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Woes and Wins of a Remote Staff

Had I known I would be working from home, managing 2 toddlers and homeschooling, I may have rethought some of my life choices! Not only has the situation we are currently in caused me to reprioritize responsibilities, but it has also made me reflect on what work arrangements work best for my family. Each work arrangement, whether in office, at home, or a combination, has its positives and negatives. And employees have varying preferences. Of course. But why? What are the positives and negatives and why do employees have varying preferences?

Working from Home

There are well known advantages to a remote work arrangement.

When I am working from home, I am not spending time commuting to work. That means I am not spending money on gas or mileage. In other words, costs associated with travel to work are eliminated. When this is the case, as an employer you may be able to offer a reduced pay rate while maintaining equability between employees.

Although not necessary for all employees, when I am home I am able to fulfill any homeschooling or childcare obligations. On a small scale this allows employers to retain employees and to maintain some work productivity. On a larger scale, the employee will not have to decide between personal or professional responsibilities.

While working from home, I, within reason, have increased availability. Eliminating your employee’s commute and reducing formal breaktimes, an employee’s workday organically becomes longer. Be cautious, however. To avoid burnout, encourage your employee to set boundaries.

Arguably the most beneficially component to having remote employees is that your recruiting is no longer limited to employees located within a certain radius. Candidate pools become infinite.

Working In Office

For a lot of us there will inevitably be a day when we will need to head back onsite. This more traditional work arrangement, in office, is preferred. Why?

Some employers tend to gravitate to employees in office. If they see you, they go to you. Facetime becomes a significant advantage. Along this same vein, employers may feel more connected to the staff they interact with in-person. Having breaks together, impromptu meetings and just plain old chit chat means an increased feeling of connectedness.

Also, when I am in the office I have access to office supplies, printers, copiers, computer replacement parts, etc. You may require employees have some standard home office equipment, but this wouldn’t solve the issue of needing access to hard copies of documents, for example.

Finally, with more traditional work start and stop times in office the possibility of burn out might naturally be reduced. As opposed to a remoter worker, having a set in-person schedule might make it less likely that I am thought of as on call.

Working at Home and In Office

The best of both worlds? Yes and no. Employees who are able to spend time both in the office and at home have the benefit of overall flexibility. They can fulfill any homeschooling or family care obligations, while reaping the benefits of in office facetime. They have access to office supplies, while also reducing commute time. However, a varying schedule might be misinterpreted as inconsistent. For example, even though I am always in the office Mondays and Wednesdays, management only sees that I am sometimes around and sometimes I am not. I won’t forget my schedule, but others will. This may make my schedule seem unpredictable.

Today I have worked, educated, dropped off, disciplined, and conducted Zoom meetings. All while tagging in and out with my partner who spends some time onsite and some time in a makeshift home office. What does this mean? It means we occasionally feel disconnected from our coworkers and managers. Acknowledge this fact and allow your employees to do the same. It is easy to forget employees and, on the flipside, overuse others. You need to be deliberate. Know who is working where, know who is responsible for what, and take steps to ensure connectedness. Send check-in emails, chit chat with remote employees, be cognizant of your email tone. Be aware of the risks that your in-office employees may be taking, do not take advantage of facetime and encourage all to stay connected to their fellow remote coworkers.

- Shannon


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