Crafting your remote work policy: pros and cons of the virtual work revolution

March 08, 2020

Ah, telework: the attire is casual; the morning commute is nonexistent; and those snacks you have in the fridge are never too far away.

Sounds like the dream employment situation, right?

Remote work certainly provides a lot of fantastic benefits for workers. And with a number of advantages for employers as well, more and more organizations are moving to attract and retain top talent by offering this enticing perk. It appears they might be wise for doing so.

According to a survey by staffing firm Robert Half, 77 percent of workers said they’d be more likely to accept a job if it offered the ability to work from home at least some of the time.

Some employees even said they’d be willing to take a pay cut in order to work from home, according to the State of Remote Work 2019 report by tech hardware company Owl Labs. The study found:

  • Thirty-four percent of workers would be willing to take a five percent cut.
  • Twenty-four percent would take a 10 percent cut.
  • Twenty percent would take a cut larger than 10 percent.

Just by looking at your friends and neighbors, you’ve probably noticed that providing the option to work from home is on the rise.

More than 26 million Americans — about 16 percent of the workforce — are now working remotely at least part of the time, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of workers telecommuting increased by 115 percent between 2005 and 2015.

Despite the growing trend of remote work, though, it’s not ideal for every job. There are some things to consider before implementing your own remote work policy.

Decisions, decisions

Whether you already have a remote work policy in place or are considering implementing one, it’s important to take a look at all of the pros and cons to decide if the benefits really outweigh the costs.

Let’s consider some of the advantages and disadvantages for both employers and employees.

From an employer’s perspective

Expanded talent pool due to the ability to hire geographically-distributed candidates. Sometimes a lack of confidence by managers that employees are maximizing work output.
Reduction of overhead/office space expenses. Reduced interaction and communication in a remote team, which may lead to confusion over assignments and tasks falling through the cracks.
Potential for increased productivity due to fewer distractions and interruptions and the ability to check email or handle various tasks at any time. Ineffective communication.
Potential for increased employee engagement and satisfaction, which leads to a more successful business. Difficulty establishing trust and smooth working relationships due to a lack of team cohesion and comradery.
A reduced carbon footprint, which helps workers to feel good about their employer.  
Reduced chance of illness spreading through the workforce, which is especially important when something like the flu or coronavirus hits.  
Increased flexibility and ability to manage work and home, family commitments. Fewer opportunities for information sharing and networking with colleagues, leading to social and professional isolation.
Reduced transportation costs.  
Greater work output due to time saved from commuting and less “office life” interruptions. Blurring of the boundaries between work and personal life, which can lead to burnout. The ability to check email and engage in work anytime can be a problem if boundaries are not set.
More opportunity to fulfill family care responsibilities. Requires additional motivational skills to thrive in a solitary environment.
More job satisfaction and stronger feeling of loyalty to the organization. Possibility for less recognition — introverted employees may have difficulty promoting their work.
In some cases, less stress due to the ability to better manage work and home. Hindered career path due to an “out of sight, out of mind” scenario.
Increased opportunity to be more technologically savvy with communication tools, which makes workers more marketable.  
  A feeling by coworkers that a remote employee is not contributing at the same level.


Working virtually may not be for everyone

For some employees, like computer programmers, the ability to telework is even considered the norm nowadays.

Workers whose jobs require intense concentration or significant attention to detail often benefit from a work environment that’s free of potential interruptions — a remote setup might work best for them, depending on their home situation.

Add in the fact that the work of programmers, insurance claims adjusters, and call center workers can be done almost entirely on a laptop, and remote work does seem like a practical option.

But for other workers, the nature of their job just isn’t conducive to working remotely. The success of working from home often hinges on figuring out the right childcare, home office setup, and other situations to provide the ideal working environment.

For positions that require frequent collaboration with others, such as human resources, retail, and natural sciences managers, working remotely may not be the best option.

In a world where flexible work arrangements are being seen as increasingly valuable, it’s important as an HR professional to make sure these types of workers also have the opportunity to benefit from a healthy work-life balance, even if it’s not through remote work.

Offering flexible and predictive scheduling to give non-remote workers better control over their hours could be one efficient strategy for doing so.

Remote work, a fact of life for most businesses today

In 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer made headlines by ending remote work at the company.

Mayer’s goal was to foster a more collaborative culture at Yahoo, and she believed bringing everyone together to the same physical location would be the best way to do so.

Mayer’s attempt to shake things up by challenging what was becoming the status quo for many tech companies certainly got her a lot of attention, but in the end, her policy didn’t take hold.

Fast forward to 2020, and Yahoo is now part of Verizon-owned company Oath, which allows employees to work from home.

Crafting the remote work policy that’s right for you

There’s a ton of information out there on the benefits of remote work, but it’s certainly not without its downsides.

Leaders, managers, and HR professionals should take a good, hard look at both the pros and cons before deciding if telework is right for your organization — and possibly even on a case-by-case basis.

The decision to hire remote workers requires thoughtful consideration, not just following a trend or blindly submitting to employees’ requests.

For starters, taking a fresh look at your current roles to identify virtual employment opportunities can give you a big leg up in retaining top talent and help you to develop your recruiting strategy using remote work as a perk.

Some good questions to ask yourself about your organization might be:

  • Could any of your roles become virtual?
  • Does going virtual require additional training, or even additional IT support roles?
  • If you decide that virtual work is possible, is your management team equipped to oversee a virtual workforce?

These are some important questions to consider, but once you do, you’ll be well on your way to implementing the unique remote work policy that works for your organization.

If you need any help from Mercer along the way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Give us a call any time at 855-286-5302.

You may also be interested in: