Working from home has been a massive factor in many people’s lives, especially over the last few years. As the majority of us have experienced in the last few years there are many pro’s and con’s of working from home. If we look from a wider perspective we can see that benefits and drawbacks are on multiple levels. Many of our Prophecy Marketing clients are currently evaluating how they want their work culture to look post pandemic. The following blog will explore the impacts of remote working at individual, organisational and societal scales and give an insight into the ‘new ways of working’.
When looking at the pros and cons of remote working it is important to consider the dynamic of a businesses’ human resources. Simply put, a team is a group of people who are interdependent: relying on each other’s information, resources and skills. A team combines all of what each member has to offer, in order to achieve a common goal. One way to define a virtual team is as a group of geographically and/or organisationally dispersed co-workers. They are gathered together using a combination of telecommunications and information technologies to accomplish an organisational task.
Virtual teams have been around for in some form for over 20 years. However in recent years the number of virtual teams operating has grown at a scale that no one could have predicted. The progression of digital technology is a clear driver for this change. Devices that allow us to execute our work through remote video calls etc can be accessed by many of us now. However, perhaps the most obvious driver would be the Covid-19. The pandemic has shaken up the world over the last few years and forced organisations to restructure rapidly. As we move out of the pandemic, we see that many employees and employers alike have decided to keep working remotely even after the necessity to do so has passed.
Working from Home: Pro’s
A study undertaken in 2021 consisted of interviewing 129 remote-working employees. In this study employees are asked to explain the benefits they experience working from home. The most common response was that working in a virtual team increased productivity and morale. Other notable benefits included a reduction in costs, work-life balance and increased job satisfaction.
Organisations can hugely benefit from incorporating remote working into their structure. They now have access to key specialists from all around the world that can be employed regardless of physical location. Thereby growing their potential talent pool. These new specialists can have further positive impacts on the organisation by potentially enabling ‘better’ work. A second benefit is that the nature of virtual teams allows for jobs to be worked on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With access to employees around the world, many will be in different time zones. Resulting in increased productivity.
The mass adoption of virtual teams could positively impact society. Areas with low employment rates where jobs may not be so easy to come by will now have access to an entirely new source of employment. The adoption of remote working in these regions could significantly boost local economies. Remote working also allows for people who have issues with mobility to have the opportunity to work in sectors that usually require a significant commute. An example could be the issue of the commute to a banking job in the City of London. Therefore, virtual working allows greater equality.
Working from Home: Con’s
Working from home creates opportunities. However, remote working also posed challenges for some. On an individual scale, it should be noted that employees who have been working from home said that they have felt significantly lower levels of workplace inclusion. This would lower the level of productivity and job satisfaction felt by the individual. It is fair to say that not everyone is cut out for the working from home lifestyle.
Social Facilitation is a concept taken from psychology. It observes the levels of motivation on tasks by individuals when in the presence of others. Research has shown that when applied to the workplace environment, individuals work harder when peers are in close proximity. Therefore, the effects of Social Facilitation are seen to be significantly less effective when working remotely. In turn, the motivation felt by individuals who work from home can lower which could exacerbate the lower feelings of job satisfaction.
At the organisation scale we see a challenges around the supervision of virtual teams. If an employee is working in a co-located setting and encounters a concern, they could very quickly locate a supervisor in the office. The supervisor could give their undivided attention to resolve the issue. In a remote setting, this process does not run anywhere near as smoothly. Factors such as time zones can get in the way and result in a loss of efficiency for the organisation. The diversity of employees may have increased significantly as a result of remote working. Although this allows for the best minds to come together, differences in work culture between employees may make operations clunky at least initially.
Although theoretically remote working should increase equality by increasing opportunities for those who are from areas with low employment. There are discrepancies in the levels of digital infrastructure from region to region. For example, 95% of the UK have superfast broadband access. However only 48% of India have access to internet in any capacity. Therefore, although in theory there is a greater level of equality of opportunities. In reality we can see that these opportunities are taken by those from privileged backgrounds.
Working from Home; Final Ideas
Opportunities and challenges as a result of remote working create a ‘trickle-down’ effect. For example, increased motivation felt by an individual would benefit an organisation as there would be higher levels of productivity. This would then have a positive impact at a societal level.
The Confederation of British Industry in partnership with Nexus (University of Leeds innovation centre) compiled a report looking at how companies have been affected by the boom in remote working. This report touches on how the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies into new business practices, they state that only 5% of businesses are planning to return to the office full time. Clearly, many feel remote working’s benefits outweigh its drawbacks. In June 2021, the government proposed legislation that gave employees the right to demand to work remotely, however this decision was eventually scrapped after concerns were raised by CBI suggesting that the move would harm city centre economies.
Clearly there appears to be some contradiction between what are advantages and disadvantages when discussing working from home. Some employees may feel extremely motivated by the prospect of working in virtual teams. However, others will feel significantly demotivated. This difference in opinion raises the point that not every employee is the same in terms of what motivates them and what makes them feel valued. To allow employees to be as happy and comfortable as possible a hybrid approach to operating could be adopted. Therefore providing the option for employees to work from home if that suits their needs best, but there is also an option to work from an office.
Ultimately that there is no one correct way to run a business.