New Insights in the Remote Work Debate | DCR Workforce Blog

New Insights in the Remote Work Debate

Why is it that we so often hear that something is for us, only to learn later that it actually may have harmful effects? Many examples may come to mind, but you may have missed recent research on the absence of benefits from remote work. Citrix and Forrester Research firm looked at information workers in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany who use a computer for work. Of the workers studied, 65% worked remotely one day a week, while 37% worked remotely two or more days a week. The survey uncovered some interesting issues faced by these workers.

  • 85% of those surveyed used a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) for work purposes, compared to 60% who use a Personal Computer (a desktop computer or laptop) – with 45% using both.New Insights in the Remote Work Debate
  • Only 44% agreed that they have access to the work applications and technology needed by them on their mobile devices, whether smartphone or tablet.
  • 44% of respondents wished for superior applications for web conferencing, voice/video chat, and instant messaging in order to increase collaboration.
  • 42% wanted remote access to better employee intranet or organization portals for remote access.
  • 40% wished for improved file synchronization/sharing for business data.
  • At the same time, 61% believed that the remote work arrangement increases their overall productivity.

As expected, this has sparked renewed arguments between the proponents and opponents of remote work.

Proponents of remote work say it encourages many positive outcomes:

  • Increased productivity and flexibility
  • Better work-life balance
  • Allows more women to find fulfilling work without ignoring their family’s needs
  • Saves on commuting time and costs
  • Less or no distractions or unnecessary meetings
  • Increases the attractiveness of alternative work structures such as freelancing

Opponents object to the following negative outcomes:

  • Missing out on social interaction in hallway and cafeteria discussions and the resulting insights
  • Reduced collaboration and communication with one’s colleagues
  • Issues in the workplace arising from resentment from those whose duties do not allow remote work
  • The “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome in which remote workers are less frequently considered for exciting new assignments
  • There is no such thing as a sick day for remote workers. Because they are usually working from home, they are expected to work even when suffering from a severe cold or flu.
  • Reduced work- life balance as the workday tends to actually be longer without the boundaries imposed by an office environment
  • Employers need to walk a tight rope of uncertainty, if they have to balance the revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which determine which workers are exempt from overtime pay, given that remote workers with 24×7 connectivity operate longer hours.

We continuously hear that rapidly evolving technologies make it easy for people to interact using text, voice and video messages and VOIP conversations over broadband connections and even mobile networks. However, in another recent poll, workers reported that they frequently experienced problems with poor connections and access issues. They also cited the inconvenience of not having ready access to technical support personnel. Many indicated that, within their organizations, they were considered a low priority by their in-house technical support team, and frequently find themselves seeking technical assistance from third-party services.

Remote work arrangements are not well suited for all jobs and also are not for everyone.  Companies that permit remote work need to establish processes to enable remote work. This is much more than a technical issue – establish criteria for determining whether work can be conducted remotely, put in place policies for approving and enabling remote work requests, train supervisors on best practices in managing remote workers, and consider how to maximize worker inclusion and collaboration.

Tell us what your organization is doing to close the gap between the hype and reality of remote work.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.