Exploring the Pros and Cons of a Remote Workforce

by Anastasia C. Valentine on June 7, 2016



In order to successfully lead a company within an ever changing marketplace, it is important to keep up on the latest employment trends.  This is why we were particularly struck by a Gallup Poll statistic that reports four times as many US workers have worked remotely in the last year than they did 10 years ago. Is this a trend that can help companies achieve greater efficiencies or gain a competitive recruiting edge? Or is it just a fad that will quickly fade out? To provide more insight, we will explore the pros and cons of a remote workforce.

Remote Employees and Productivity

One of the greatest misgivings employers have when contemplating the possibility of remote employees is the issue of productivity. It’s easy to assume that with less direct oversight, remote employees will be tempted by distractions and get less done.

However, this isn’t necessarily the case. While productivity depends heavily on the personality type of your employees, there are many factors of remote work that appear to actually result in greater productivity. This includes the lack of commute, less sick days, and fewer “water cooler” distractions that are inevitable within an office environment.

According to an interview with the Harvard Business Review, one company saw the reality of these advantages, reporting a significant 13.5% increase in worker productivity when they allowed their employees to work from home during a nine-month trial. In fact, they also found lower attrition rates and increased employee job satisfaction.

Remote Workers and Personality Type

There are many personality traits that thrive in a virtual work environment. These are highly organized people who set realistic goals, are results-oriented, and love to learn. These kind of people can really leverage the strengths of your organization, help you find efficiencies, and uncover opportunities for growth.

The potential downside is finding the talent you need that also has the characteristics you need to succeed remotely. As such, these highly specific personality traits will definitely impact the hiring profile you create when you recruit virtual employees. There may be some amazing candidates who have the technical requirements and past achievements to really take your company to the next level, but they may simply not be disciplined enough to work without direct supervision. It’s inevitable that some people will struggle with the remote setup, feeling too isolated from their co-workers and simply too distracted by their home-based work environment.

Remote Workforce and Communication

What if your workforce is highly team-oriented and collaborative? Will this be lost with a remote workforce? Without frequent face-to-face interaction, employers may worry that communication will break down. Impromptu brainstorm sessions may be lost entirely and there’s definitely less opportunity for coworkers to get to know each other on a personal level.

Once again, it depends on the type of people you hire to work in a remote capacity. With technological innovation on your side, there are numerous avenues for constant communication. A remote team can stay on the same page by leveraging the power of instant messaging, video chat, web conferencing and screen sharing, and, of course, phone and email.

One of the disadvantages to digitally-assisted communication is the loss of body language. In a team dynamic where collaboration is essential, simple hand gestures and facial expressions can make all the difference in the message that’s being shared.

Remote Employees and Company Culture

Remote communication does have the potential to negatively impact company culture and employee engagement unless you make significant effort to enhance it.  In particular, make sure you create space and time for some of that “watercooler talk” so your remote employees can build relationships and develop trust.

Additionally, you need to have a clear strategy for how you communicate expectations, project updates, and evaluations. Ensure that your employees fully understand their role, responsibilities and purpose within the big picture of your company. Schedule daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings as necessary.

The Pros and Cons of a Remote Workforce

Ultimately, there are a lot of advantages to a remote workforce. In addition to some of the factors we’ve discussed above, including increased productivity and improved attrition ratios, it also opens your company up to a much wider talent pool when you aren’t tied down to a particular location.

Additionally, when employees perceive the high level of trust you have in their ability to work remotely, they are encouraged and empowered to deliver more superior work than they may in the office environment. A final benefit to allowing your workforce to work from home is the potential cost savings; depending on the model you choose to adopt, you could save several thousand dollars per employee.

When weighing the pros and cons of a remote workforce, you’ll need to consider your hiring profile and recruitment process, your current means of communication, the tools, technologies and resources your employees depend on, and the dynamic of your company culture. It’s not the right choice for every company, but it’s definitely worth exploring to see how it would impact both your employees and your bottom line.

Whether or not you decide that remote employees are the right choice for your company, Resource 1 can find you the right IT talent you need.

Are you hiring IT professionals? Tell us more about your needs, and we would welcome the opportunity to help you out.