Remote work has been the subject of debate by many employers and employees over the past several years. Once the pandemic began in early 2020, employers were forced to embrace the wave of remote work to continue functioning in an uncertain world. Now that we have had time for the dust to settle on this topic, not all the data is as warm to remote work as employees may like, especially for particular groups of employees.
Benefits of Remote Work
Though there has been data against remote work, there are still some very clear advantages. First and foremost, it broadens the talent pool for hiring companies. Offering fully remote work allows companies to acquire talent that matches their needs, regardless of location. This is especially important for companies in smaller or more rural markets where there are just not as many people.
Additionally, remote work allows for far greater flexibility for the workforce, something many employees are searching for. Part of retaining talent is keeping employees happy, and remote work is something that often helps to achieve that. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that hybrid work environments reduce attrition by 33% and improve job-satisfaction measures.
The Direction of Remote Work
Tech companies have been leading the way in bringing employees back to the office. Companies including Alphabet, Lyft, Meta, and Salesforce have all walked-back their previous work from home commitments, bringing many employees back part or full-time.
Some companies even have a case that remote work goes against the core of their company values. For example, David Risher, the new CEO of Lyft stated “Humans are deeply social: we live longer and are happier when we connect with one another…Lyft helps get people out and about to work, play, and have fun together. We’ve got to walk the walk.” Lyft recently changed their policies to bring employees back at least three days per week.
This is not to say that a remote structure cannot be successful for certain companies. As stated, there are many advantages to remote environments. However, let’s now examine some of the downsides of remote work.
Disadvantages of Remote Work
Despite many benefits, there are several major disadvantages to remote work that should be taken into account too.
Career Development and Mental Health
One of the groups that sees the greatest disadvantages to remote work are the more junior employees in an organization, particularly Gen Z. In fact, Gen Zers are coming to this realization themselves. Less than 29% of Gen Z would select a remote-only job. Even some of the younger millennials are a part of this trend with 81% of employees under the age of 35 fearing loneliness from long-term remote work situations.
Additionally, in a prior lifetime, many people met life-long friends or even their spouses at their jobs – how would this be possible in a remote only world? While this is obviously not WHY people work, there is something to be said about the relationships developed at work, and the impact they can create throughout your life.
Take away the mental health aspect of this equation and think of the lost opportunity young workers will have from a networking standpoint. Meeting and learning from mentors can be a huge kickstart to a career. Though not impossible virtually, it is far more of a challenge to develop these relationships through a computer screen.
While moving an already functioning team to remote is a far easier transition, bringing new employees into the fold can be extremely difficult. Onboarding processes are often stressful regardless, but doing everything virtually increases confusion. A survey by Paychex found that 36% of remote workers felt more undertrained, disoriented, and devalued after onboarding compared to those in person workers.
Regarding productivity there is a clear debate on how it is affected by remote work.
A study done by Liberty Street Economics examined how workers allocate their saved commute time and found that about 35% of that saved time went to work.
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in hybrid environments, employees “reduced working hours on home days and increased them on office days”. This finding shows that remote work, especially within a hybrid situation, has altered the structure of the working week.
How Should Companies Proceed?
While it seems very unlikely remote work will ever be taken out of the equation entirely, there is no question that there is value in the development of company culture and learning and growth opportunities for employees that only in person work can truly provide.
In the end, there is not one right answer as both sides of this argument have valid and data-backed points.
Each company needs to evaluate its business, mission, culture, and employee demographics to find the best solution to balance employee satisfaction, low attrition rates, and career development and create the best possible work environment for the organization.
Whether you are looking for remote, in person, or hybrid employees, we are here to help. Contact us to learn how we can find the right employee for your organization.