The pros and cons of working remotely: How to thrive at home

four members of a team from different parts of the world is working remotely

We all inherently know that COVID-19 shifted a tremendous amount of thinking and doing around work, but … how significant is it, really? Fairly significant.

We'll delve into stats around remote employees, as well as the pros and cons of the remote work environment - including the importance of a healthy work-life balance and social interaction for remote teams.

Table of contents
Remote workforce stats
Traditional work environments
What are the advantages of remote remote working?
What are the negatives of remote working?
Remote work and gender equality
Is working remotely for you?
Employee retention strategies for remote teams
The pros and cons of working remotely

Remote workforce stats

  • 7%: Pre-COVID, this is the number of U.S. employees who had remote work, telework, or flexible work benefits.1
  • 64%: That’s the percentage of U.S. workers working from home now.2
  • 62%: That’s Gallup’s number on percentage working from home currently.3
  • 59%: … of workers currently working from home would prefer to stay working from home as much as possible.3
  • 60%: … of Australians believe working from home is about to become a global norm.4
  • 99%: In a ResumeLab survey, that was the percentage of respondents who want to stay working from home for at least a portion of the remainder of their career.5
  • 74%: … of CFOs plan to extend remote work for some employees well past the pandemic.6
  • 69%: In a 10,000-employee survey conducted across the globe, that’s the percentage who are more comfortable and productive working from home. 7
  • 16%: That’s the highest percentage level of “active disengagement” among workers who spend 3-4 days/week working remotely, per Gallup.8
  • 37%: … of remote workers stay active by taking breaks consistently.9
  • 80%: … of remote workers experience less work-related stress.10
  • 25%: Companies that offer remote work options have 25% less turnover than companies that don’t.11
  • 33%: Fully-distributed (primarily remote, potentially with an office hub) companies hire 33% faster than companies clustered in 1-2 primary locations.11
  • 9%: That’s been the search volume increase for “team-building” since COVID commenced, per Google.12
  • 20%: … of workers feel loneliness is their biggest challenge or impediment to working from home.13
  • 865,000: The number of U.S. women that dropped out of the labor force in September 2020.14
  • 216,000: The number of U.S. men who dropped out of the labor force in September 2020.14

These statistics reveal a tremendous amount about what COVID did to work, where work and remote work might be headed in the future, and considerations and problems we need to address as remote work scales even more globally.

Traditional work environments

Keep in mind, not all jobs can be done remotely. Yes, some might have the flexibility to provide a hybrid office model, others simply must be done onsite. For example, most restaurant and hospitality roles require being onsite to engage with customers, mechanics have to be in the shop, construction workers at the job site, and most medical professionals, such as doctors and dentists, need to see patients in a traditional office setting.

What are the advantages of remote remote working?

Productivity generally increases in working from home versus the traditional office environment. More than that, there are benefits for employees as well.

  1. Flexible Work Schedule: Remote work allows employees to have more control over their work schedules, which can lead to increased productivity. With a flexible work environment, they can choose the times when they are most productive and align their work accordingly.
  2. Reduced Commute Time: The elimination of daily commutes saves employees valuable time and reduces stress, leading to improved well-being and work-life balance.
  3. Fewer Distractions: Remote workers often experience fewer office-related distractions, enabling them to focus better on their tasks and complete them more efficiently - employee productivity can increase by 13%.
  4. Fewer Sick Days: Remote workers are less likely to take sick days because they can work from home even when not feeling 100% well.
  5. Increased Job Satisfaction: The ability to work remotely can boost job satisfaction and motivation, which can positively impact productivity.
  6. Better Work-Life Balance: Remote work can lead to a better balance between work and personal life, reducing stress and improving overall well-being.
  7. Increased Work Hours: Some remote workers are willing to put in longer hours, which can result in higher productivity. The flexibility of remote work allows them to work outside traditional office hours. On the flip side, longer hours can increase work burnout. Is the employer getting more productivity? It seems so. Is that always good for the employee? That’s a case-by-case basis.
a remote worker celebrating an at home success in front of their computer

What are the negatives of remote working?

The key to managing drawbacks is understanding where a team may experience challenges so the organization can provide support as needed. Most of the drawbacks are related to communication and the human interaction that a physical office setting provides.

  1. Isolation: Remote workers may feel a sense of isolation or loneliness due to the lack of social interactions with colleagues, which can impact their motivation and productivity. This is especially true of employees who have a high desire to build relationships or are more extroverted.
  2. “The reason loneliness is important for us to think about is it’s right under our noses,” And it is a growing epidemic: In the 1980s, 20% of adult Americans said they were lonely. "Today, the percentage has doubled to 40%, “despite the fact that we live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization.” Vivek Murthy,  former U.S. Surgeon General:
  3. Loneliness can reduce task performance, limit creativity, and impair other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision-making. You may have also heard that feelings of loneliness and weak social connections are akin to smoking 15 cigarettes per day, health-wise.
  4. Communication Challenges: Effective communication can be more challenging in a remote work setting, which might lead to misunderstandings and delays in projects. Providing virtual collaboration tools for team meetings is vital.
  5. Lack of Supervision: Some managers worry about not being able to supervise their teams closely, leading to concerns about productivity and accountability. Managers will have to find ways to make one-on-one meetingsmore productive while coaching their staff to bring out the best in them.
  6. Overworking: While longer work hours can boost productivity, they can also lead to burnout and negatively impact employees' well-being.
  7. Team Collaboration: Some collaborative aspects of work, such as spontaneous interactions and brainstorming, are harder to achieve in a remote setting, which can hinder creativity and innovation. Keep teams connected and engaged with tech software and fun icebreakers to bond.
  8. Dependence on Technology: Remote work relies heavily on technology, and technical issues can disrupt work, impacting productivity.

Remote work and gender equality

The relationship between gender and working remotely has been tough. Consider one study, exploring data on gender and remote work from 1996 to 2006:

  • Results revealed a curvilinear relationship in differences between men and women in the use of workplace flexibility options over the life course.
  • Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) revealed that perceived flexibility consistently predicted less family-to-work conflict and less stress and job burnout.
  • Gender (being female) was also modestly associated with greater family-to-work conflict and greater stress and burnout.
  • The addition of life stage variables significantly increased the proportion of the variance explained in family-to-work conflict and stress and burnout.
  • These results support the idea that gender, life stage, and their interactions are important variables in research related to workplace flexibility.

Women in general, but especially working mothers, are found to be working longer hours, with more stress and less flexibility, and quitting their jobs at a higher rate to focus on caring for either children or elderly parents/other family members.

Is working remotely for you?

There are a wide range of factors to this seemingly simple question. It will depend on the remote work arrangement, as well as what your ideal job looks like.

If you're unsure, or weighing out your options, one way to get started is to take the free F4S assessment. Users gain instant access to their results. This information will provide key insights into what type of working environment suits you best, as well as the type of projects and tasks that excite you and which ones deplete you.

F4S dashboard shows your traits and motivations so you can see the  pros and cons of working remotely for you
F4S dashboard

For example, you might find that you prefer:

Working independently: You'll likely thrive in working from home as you can work in a solo environment and retain your focus.

Thinking outside of the box: You like to do things differently and thrive in roles where you can be creative and innovative. This means it might be challenging for you to accept a role that requires you to follow a lot of rules or complete tasks in a conventional way

Visual learning style: You might struggle if the majority of communication is via email (or reading in general). You'll do best with visual communication tools, including virtual meetings and video calls.

Employee retention strategies for remote teams

The best way to retain remote employees (as well as traditional employees in an office setting) is by getting to know each individual, as well as overall team preferences.

Why is that so important? Because motivations at work matter. We've spent more than 20 years studying workplace motivations and our research is helping people and teams all over the world find more success and more personal satisfaction.

Managers can get started by taking the free F4S assessment and inviting their team to do the same. Then create a team to understand your unique team culture, communication preferences, and more.  

F4S team culture report shows this team likes to work with money, budgets, p&l, and being paid fairly
F4S team culture

The pros and cons of working remotely

In summary, there’s a nuance around working remotely. Remote work can offer several productivity advantages, including flexibility, reduced distractions, and the ability to establish an ideal work routine. However, it also poses challenges related to isolation, communication, and maintaining work-life balance. Ultimately, the impact of remote work on productivity depends on various factors, including individual work habits, the nature of the job, and the organization's remote work policies and culture. Trust in employees and clear communication and expectations are crucial for remote work to be successful in maintaining or improving productivity - while ensuring employee satisfaction.

Find out your workplace motivations and understand if you'll thrive in a remote working environment. 

Take the free assessment and understand your skills and preferences. Regardless of the outcome, you can develop the skills needed to work remotely and land the job of your dreams.

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