Disadvantages of remote work

The Downsides of Remote Work

Many employers got an unexpected trial in what it feels like to have a fully remote team due to the novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

Although the reviews of working from home are certainly mixed and remote work isn’t an option for every type of work, many employers have, by now, laid the groundwork for their team to continue to work remotely if they wanted to.

There are plenty of benefits to going remote. For example, employees probably don’t miss their daily commutes, and the decrease in driving is good for the environment, too.

For many employees, “remote work options” translates to “flexible” work options, which are prized for work-life balance. There are plenty of employees who insist on working remotely, and that can be good for your recruiting efforts.

Plus, infectious disease will continue to be a concern long after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. Less time in crowded conference rooms will continue to minimize employees’ exposure to germs — that’s a good thing for everyone, because a healthy staff is happier and more productive.

That said, of course, there are drawbacks to going fully remote with your workforce. Here are a few of them.

Culture Can Be More Difficult to Establish

At The Receptionist, we believe that intentional culture is essential to business success. (In fact, we have a whole podcast dedicated to company culture that you can listen to here.) A strong company culture makes it clear to both employees and customers why they should choose to work at or spend money with your company.

A strong culture can only grow out of strong values. However, it can be more difficult for leaders to clarify which values are important when they don’t regularly interact with employees in person. At remote companies, interactions in general are minimized, which leaves fewer organic opportunities for leaders to show and tell what’s important, or to lend important insight into why certain decisions were made.

These efforts to demonstrate values can still be made, but they take special effort and they don’t happen organically.

Plus, if you’re trying to cultivate a company culture that prioritizes fun and collaboration, those values get much easier when you can meet in person for celebrations and team-building activities.

Related post: Fun Offices All Have These Key Ingredients

Communication and Relationship Building Get Trickier

For solo work that requires a lot of concentration, working at home or at a coffee shop may be just fine — in fact, for many employees, it may even be ideal compared to a traditional office.

However few people would admit that group work doesn’t lose a bit of its effectiveness when it’s done over the phone, over chat, or even over video conferencing.

A lot of this comes down to subtle communication cues that can get lost when people aren’t in the same room.

Disadvantages of remote work

We like how Toggl, a remote-first company itself, sums up the helpfulness of face-to-face communication in their post on going remote:

“A lot of articles and other resources that focus on teaching you how to build rapport with people and get to know them, focus heavily on things that can only be observed and done only when in the same room with them. […] People’s facial expressions, body language and general ‘feel’ are things that we pick up on subconsciously in person, and adjust our communication accordingly.”

Again, you can try to replace some of these lost cues by adding video to the mix. But video meetings can present challenges of their own.

First are the technical challenges. Although there have been many advances in video conferencing tech, meeting participants still have to contend with things like delays, poor connections, garbled messages and images, and software compatibility and accessibility issues and updates.

Video calls can also be draining for participants, as this National Geographic article sums up. It might be because having only partial access to nonverbal cues makes the brain work even harder to decode messages that normally come to us easily. And when multiple people are on a single video call, it can cause a phenomenon that psychologists call “continuous partial attention,” in which your brain tries (and often fails) to pay attention to each square on the screen equally.

With these video calls, organic parallel discussions and chatter also become impossible.

You Lose the Office as a Recruiting Tool

Working from a home office may be fine for a few months, or even permanently for part of each week.

But beyond that, many employees find that working from home five days a week starts to feel stifling. That’s why so many remote workers seek out other workspaces outside the home in the form of coworking spaces, coffee shops, and local libraries.

In this COVID-19 era, many of those working from home are also doing so with alongside family members, roommates, and kids, which makes a home office less of the quiet escape it might have been in the past.

For these reasons, some employees appreciate having the option to work in an office that the employer cleans, maintains, and pays for. Veteran remote workers, in particular, understand and appreciate the fact that creating a clean, inspiring workplace takes time and energy that they might not be willing to invest on their own.

Plus, coming back to our point about culture, a physical office space can be a great tool for sending a clear visual message to potential employees and customers about your values.

As we wrote in our post on beautiful ways to style a reception area, with the right space, visitors don’t have to wait until they interact with you to get a sense of what your organization is all about.

For example, an impressive office can show potential employees that you’re successful. And even your choice of city and neighborhood sends a message about your style and priorities.

Of course, you can still make those kinds of statements as a remote company, of course. It just takes more effort.

Bottom Line: It’s OK to Be Cautious

If you still have an office and you’re considering going fully remote, there’s no need to rush into a decision.

You may also want to explore a hybrid option, like the one we use with our own employees at The Receptionist.

Our employees come into the office for meetings when our CEO is in town and as they see fit throughout the week, but are otherwise free to work where they wish.

We believe this arrangement gives us the best of both worlds: The flexibility for employees to work where and when they’re the most productive, plus occasional in-person meetings for optimal communication and culture building.

If you still have an office and you’re considering going fully remote, there’s no need to rush into a decision. Share on X

Because we’re located in a coworking space, we also have lowered our own environmental footprint and streamlined office costs, which we can then allocate in more meaningful ways.

If you want to learn more about how we make this hybrid-remote approach work, head over to our podcast episode where we discuss the subject in more depth: The Receptionist’s Stance on Working Remotely.

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