In 2017, the traditional office environment faces an imminent threat: the rise of remote work. A 2012 poll by Reuters cited that one in five members of the global workforce work remotely… and that number was predicted to rise at a faster rate in the future. That predicted future is here! The fact that cutting-edge, affordable collaboration tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Trello are readily available, combined with the decreased limitations and overhead costs of having a physical office, leads people to wonder… is office culture dead?
There are several trends that support this shift:
- 68% of millennials say that remote work options significantly increase their interest in a particular job.
- Millennials put more emphasis on work-life balance than previous generations, and will soon be the largest segment in the US workforce.
- 30% of telecommuters say they can accomplish more work in less time, while 24% of telecommuters say they can accomplish more work in the same amount of time.
- 82% of telecommuters reported lower stress levels.
People now challenge the idea of the traditional 9-5 office job as the popularity of remote work and the freelance economy continues to rise. However, office work may not die off entirely. Office environments play a crucial role for businesses who rely on teamwork. “People are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together,” says Yahoo chief Marissa Meyer, who recently called Yahoo’s workers back to the office to contribute to the “energy and buzz.” Besides that, millennials often cite company culture as an important element of their career.
This dichotomy of people wanting flexibility and work-life balance on one hand, but also wanting a connected company culture, makes finding a happy medium between remote work and in-office work a more viable solution.
Pros and Cons of Employees Working Remotely
- More agile workforce - Employees who are able to work anywhere, anytime have more agility and a greater degree of responsiveness. Rather than being fully connected for the entire work day, employees are somewhat connected 24/7.
- Less money spent on overhead - Employers who are remote-only experience significant cost-savings on paying rent/overhead on an office space.
- Promotes work-life balance for employees - With the ability to work from home, employees are able to get back valuable commuting time in their day.
- Promotes employee engagement - The added layer of freedom and control that remote work offers leads to increased job satisfaction. In certain people, the elimination of office distractions and commuting annoyance leads to an increase in overall productivity.
- Performance-based work environments have been gaining steam.
- Prone to miscommunication/misaligned goals - Due to the various differences in the ways that people process information, remote teams are vulnerable to miscommunication and/or a disconnection of expectations.
- Prone to take advantage - It takes a self-starter to work from home diligently - and it’s hard for leaders to evaluate whether or not someone is being productive while they work from home.
- Communication is less secure - The constant security breaches in big tech companies can make any company leader squirm when someone decides to use their personal device/home WiFi network.
- Less control for leadership - Leadership does not enjoy as much control over workflow, processes, and outcomes.
- Glitches - Inevitable technology glitches make it harder to collaborate across teams.
Pros and Cons of Employees Working in an Office Space
More channels of communication - In addition to all of the technology that remote employees use, office workers enjoy the best communication channel: face-to-face interaction. This leads to a clearer operational direction for employees.
Culture - When a company has a physical office space, employees have more opportunities to interact with one another and build strong relationships, which leads to more team unity, collaboration, and contributes to employee retention.
More control for leadership - Leaders have more visibility into employee’s day-to-day actions.
More Costly - A physical office space adds several line items of operational costs. And having an office space does not ensure that employees will work more diligently. Disengaged employees that simply “show up” to work often just go through the motions and end up costing more money than they’re worth.
Traditional office distractions - Whether these distractions fall into office politics, gossip, or just plain noise, they affect the overall productivity of employees.
Inefficient - For employees, the time spent getting ready for work/commuting could be allocated to more productive tasks.
Too much communication - The benefit of communication can quickly become too much of a good thing if meetings are occupying a large proportion of employees’ time.
A valid argument exists for both remote work and in-office work, but the pressure for employers to offer remote work options will only increase as more people experience its benefits. According to a study published by Stanford University, offering remote work options reduces employee turnover enabled job attrition rates to fall by over 50%.
The traditional idea of an office space will continue to evolve. Every company is different - so company leaders have to assess their organization and experiment in order to strike the balance of remote work and office work.
When considering some form of remote work policy / telework options, consider:
- What roles will allow for telework options? Some positions would benefit from working remotely, but others may not.
- What kinds of people work in the organization? Can they be trusted to handle their workload remotely?
- How will the company evaluate whether this new policy is beneficial?
- How is employee productivity against deliverables being tracked?
- How are soft outcomes like engagement or quality of ideas being tracked?