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Working from Home: Pros and Cons

If you're a small business owner, you might be considering allowing your employees to work from home. You're not alone: According to a joint report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, in 2017, 3.9 million employees in the U.S. — amounting to almost 3 percent of the total workforce — telecommuted at least half of the time. That's an increase of 2.1 million employees since 2005.

However, before making a decision that could impact how your business functions and the quality of the services you deliver, it's important to first evaluate the pros and cons. Here are some important points to think about.

Woman working in her home office.

Advantages of Telecommuting

  • It can increase productivity. As Forbes points out, when employees work from home, they have far fewer distractions than in the office. This can help boost productivity, especially when tied into performance metrics that are consistently tracked.
  • It can enable a better work-life balance. Not having to commute, being able to spend more time with loved ones and working in a more relaxed environment can contribute to a better work-life balance for the employee. This contributes to lower stress levels and overall better employee health, which in turn supports productivity and performance.
  • It reduces commuting costs. For your employees, not having to travel to the office every day can result in substantial savings.
  • It lowers your overhead. When you employ a remote workforce, you can save considerably on the costs of office space, utilities, office supplies and other expenses related to a brick-and-mortar workplace.
  • It promotes the retention of baby boomers. Forbes explains that providing the opportunity to telecommute to baby boomers who are postponing their retirement can help bridge the skills gap. This can be especially important in a tight talent market.
  • It attracts millennials. Inc. advises that it's critical to allow millennials to choose where they work, so they can achieve a better work-life balance, which is very important to them.

Disadvantages of Telecommuting

  • You need the appropriate management techniques to supervise remote employees. Managing remote employees is different from managing an on-site team. You'll likely rely more on written communication skills, plus, you need to know how to motivate people and know how to bring them together as a team — even when they're not in the office. You also have to measure their performance to ensure they're meeting their responsibilities and working toward their and your company's goals. This might require you to adapt your management style and employ new strategies.
  • You'll need to invest in the right technology. To ensure your remote employees have access to the tools and data they need to do their jobs, you'll need a secure technology platform that enables virtual collaboration and communication.
  • It may be challenging to provide advancement opportunities for employees. According to The Society of Human Resource Management one study showed that while remote workers performed better than on-site employees, they were half as likely to get a performance-based promotion. This could be because they're overlooked, or it could be because many companies want their managers to be on-site. Since employees aren't likely to stay in a company where they can't grow, it's important to think about how to provide advancement opportunities for remote workers before establishing a telecommuting program.

Working from home offers a lot of advantages, but it also has some significant disadvantages that you need to take into consideration. Yet with the option to work remotely growing in popularity with everyone from baby boomers to millennials, there's no doubt that this trend is here to stay for workers and companies alike

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