Remote workers can add skills and flexibility to any business, but managing them and integrating them successfully into a team can present many challenges. So, are they worth it? We take a look at the pros and cons.
Pros of Remote Workers
Access to greater skill sets
With technology making distances and borders obsolete, organizations are now able to hire employees with pretty much any skill they want (as long as it can be performed online; it would be hard for ice sculptors or dog walkers, for example, to deliver their skills across time zones or continents). This means that companies are no longer limited by having to operate out of high-profile destinations to get the skills they need and can find the right collaborators for their projects wherever they may be in the world.
One of the greatest advantages of having a remote workforce is how much it cuts down on the need for office space and real estate. There are also large savings to be found in providing equipment, as well as employee compensation and benefits, especially if hiring outside of large cities.
With a global workforce potentially at your fingertips, it can be a lot easier to take on people as your organization grows or even just for project-specific periods. This requires the infrastructure both for managing remote workers in increasing amounts as well as the best tools for remote workers to allow them to hit the ground running and start contributing without a long bedding-in period.
Less time wasted
With a remote team working from home (or somewhere comfortable nearby), team members are always close to their workspace. This means that no time is wasted on actually getting to the office to start work in the first place. This can be directly related to productivity gains through employees having more energy and a sleep pattern they can choose for themselves.
The best tools for remote workers also harness the power of technology to enable instantaneous virtual communication… as long as employees have access to a fast internet connection, that is.
Cons of Remote Workers
Though it’s possible to have great communication and professional relationships with remote workers, if things aren’t going well, it can be tough to turn a collaboration around. Also, not being in the same space and understanding the personal motivations or approaches of a team member makes it more difficult to hit on the right methodologies for managing remote workers.
Barriers to buy-in
Both literally and figuratively, remote employees are going to be more distant from the organization than those who are physically present. Though managers can work on improving buy-in by making remote workers feel more involved or part of the firm, it can be an uphill struggle. This affects areas such as employee investment. If you pay for additional training, for example, how sure can you be of getting back your return on that investment if the employee doesn’t feel tied to the company?
Data breaches and corporate espionage are major concerns for many firms in the digital age, and remote workers can be significant risk factors for both. This can stem from reasons such as not knowing how secure their digital environment is or who’s really at the other end of an email, as well as the fact that legal protections such as NDAs might not hold the same weight in other jurisdictions.
Managers spend a long time honing their skills to ensure they can get the most productivity out of their team. When managing remote workers, however, much of this skill set is either rendered obsolete or greatly diminished due to the lack of proximity or ability to subtly apply the motivation or support a team member needs.
While tasks can be outlined and productivity measured using the best tools for remote workers, on an hour-by-hour basis, it’s more difficult to increase output than if the team is in the same office or facility.
Of course, these cons aren’t guarantees – they just highlight the challenges you’ll need to be willing to overcome if you choose to include remote workers in your team. After all, with the right kind of management and tools, remote workers and broader employee flexibility can be a great way to make your business more agile.