Remote Employees—The Good, The Bad, The Best Practices

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When we think about hiring remote employees, we instantly think of all the great benefits it has to offer. Employees don’t have to deal with traffic or worry about parking, they can easily work from any location and often enjoy a more flexible work schedule—to name just a few of the popular perks. And hiring remote workers offers more than simple lifestyle perks for employees; from an employer perspective, it can save money, reduce turnover and increases productivity.

However, some may find that hiring remote employees is not ideal because of some of the unique challenges that can arise, like off-site onboarding and a potential loss of engagement with your company culture.

It’s important to remember that there are many benefits for both employers and employees, but all parties involved have to weigh the pros and cons to decide if a remote workforce is the right fit.

Struggling to figure out if a remote workforce is right for your organization? Let’s look at the breakdown.

Pros of Hiring Remote Workers

Hiring remote employees is a hot trend—and with good reason. The flexibility of remote work provides enticing benefits for both employees and employers. In fact, remote work has increased 140% since 2005. And, it is estimated that over 50% of the workforce will be remote by 2027. So, what’s the buzz all about?

Cost Effective

There are several cost benefits that come with hiring remote employees. Since employees will not physically be in the office, you will likely save money that would otherwise be spent on rent, utilities, supplies and general maintenance. Office supplies, in particular, are an area where you might not realize how much money you’re spending. A recent study indicated that employers with over 200 employees spend an average of $37-$32 per employee—per month! Additionally, hiring remote employees could save money on salaries through hiring from areas with a lower cost of living. This can be particularly beneficial in locations where the salary expectations and fight for top talent are high, like California. And, as we’ll explore later, remote employees are often more engaged and have a much lower turnover, which will save even more money on training and onboarding in the long run. The money saved through a remote workforce can easily be used to fuel the company’s bottom line or could be re-invested in other areas like employee benefits.

Larger Talent Pool

Remote employees are also extremely beneficial to human resources managers. By targeting remote candidates, recruiters are able to access a wider pool of talent. And, remote work is a popular perk, so providing this option will help your company remain competitive and stand out from the crowd. Additionally, companies won’t have to wait for new hires to relocate and won’t lose top employees if they decide to move.

Better Work/Life Balance

Building a remote workforce can enhance the overall health and wellbeing of employees. While many in-office employees are glued to their screen or desk for most of the day, working from home allows employees to more easily break up their day. Remote work can also reduce the stress, cost and time associated with a daily commute, which averages 30 minutes one way but can easily top an hour in large cities.

remote employee working from home in pajamas

Working remote also encourages a better work-life balance. If allowed, employees will be able to map out their day choosing their own hours and include other activities that will help prevent burnout. Flexible remote time is also a great perk for busy workers that have other obligations (ex: family).

Remote work is also an excellent opportunity to better engage working mothers, as flexible hours could help save on childcare or allow for a parent to be home when the kids get home from school. A whopping 43% of women choose to leave their career after having a child. Of those, only 74% will rejoin the workforce and only 40% will return to full-time positions (via Lean In review). Encouraging this work/life balance could help keep your working women in the workforce, thereby increasing retention and reducing turnover and associated costs. It’s truly a win/win.

Higher Productivity

Contrary to popular belief, remote employees are actually more productive than employees in traditional office settings. The rise of open office floorplans and increasing commute times can cause stress and distractions that are often eliminated by working in a dedicated home office. Additionally, remote workers are not limited to a 9-5 in-office work period, which could allow more time for them to improve their skill set and take on new responsibilities. And, studies have shown that remote workers take shorter breaks, have fewer sick days and take fewer paid vacation days.

Scott Mautz, keynote speaker and author, recently told Inc.com, “I feel I’m consistently at the most productive I’ve ever been in my entire life. My morning commute is a seven-second walk to my study and I actually start working far earlier than I did in the corporate world.”

Increased Engagement

If you’re worried that engagement might decrease, you’re in luck. Companies report that being remote has increased the level of engagement within their organization. Remote employees and their managers need to make an effort to communicate because it’s not as easy as it is to in the office. And remember, being in the same physical location does not guarantee interaction and engagement; it’s not uncommon for managers that are located within the same room or on the same floor as direct reports to use email as the primary communication channel. If that’s the case, what’s the difference between using email and Slack from home? In a sense, remote workforces require more frequent communication and interaction; otherwise, it would fail.

remote employee working from home at desk

Cons of Hiring Remote Workers

There are clearly many positives to building a remote workforce, but we can’t ignore some of the potential downfalls. When deciding whether or not to embrace a remote workforce, consider the following potential cons.

Communication Concerns

Miscommunication is something that might happen often if there aren’t set processes in place. Employees and managers are no longer relying on face-to-face communication, but instead relying on emails and internal messaging platforms. Additionally, remote workers are often in different time zones, which can throw yet another wrench into internal communications. Of course, miscommunication is also possible in a more traditional work setting; however, if there are no procedures or expectations in place for remote employees, poor communication among a remote workforce is inevitable.

Distractions and Interruptions

An office environment definitely has its distractions (see also: the dreaded open office concept), but distractions and interruptions can be more common at a home office if not properly managed. Children and pets, unexpected deliveries, looming house chores… these concerns are mostly out of sight/out of mind in a traditional office setting.

parent working from home distracted with kids

To mitigate this concern, make sure that your remote employees have a dedicated work space or home office. If the employee has young children at home, consider a policy that requires full or part-time childcare to ensure the employee won’t be distracted and that children are adequately supervised during work hours. Additionally, invest in a robust process and tools for real-time collaboration and communication to ensure that all employees are available and working efficiently and effectively.

Harder to Train and Manage

Another potential con could be a lack of discipline or support among both managers and employees. Aside from employee monitoring software, which has its own set of pros and cons, there really isn’t a way of knowing what employees are working on or if they are actually working during scheduled hours. This could be even more problematic if time zones don’t align. And, if something urgent occurs, it’s not guaranteed that employees will respond in a timely manner compared to escalating an issue in person. Or, employees can potentially be busy or distracted when managers are trying to get ahold of them.

For managers, getting remote employees settled into the new position could be more difficult. Finding qualified employees with good qualities might be easier thanks to the wider talent pool, but onboarding, training and welcoming them into their position is definitely more challenging when you’re doing it from remote locations.

Regular communication, clear processes and trust are essential elements to making a remote relationship work, especially during the initial training and onboarding process.

Security

Security should be a top priority for organizations of any size. Before evaluating a remote workforce, properly vetting and implementing security procedures is vital. Top security concerns for remote workers include the inability to truly enforce security initiatives, a lack of commitment from remote employees to company security best practices and risky behavior among remote workers, like using public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

data security

If you don’t think this is an issue that should be on your radar—think again. A 2018 survey indicated that more than 30% of organizations claimed to have experienced a data loss or breach as a direct result of mobile workers.

Best practices to consider include having clear security procedures and training for remote workers, enforcing data encryption on all work devices, requiring the use of a VPN, and using two-factor authentication to access company systems—to name a few.

The bottom line?

Remote work can be a great perk that both employees and companies can benefit from. It can enhance your employees’ lifestyles, which, in turn, can increase productivity, job satisfaction and engagement. And, remote work can save an organization operational costs that can be used to fund other initiatives. Just be wary of some of the cons that can occur. Try to look out for warning signs like minimal communication or engagement from employees or noticing that some employees are not completing tasks correctly or on time. Set regular checkpoints where managers can get updates, address concerns and offer feedback. By setting clear procedures in place, you’ll be sure to build an efficient and effective remote work program.

For more information on best practices for hiring and managing remote workers, check out these additional resources: 

Emily Banks

Emily Banks is a Bay Area native who got tired of San Francisco’s cold beaches, so she moved to San Diego. She is currently the editor for HR Section of 365 Business. When she is not typing away on her keyboard, she can be found eating street tacos in the sunshine.

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