5 Downsides of Remote Work to Keep in Mind

It goes without saying that more people are working remotely now, and many have become accustomed to the no-office lifestyle. Many global companies have even decided to go fully remote, like TwitterAtlassian, or Slack.

While remote work has plenty of benefits, it’s also fair to highlight its downsides. In this article, we look at both sides of the coin: the good and the bad of remote working. Also, we bring out how you can mitigate such drawbacks when hiring remote workers in your organization.

Remote Work Is More Than a Trend

The number of employees who want to switch to remote is increasing. Research from Staffing Industry Analysts shows that the ability to work remotely has become extremely important to employees: in 2019, 49% of those surveyed said it’s a huge benefit. This rose to 62% in 2021.

A 2022 Microsoft survey about hybrid work revealed that the trend is far from over—data shows that 51% of hybrid workers are planning to switch to full remote work in the coming year. For some, being able to work from home is non-negotiable; they wouldn’t join an organization if working remotely is not available for them, even in post-pandemic times.

The remote modality brings many benefits to employees’ work and personal lives by:

  • Reducing distractions during the day
  • Increasing personal time by not having to commute
  • Saving money on gas, transportation, or personal vehicle wear and tear
  • Allowing more comfort in the workplace

More comfort in the workplace goes beyond just working in pajamas or on the living room couch. Remote work introduces ways for people to communicate and express themselves in a way that’s comfortable for them, especially for minority groups.

A good example is a study conducted by Future Forum on whether knowledge workers want to go back to full-time office work. It found that 97% of black knowledge workers in the US want to switch to remote permanently (compared to 79% of white workers). For them, a flexible work setting creates a more inclusive and positive environment that helps reduce the need for “code-switching” (adjusting their language and culture to fit the dominant culture) and reduces the occurrence of discrimination or microaggressions in the workplace.

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Remote Work Sounds Great, But…

Remote work can bring negative results if organizations don’t prepare and adapt to properly execute it. Multiple factors come into play to make flexible work a success: from changing the leadership mindset to choosing the right technology to manage employees.

Team leaders and managers must be aware of the common setbacks when implementing a remote work model. The following are some of the most common ones that can occur.

1) It’s a Struggle Building a Strong Work Culture

Team connection and comradeship are the foundations of success at any organization. With teams scattered around different locations, it can be easy for colleagues to lose sight of the company’s vision and team spirit. Employees can feel disconnected, making it difficult for managers to build a strong team culture.

Research from Future Forum shows that companies that invested in building remote team cohesion scored a better sense of belonging among their employees. Having a human-centered way of working and investing in technology that facilitates collaboration proved to be essential in strengthening the work culture.

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2) Misconceptions About Productivity

There’s a harsh truth when comparing remote versus traditional in-office employment. Many leaders tend to believe that employees who’re in the office are better workers than those who stay at home. According to research from Gartner, managers perceive that 64% of office-based employers are higher performers and that 74% are more likely to be promoted than remote or hybrid workers.

This bias can affect certain groups. Gartner uncovered that women are more likely to prefer flexible work; however, half of the surveyed remote female employees stated they feel cut off from opportunities to improve their careers at work.

It’s the organization’s role to ensure that leaders don’t rely on visibility alone to evaluate workers. Instead, they should be clear about goals and outcomes, and also have access to analytics that demonstrate the performance of their employees. A vendor management system (VMS) with strong workforce analytics can offer a lot of insight into candidate performance, for example.

3) Employee Turnover

For many people, remote work is an indispensable benefit that increases their chances of staying longer in a company. Nevertheless, it’s also true that the remote model makes employees feel lonely at work.

Research from Emerald Insight’s Journal of Organization Effectiveness shows that loneliness impacts employee health, performance, and commitment. Employees don’t generate that much attachment to their organization and their team when they don’t share the same space. For that reason, they find it easier to leave a job. The research suggests that investing in personal resources and benefits, and also taking care of the employees’ well-being reduces the feeling of loneliness in remote workers.

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4) Burnout and Other Mental Health Issues

The “always-online” feeling that workers experience when working remotely persists, even more than two years after the pandemic started. Working overtime might go unnoticed by managers if there’s no time tracking system to give them visibility. Moreover, not everyone has a designated space to work or a comfortable environment to focus—all those aspects could affect the mental well-being of an employee.

Organizations should ensure they have a tracking program, like a VMS, to avoid employees’ hours from getting out of control. Also, managers should check in with their teams and make sure they have a proper workspace and their work is not making them feel worn out.

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5) Negative Onboarding Processes

Remote work allows organizations to hire anywhere in the world, but having such a broad talent pool might be counterproductive without the right technology to support the employee experience.

Workers might feel discouraged when they don’t have efficient onboarding, monitoring, and offboarding experiences. This is especially true with contractors. Having a finite period to connect and accomplish work without a solid onboarding experience can lead to poor performance or a negative impression from the worker. To prevent such perceptions, make sure you’re using technology that builds a solid onboarding experience for remote workers.

Remote Work Is Here to Stay

Remote work isn’t going anywhere. However, organizations must understand that proper implementation is key to guaranteeing a successful program. To learn more about remote work strategies and other post-pandemic trends, check out our recent webinar with Human Capital Institute, “4 Pandemic Workforce Trends That Are Here to Stay.” Alternately, to see how the VectorVMS vendor management system can help you track and manage your contingent workforce, get in touch today!

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