A remote worker working from home on her laptopMany industries across the globe are experiencing an increase in remote workers. As it becomes more common for employers to hire employees that work remotely, and not in the employers’ offices, the question we find a lot of business owners have is, “Should I hire remote workers?” The answer to this question, like so many other things in life, is ‘it depends’. Employees and employers alike can benefit from working remotely, but it comes with its own unique set of challenges.

The Pros

Cost efficiency

One of the most obvious benefits when it comes to a remote workforce is cost efficiency. A major way that manifests is that with remote workers employers can avoid renting office space. Plus, employers can also benefit if they no longer have to foot the bill for other office expenses such as parking, heating and cooling costs, equipment maintenance and office supplies. While lessening these expenses can be a big benefit for employers, it doesn’t mean that other areas of expense won’t increase. Make sure you talk through the intricacies of what to expect with both your business attorney and your accountant.

Employee Productivity

Especially in larger cities, employees can often spend multiple hours per week commuting to and from their offices. When working from home, employees are able to be more productive because they have more flexibility in how they utilize their time – particularly if they’ve just curbed an hour commute both ways. Being able to work from home without concerns for traffic or other public transportation delays can lead to a notable uptick in hours of production from employees.

Ability to attract employees without regard to geographical and personal limitations

When employers are not restrained by locations, they can look for talent anywhere – not just in different states but in different parts of the world too. This allows employers to cast a much wider net into their new potential employee pool. In addition, qualified employees are increasingly looking for remote work opportunities. This could be because people have personal or other reasons for not wanting to relocate, or simply because they prefer the flexibility of working from home. By taking any or all of your workforce remote, you may have a chance to tap the best candidates for the job, regardless of where they are located. Ultimately, this could give you an edge on your office-based competition.

Decreased Turnover

Employers generally report that employees who work remotely tend to be happier and, thus, stay longer with their employers. And, guess what, happy people are productive people too! Having the flexibility and benefits of working from home can be the deciding factor for many employees if they’re offered another lucrative opportunity – especially if that opportunity is based in a traditional office.

The Cons

Management of employees

The ability to manage employees who work remotely is the most glaring disadvantage and most challenging problem business owners will need to address before taking their workforce online. Many concerns center around scheduling and accountability. If your workforce is primarily or even partially remote, you may have employees working in different time zones or on different schedules than in a traditional 9-5 office. This means you will have to pay special attention to scheduling, communication barriers, and accountability issues. There are steps that can be taken to make sure that employees are being held accountable with their time and commitment to their employer. For some, that may be designated hours where you must be signed in to a video conference, or you may require employees to keep detailed accounts of their time spent. All of these concerns should be addressed upon hiring a remote employee and in your employee handbook. At the end of the day, you have to trust that your employees are doing the work you hired them to do. If trust is lacking in the individual, then there may be a chance that the employee should not have been hired in the first place.

Technology Costs

In order to manage employees and bridge the geographical gap, employers must invest in technology to allow virtual meetings, computer monitoring or software for keeping track of work activities, and communication devices to bring their employees closer to the company. The investment in such hardware and software remains much cheaper than real estate space, parking and the other savings discussed above, but it is still an expense that business owners will need to plan for and address appropriately.

Absence of Company Teamwork

While familiarity does breed contempt, in a business, familiarity also breeds trust and teamwork. With remote employees, a common struggle that employers may face is bringing employees closer together when they are not in the same location. Team building exercises, retreats, and regularly scheduled in-person meetings will help to bridge the gap and overcome the geographical divide among remote co-workers.

Lack of Consistency

When employees are remote and not working side by side, employers can struggle in maintaining uniformity and consistency in dealing with customers and with their work product. Employers will likely need to set up more formal procedures than they would with traditional brick and mortar companies. Business owners can try to address some of these issues by setting up formal guidelines, standard operating procedures, and even hosting small workshops during in-person meetings.

Overall, each business is different and business owners should strategically weigh the pros and cons of hiring remote employees. For many employers, the cost benefit only usually outweighs the cons if the employer is hiring the right people and being proactive in overcoming the hurdles and challenges that commonly arise with remote workforces. Consulting with an experienced business attorney, your accountant, and creating a strategic plan of action for your remote workers are all essential to the continued success, growth, and development of your business.