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Pros & Cons of Working from Home
As a remote manager for the last 12 years of my career, I know the ins and outs of working remotely. There are pros and cons both from an employee and employer standpoint. Read my IT list if you are considering a home office gig OR if you are an employer wanting to set expectations with a new remote hire.
I’m a big fan of empowering remote employees but only if it makes sense based on your business model. You can read more about my thoughts on companies, like Yahoo, banning home offices here.
By knowing what you are getting into as a remote employee, I believe these PROs can greatly outweigh the CONS.
Employee & Company Home Office “IT List” Revealed!
In my world of marketing, each client/team comes a set of different expectations to deliver on program goals. Working remotely adds an additional dimension to those expectations. Not all employees are meant for the entrepreneurial and self-motivated environment required for a successful home office. As a leader, communicating and managing remote employees also requires additional skills to stay connected and help them feel part of the team. Ensuring that your new hires know exactly what to expect in a home office will help ensure the pros outweigh the cons.
IT List For Remote Employees:
Efficient Work Time – Having a home office means little small chat with colleagues – aka no “cubicle walk ups.” The last thing I want when hunkering down for a task that needs my undivided attention and involves very detailed work such as budgets, final reports, or yearly performance reviews are interruptions. The ability to focus is so valuable when guarding my time and working efficiently through big tasks.
Time Zone Delay = Dedicated Work Time – though time changes can create complications in scheduling meetings, I love the end of my day when head office is closed. I’m 3 time zones behind and thus have 3 hours of solid working team to wrap up my day and focus on tasks without meetings. This can also be a company advantage as it means additional hours if you stretch project work across a team and time zones. As a recruiter, this means additional hours to reach candidates if I’m helping a colleague in a different time zone.
No Commute – This can be a pro and a con. The pro is no traffic, no road rage, no expensive parking at a downtown office. When I decide to “head into the office” – I’m working within 5 minutes. The con? No “snow days;” but, being from Vancouver, those are rare anyhow!
The Tax Write Off – In Canada, I’m able to write off a percent of my rent/mortgage due to having a home office.
No Shoes – Other to being a yoga instructor or a pro surfer, working remotely makes it possible to not suffer in heels – especially over a 12-hour workday. It also makes it special when I do get to dress up for a client meeting or an event.
Limited Visibility – It can be a year before you meet a colleague or client you work with regularly. Sometimes you don’t even meet them at all. Technology has come a long way so turn on your webcam and problem solved. Limited visibility; however, can be a con if you’re trying to build your own personal brand in the office. Typically, senior executives don’t see you or your work as much as in-office colleagues. Solution: Find ways to be heard and seen such as participating in corporate social responsibility efforts in your region or contributing to company meetings/remote training meetings. Additionally, I find that having a well known/respected Mentor who can “bat” for you also helps increase your PR.
Multi-Tasker Extraordinaire – In a remote office, it doesn’t matter what your title is…. You are the receptionist, shipper, receiver, custodian, caterer, event set up & tear down lead, printer, photocopier, VPN repairman, and IT support. You wear multiple hats and have to manage more logistics and sometimes “grunt” work than your in-office counterparts. Completing these additional tasks takes up more time. Solution: Planning for it will help you be successful.
Geography – For some senior level positions, geography may limit your succession. However, I firmly believe that if the company believes in you and you are the right person for the role, a way will be found.
Work / Life Harmony – It’s not a balance, it’s about harmony. Some days it’s hard to shut down and understand that you have to transition from work to home. Not having a commute or physically “leaving the office” sometimes makes this shift hard to do. Solution: Having a separate home office and being able to shut the door can help you create office hours.
IT List For the Company:
No Need to Dance the “Cubicle Shuffle”! – When changes occur in a hyper growth situation, there’s no need to move people around. There are no demands for the window seat or having to convince an employee that sitting next to the Mail Room is a great location!
No Commute = Maximized Work Time – Similar to the list above, this can be a pro or con. Remote employees aren’t wasting valuable productive hours sitting on the highway and fighting rush hour traffic. They’re comfortably working about 20 feet from their living room, not stressed about finding that coveted covered parking spot. They are able to concentrate their full attention on the tasks at hand as soon as they hit their laptop.
Increased Billable Hours – The value of the billable hour is extended in home office settings and can be a great advantage to a remote workforce. However, this can be a con if the employee has never worked remotely before. They may feel disconnected and may not thrive in this self-driven environment. Teaching managers how to engage remote employees can help combat this con.
Regional Presence & Experts – By having a presence in remote markets, you have ears close to the pulse of the business. Your employees know about upcoming trends and see/hear competitive information. Additionally, you have a powerful team of leaders that are the experts in their territory, which can help resonate with local clients.
Team Dynamics – Do you know your team? No really, do you? For a manager, especially when managing a large team across different time zones, it can be challenging to see the day to day reality of each team member and get to know them on a more personal level. For team members, working remotely takes a real entrepreneurial spirit, independence, and confidence. This is not an ideal fit for all so some might get demotivated or discouraged in the long run. Solution: Technology has come a long way with video conferencing, shared calendars, and team building activities/initiatives that can be implemented across the entire territory to make all employees feel part of the team.
Lack of Team Spirit –remote employees can feel removed and forget about. If they are having a tough time their colleagues are not in the next office to bounce ideas off of or grab a quick cup of coffee. Solution: Working hard to create remote employee engagement is key to overcoming this con! Regional lunch and learns, team building events, and executive trips into the regions are important to connect your remote employees.
Time Zones & Geography – When communicating across time zones, it’s sometimes difficult to get the team/clients on the same call. But with today’s technology, tele-commuting is becoming the norm. Also, if there’s an emergency it’s difficult for the manager to deal with the client face to face if they’re located a 4 hour flight away. Solution: This can be managed effectively by setting expectations right from the get go and putting contingency plans in place should a client 911 occur in a region.
Work / Life Harmony – Similar to the list above, this can also be a con for the company and not just the employee. Not having boundaries in work life and personal life, can mean a misunderstood culture. It’s important to fight perceived expectations that it’s all work and no play – this is dangerous as it can lead to work force burnout. Not to mention this might affect the company’s employee value proposition as an employment brand. This is important as it affects the funnel for the future workforce. Solution: Work to help set your remote employees up for success with tips to setting up a home office and connecting them to a buddy who has successful navigated the home office jungle.
Working From Home: For or Against?
Do you work from home? What’s on your Working from Home “IT List” that might not have made mine?
Comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts on my pros and cons both for employees & employers about navigating home offices.