If you hadn’t noticed, the world of work is changing. With more and more types of jobs being created, and many existing roles becoming digital, or at least having the capability to be performed digitally, remote working practices in particular are becoming more and more prevalent. Additionally, people are looking for flexibility in the way they work, which means the hours they commit to as well as the location of that job, so part-time roles are also becoming increasingly popular as people seek a better work/life balance.
With this rise in the number of people working remotely or in part-time positions, it is worth asking what are the pros and cons of these approaches to work?
The benefits of working remotely
Remote work is quite different than what people are used to in the sense of the traditional workplace. Some people work completely remotely while some work remotely only on some days in the week.
For example, many companies are giving their employees a chance to work remotely on Fridays. The essence of this is that, as long as the job gets done, the employers are happy. Of course, remote work feels differently to different employees. Some enjoy it and work better than in the office and some feel lonely or have no discipline so they slack off.
The point here is to gauge at the right type of personalities if you want remote work to actually beneficial for your company.
Here are some of the advantages of working remotely:
1. No more commuting
This is an easy place to start. Working from home (or wherever you want) means no more physical work location that you have to fight to reach every day. Whether your commute involves a long drive or a challenging trip on public transport, most people could do without the journey to and from work.
Not only is it time consuming, it is expensive. Having a trip to the spare room as your daily commute means improved efficiency of time, and cost savings. The fact is that most remote workers take the time they would otherwise use for commute and turn it into productive working hours.
Sometimes this is not that long, but for some it can be more than an hour. Remote workers also tend to rise earlier to work in a peaceful environment and have more of their day available. So, this is another perk of remote work both for employees and employers.
The commute back can also be used as working hours. However, in most cases, the lack of a commute back home makes people happier to return to work the next day and it makes them more productive and efficient in general.
This also saves them time that brings that work-life balance most people need and want.
2. More flexibility
Another obvious advantage to working remotely is the flexibility this can afford you. This may or may not mean flexibility of time (this depends on the job you are doing), but it almost certainly means flexibility of location.
Want to spend six months working from the summer house, or a different country? No problem at all.
Employees can travel and work, they can be at home and work or work in any other place they want to. But this means more than location flexibility. Most people have different golden hours, or time of the day when they are at their most productive. For some, it’s the very early morning, for some it’s the afternoon and some might even prefer the night.
However, workplaces usually don’t allow all employees to capture their best time. But working remotely, employees can work whenever they feel best for it. Of course, the requirement would be that they work every day, for eight hours, for instance, but they could disperse those hours however they like it and how it suits them best.
As long as the work gets done every day, on time, there is no need for strict guidelines or strict timelines. Also, think about all of that time that gets wasted in those eight hours in the office – lunch, breaks, office chatter and so on. You can eliminate a lot of that and get pure eight hours of work.
3. More time with those you want to spend time with
If you have saved time in commute, and have the ability to take a lunch break in your own kitchen, then you very likely have more time to give to those people in your life who you want to give it too.
We spend such an inordinate amount of time with our colleagues that being able to dedicate even a fraction more time to family and friends has to be a major bonus.
People will also be a lot happier. Their time is spent how they want it. This way, they can be there for their family at the most important times – for meals, after their kids come back from school, for all the important events in their kids lives and so on.
They will be more satisfied in general and be more productive because of that satisfaction.
4. You become independent
Working remotely means that you cannot really be spoon-fed anything. For a start, there’s (probably) no one sitting next to you who you can ask little questions: you need to become self-sufficient.
The fact is, working remotely makes or breaks people: those who prosper are those with naturally entrepreneurial spirits who seek answers themselves.
This really creates more competent workers because they learn to do a lot of things on their own. They have to do research and understand their job better instead of just doing them without thinking about it.
They will get more responsibilities which will make them more efficient and productive, caring for the company mission much more than before.
The pitfalls to working remotely
Of course, nothing is without some drawbacks. Remote work, as it is still new compared to traditional work, needs more time to develop to its full efficiency.
There are many benefits, naturally, but there are also plenty of drawbacks you might miss as you give your employees the ability to work remotely. The important part is that you understand this because then you can see problems coming and solve them properly as they happen.
Here are some of the disadvantages of remote work you should look out for.
1. The boundaries between work and life become blurred
A common complaint among people who have struggled to work remotely is that the demarcation lines between what is your time and what it work time is not so easy to identify.
In the office it can be (but not always) easy to establish a lunch routine where you leave the premises, but when your work environment is your home, it may not be quite so easy to do. This requires a hefty amount of organization and zealousness to discipline.
This is where personality assessment comes into play. You need to figure out who would be the best at setting up a routine and having that amount of self-discipline to make their work at home life just as efficient as their work at office life.
Different people have different abilities when it comes to this. For example, some might stay to watch some TV after breakfast, then feel compelled to clean up, then play with their kids, then check their phone, then make lunch and the day is so easily lost. Then they end up spending more time working to catch up and this turns into all work no life situation.
These types of employees end up being unhappy and tired all the time. On the other hand, some people set up their working hours, wake up early, work with enough breaks to stay refreshed but also with enough commitment to have plenty of time after work.
They usually finish their daily tasks before regular working hours end and they have more time for themselves. These employees are then happy and more committed to working better.
2. Others may not respect your boundaries
Working remotely where there are other people can sometimes be problematic in that others do not always completely respect the fact that you are working.
This is particularly difficult in shared environments, and again entails a lot of discipline and respect. Often it can take quite a while to establish effective boundaries in this regard. With young children in the house, at times it can be impossible, so a Plan B is often required.
Of course, there are other places to work from but, in essence, it’s important to remember that the home environment is often the best. You need to tell people that just because you are home, it doesn’t mean that you are available to help them, do stuff for them, have coffee or anything similar.
Your working hours should have the same respect as their working hours.
3. There are constant distractions
If you thought a conventional office could be distracting, there is nothing quite as testing on levels of concentration as a home environment.
The phone may ring the doorbell may ring, there are other people to be aware of, or simply you may be tempted by the forms of entertainment that would normally grab your attention outside of work hours. Then there’s the dreaded kitchen with all its inducements. How quickly a daily coffee can become ten!
This is all about discipline and can easily be solved. Breaks are allowed even in office.
So, work on a single task until you finish it and then give yourself time to scroll social media, for example. Then work on another task before you eat something and so on. These treats of fun will keep you motivated and driven to complete your work on time.
The benefits of working remotely
1. More of your own time to enjoy
This is a simple point, but if you spend less time at work, you have more time to do other things. And as long as this is a financially viable option, what’s not to like?
2. A chance to keep a career alive while dedicating time to other things
In the case of mothers (or fathers) of young children, working part time has become a great option to maintain a career while raising children. The flexibility the part-time job affords is great advantage to those who have other commitments.
3. A supplementary income, or added social opportunities
Some people may be in a position where they do not really need to work, or cannot work full-time due to a number of different reasons. Working part-time allows for supplemental income and/or a very important social outlet for those who may not necessarily have it.
For health of both a physical and mental nature, these are important factors. Many people struggle to adapt to not having a job: when they retire is a good example. They miss the sensation of being useful, or that daily opportunity to shoot the breeze with colleagues.
Part-time work affords these many people an invaluable outlet.
The pitfalls to working remotely
1. Reduced income and benefits
Not only will part-time work offer a lower salary than full-time equivalents, employees often find that they cannot access the same benefits as their full-time colleagues, whether this is fair or not (and of course it is not).
2. Less hours, but no less work
Part-time workers can often be heard claim that they deliver the same amount of work in perhaps half the time as there is more expected of them, and there is less time for procrastination or wasting time. Although there may sometimes be an element of sarcasm involved, there is no doubt that the reduced time frame can bring about added pressures.
3. The stigma
Not everyone cares what others think, but it becomes more difficult when that other person is your boss.
Of course, it is deeply unfair, and should never be overtly displayed, but it is undoubtedly true that some would overlook part-time workers in the case of promotion, and some would be unfairly be labelled as less-committed to the company cause.
Thankfully these prehistoric attitudes are changing, but they are not dead yet. For a career, that can spell trouble.