Work from home, telecommuting, remote office – it goes by several names, but no matter what you call it, it means one thing: personnel working in a setting other than a company office, while ensuring that productivity does not suffer.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has forced businesses everywhere to operate with a remote workforce in an effort to keep employees safely at home and keep operations running. For some, the infrastructure needed for working remotely had already been in place; however, the COVID-19 situation is a trial by fire for companies and employees new to working from home.
It’s become more commonplace, and we may see more businesses adopt it as a regular policy after the COVID-19 situation has passed. Outlined below are both “the good and the bad” of a work-from-home benefit.
The good: Improved employee satisfaction
Employees often struggle with finding a balance between their work lives and their personal lives. Working from home helps makes this easier. Even something as simple as the ability to do a load of laundry in between answering emails (rather than having to wait until you get home) helps ease the stress of managing home life with work.
For employers, a work-from-home option can be a valuable recruiting tool. According to this report, Generation Y has been more difficult to recruit (reported by 56 percent of managers) and retain (per 64 percent of managers), but they are particularly attracted to flexible work arrangements – rating among benefits as an 8 on a 10 scale for impact on overall job satisfaction. The report also showed that two-thirds of people want to work from home, and 80 percent of employees consider it a job perk.
The good: Increased productivity
According to media reports:
- Remote workers take longer breaks on average, but they remain productive for an additional 10 minutes per day.
- Remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year.
In addition, office workers reported an average of 37 minutes each day not getting work done (outside of lunch and regular breaks), while remote employees only lost 27 minutes of each workday to distractions.
Although it may seem like there would be more distractions at home, the biggest difference is that employees find it easier to control these distractions, as opposed to those that come from co-workers and office noise.
It’s a win-win for the employer and employee – companies benefit from the increased productivity, while the workers not only get more work done but also enjoy a better work-life balance.
The good: Saving money
Employees save money by avoiding the long commute – less gas usage and wear-and-tear on their vehicles, or less money spent on using public transportation. Working from home also means it’s less likely you’ll dine out for lunch, which is certainly more expensive than preparing your meal at home. Additionally, employees can also write off some home office expenses on their taxes.
For employers, the attraction of providing a work-from-home benefit helps retain staff – ultimately saving the company money from the expenses of having to hire new employees. Perhaps one of the most significant savings comes from real estate. Global Workplace Analytics reports that the average real estate savings with full-time telework is $10,000 per employee per year. Businesses have reported savings on food and beverage costs since keeping the breakroom stocked is less of an issue with fewer employees in the office.
The good: Additional benefits for employers and employees
Allowing employees to work from home empowers them to be independent and disciplined. It also provides a sense of trust. From an employee’s standpoint, their employer is showing faith in them that they can balance work and home, and still be productive despite not being under the watchful eye of management.
Web-based meetings become the norm for remote workers. But meetings tend to be more productive when held virtually, rather than in person. They typically follow a more structured outline and “get to the point faster.” In-person meetings frequently lead to side conversations and discussing off-topic items, causing them to go on for longer and become less productive.
The good: Business continuity in the event of a disaster
The COVID-19 health emergency serves as no better example of the benefit of working from home. Businesses that have allowed a telecommuting option have helped keep thousands of employees working and earning income to support their families. For employers, they have been able to keep operations going to provide work for their employees and to continue serving their customers.
The bad: Some employees prefer the office life
Working from home requires a lot of discipline. Some employees operate better in a more structured environment, and going into the office provides that. While the studies have shown that remote workers are more productive, that doesn’t mean that all remote workers are more productive outside of the office. Making the transition to working from home can be difficult to overcome. For example, remote workers may struggle when they find out that telecommuting is not a replacement for daycare unless they can balance their workload with the needs of their children.
Some employees fear missing out on career opportunities because they are “out of sight, out of mind.” Having face time with management and co-workers can make an employee feel more connected and “in the know.” Human interaction is a must for some employees. Building a sense of comradery with co-workers can be extremely difficult for full-time work from home employees.
The bad: Management may prefer the office life, too
Global Workplace Analytics reports that while 75 percent of managers say they trust their employees, a third of them say they’d like to be able to see them to ensure the quality of their work. Some managers also feel that distance “prohibits collaboration” and prefer to have their employees in the room with them during a busy or challenging time. If overtime is an option for employees, remote workers can make it difficult for management to monitor it.
The bad: Security
In our blog post, “Remote Workers and Cyber Liability,” we examined the issues employers face when it comes to security and telecommuters. Small Business Trends reported that 48 percent of cyber attacks were due to a negligent employee or contractor. iPass, a technology company that provides global mobile connectivity to enterprises, mobile operators and brands, conducted a mobile security report in 2018 that yielded the following results:
- 81 percent of CIOs said their company had experienced a Wi-Fi-related security incident in the last year
- 57 percent of CIOs suspect their mobile workers have been hacked or caused a mobile security issue in the last year.
- 62 percent of Wi-Fi related security incidents occurred in cafés and coffee shops
No authentication is required on most public Wi-Fi networks. This means the connections are not encrypted and could make it easy for malicious actors to steal data or access credentials – a major concern if remote workers decide to drop by their local coffee shop to get some work done.
Ultimately, it comes down to a comfort level for employers; however, employees that are provided a work-from-home option can enjoy a preferred work/life balance, longer duration of employment with their current employer and increased productivity. Be sure to read our blog, “Coronavirus: Best Practices for a Work From Home Policy,” for tips on how to create a successful work-from-home program.
The bad: Workplace Injuries
We’ve recently discussed the workplace hazards office workers face. The reasonable expectation is that injuries are less likely to occur to workers while telecommuting; however, they still happen and it can be difficult to determine what constitutes a workers’ compensation claim for an employee working at home. Read our blog to learn more about workers’ compensation and telecommuters.
Robert Schiller ([email protected]) is a director of claims at AmTrust Financial. Mr. Schiller serves as the lecturer for the Insurance Society of Philadelphia, The Council of Education, The Workers’ Compensation Judges’ Conference, & The PA Workers’ Compensation Claims Association. He also sits as a member of The PA Chamber of Business & Industry for Workers’ Compensation reform.