro 3: Improved communication through technology.

How many times has distance prevented you from having an important conversation? Is it difficult to get all your board members in the same room together? What about important stakeholders in a client’s decision to work with your organization? When you double-down on employees that work from home, you have to improve your technology to meet new communication needs—and with that change, comes some serious benefits. You no longer have the barriers of flight changes or booked-out conference rooms to have a meeting; all you need is a laptop and WiFi connection.

Pro 4: Drowning out the extra distractions.

We’ve all been there: the drive-by stops from coworkers that interrupt our workflow, or the distractions of the conversations next to us that hurt our productivity. When employees work from home, they have the chance to monitor their own work environment. Now, it’s possible that this pro could also be a con: a kid’s growth at home or loud noises outside an apartment can often be just as distracting. As a leader, you might not be able to control the construction noises interrupting one’s day, but you can provide a small monthly stipend to your employees for working coffee breaks, to get away from the noise.

Con 1: Missing social factors.

Happy hours with your coworkers can be fun; whether you’re getting to know the new guy or celebrating our tenured teammate, a few shared drinks and appetizers can create strong relationships between colleagues. Those relationships are sometimes critical to working through difficult problems in the conference room. For individuals who rely on regular social interactions, working from home might cause some frustration—and even anxiety. Social butterflies may see a decline in their mental health without the coworker conversations, and work-from-home can begin to feel a little too quiet.

Con 2: Blurred lines between home and work.

Roughly 66 percent of full-time employees cite a lack of work-life balance when working from home. In truth, this isn’t surprising when the laptop is so close to your living room. Without the physical boundaries of an office or commute, it’s easy for one’s work to drift into their regular life. As leaders, we shouldn’t expect that our employees live and breathe our company. That might be hard to admit, but it doesn’t mean we don’t want them to care: we just know it’s important to have a life outside email (and your employees should know you believe that philosophy).

Con 3: Lack of daily structure.

While we mentioned that flexibility can create productivity, it’s important to talk about the other side of that coin. Some employees work best when they have structure and routine. Once that schedule begins to dissolve, so does their drive throughout the day. Some employees may naturally be able to infuse that routine back into their work-from-home schedule, but managers should be hyper-aware to check-in on their employees and understand if that’s the case. For those that need more structure, office settings can be helpful in getting into a rhythm of meetings, lunches, and quick breaks. 

Con 4: Home office supplies and furniture

If the WiFi goes out at home, you can’t exactly call IT for help. Did your desk start to wobble? Then it’s time to grab your own screwdriver. Managing individual office supplies and a working environment can be hard for employees at home. Even when a company provides a monetary stipend to help accommodate for this new responsibility, it likely won’t cover the entire bill. The ask of employees to create a fully functional workspace will be an easier task for some, but nearly impossible for others. Accounting for that difference in your conversations will help you determine what’s the right fit for your team.

How to Make the Call

So, you have your pros and cons list—but you’re still not sure what to do. It’s okay to not have all the answers! The best recommendation we can make is this: talk to your employees. Gather survey data, conduct one-on-one interviews and collaborate with your HR department to find the best solution to keep your company on top and maintain a healthy working experience for your employees.