The Pros and Cons of Remote Teams

Jarie Bolander
Jul 16, 2018 · 5 min read
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Macintosh HD:Users:jarie:Downloads:andrew-neel-609844-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

A Guest Post by Michael Deane

It is often said that the 9-to-5 working model is a thing of the past. We’re in the midst of a digital revolution that is re-shaping our lives, and with a number of different online opportunities to choose from, it can be difficult to navigate the fast-changing and ever-morphing workplace landscape and make the most of it.

Flextime and telecommuting have become employment staples for all companies that strive to attract new employees, and alongside a fat check and health insurance, these two options are listed among the most important perks an employee is looking for.

However, if you’re considering putting together and managing a remote team, know that the accounts which paint an idyllic picture aren’t completely honest, because they’re not showing the downsides of this concept. Here are some of the pros and common (and yet frequently overlooked) cons of remote work to help you make the right decision.

Pro: Access to a huge talent pool

Why limit your options to the area where your business is situated when you can cherry-pick the best people for the job from all over the world? This fact will not only bring quality and fresh ideas to your company, but also some much-needed diversity and different experiences. If you can hire employees from any city, country, or continent, there’s a chance of finding great talent with the skills and requirements that perfectly fit your job description. Digital nomads with a lot of expertise in their fields are unwilling to be tied to particular location, let alone an office desk, and if you decide to opt for a remote team, you can take advantage of everything they can offer.

Pro: Increased productivity

According to numerous surveys, 53% of people believe that they will be more productive if they can work from home. But, for quite some time these numbers were only dependent on workers’ perceptions. Finally, a comprehensive, 2-year Stanford study offers some hard data which proves that a significant productivity boost was reported among telecommuting employees, while the turnover rate was decreased by 50%. People who work from home feel more comfortable and they can organize their day so that they can complete other chores and tasks, such as taking their kids to school and picking them up, going to the gym, or spending some quality time with their families, all of which improves their work-life balance, thus reducing their stress levels and increasing productivity. It is worth mentioning that remote workers also benefit from fewer interruptions as they don’t have to attend numerous meetings and deal with other distractions common to a shared office space. Various remote collaboration tools are used to facilitate communication and keep track of how everybody is progressing, and all this helps remote employees focus solely on their work.

Pro: Reduced expenses

There’s no need to explain how much your company can save by not having to pay for commuting expenses and large office spaces. U.S. tech giant Dell decided to expand their telecommuting and remote work options as number-crunching showed that the company saved $12 million a year in office space costs. Their findings are in line with other research studies and they have shown that employee productivity hasn’t been negatively impacted — quite the opposite. Aside from saving money, remote employees also save their time and energy as they don’t have to waste an average hour or so a day while commuting to work, which additionally contributes to their productivity and focus.

Con: Distractions (of another kind)

Although we have already mentioned that remote employees have fewer workplace distractions, the truth is that working from home (or the beach, for that matter) also carries its fair share of distractions. So, remote employees don’t have to deal with talkative co-workers or last-minute meetings, but the things that make remote work so appealing might be the traps luring them into unproductivity. Being at home during working hours might tempt people to do the dishes or clean up a mess, or even postpone their work in order to see the latest episode of that amazing Netflix show. Strict self-discipline paired with productivity and time tracking tools can help with this problem. This is the reason why setting deadlines play a crucial role in managing a remote team.

Con: A lack of communication

Yes, there are countless instant messaging and video chat tools, but Skype, Viber, or WhatsApp can’t replace the kind of spontaneous communication that people can have when they’re sitting in the same room together. It’s no secret that working remotely can be a lonely and isolating experience which can affect work-life balance, motivation, and the well-being of your employees in the long run. Good personal relationships between the members of a team are of vital importance to its success, and we all know that a round of drinks at the end of a long week can bring people together and improve team cohesion. Face-to-face communication with all its prosodic features and body language can be more easily deciphered than any form of remote communication. For this reason, it’s instrumental to be careful when wording your messages and making sure that your points are clearly formulated.

Con: Little recognition

A recent study has shown that 79% of people who quit their jobs list a lack of appreciation among the major reasons for leaving. Contrary to popular belief widespread among managers, employees are more motivated when they get recognition than a pay raise. The fact that it’s much easier to show your appreciation and mention somebody’s hard work in a face-to-face meeting additionally makes things more complicated for remote workers who aren’t physically present in the office. Another issue is that remote employees who are introverts won’t have an opportunity to promote their own work and managers often fail to take notice and give them credit, which ultimately leads to frustration on both sides. So, don’t forget to evaluate and assess your remote workers and publicly thank them for all the effort they put into the growth of your business.

A general conclusion would be that though telecommuting is a great option both for employees and companies, you should never forget that working remotely is not the same as not working in an office. You need to come up with a different management system, a reward system and a means of communication that will work for everyone. Putting such a team together requires more time and effort, but if you do it right, it will pay off in the long run.

About the Author

Michael Deane is a marketing executive working for Accountant Online, where he is in charge of executing online campaigns. He is passionate about email marketing, less so about social media, and is still on the hunt for the perfect morning cup of coffee.


Originally published at The Daily MBA.

    Jarie Bolander

    Written by

    Engineer by Training. Entrepreneur by Nature