Is no office good for your team? Pros and cons of remote work

Are you one of the people who ‘’go to work’’? Most people probably are, as having an office where all of your staff can do their tasks is still a prevalent practice in companies. Despite the fact that ‘’work’’ is for many associated with the action of going to work, some say that work doesn’t really happen at work, which was also the topic of one of this year’s infoShare speeches. Michael from Nozbe presented us with his “No office” approach. And indeed, work does not have to be a place to go. But is working 100% remotely healthy for the team? Let’s look at some pros and cons.

A sofa and a laptop will do

When thinking about the advantages of working remotely, this one is definitely crucial: you can work from virtually any place on earth. It may be your living room, a public library, a cafe, or even a beach on Bali. You name it. With the rise of collaboration and team communication tools, getting things done from many different places in the world is not a problem anymore.

How does the place matter, you could ask? Well, it does to some. First of all, you may organize your workspace just the way you need. You have all the needed things around, you feel comfy on your own chair, drinking coffee from your favorite mug.

When working remotely, you can also manage your day however you wish. That’s a definite benefit, especially when you’ve got things to take care of and, let’s face it, every other office, just as yours, closes around 5 o’clock. Running errands may not be the easiest thing to do when you’ve got a typical 9-to-5 working day. Many people appreciate this kind of flexibility, or sometimes even take it for granted. One of my colleagues once told me a story of an HR department getting shocked as one of the programmers whom they intended to hire stated he has no intention of showing up at the office. Because he runs. See, when the weather is nice outside, he’ll go for a run, and then catch up on his tasks later that day. And this may be no big deal to some companies, but some employers may get shivers when hearing such a bold statement.

Time management above all

You just have to learn it. There comes a moment when you realize you’ve messed something up, the deadline is to close, the work hasn’t been done, you’ve underestimated something. And that’s a great lesson. You’ll most probably learn it no matter where you work, but if you have ever tried working from home, you’ll see how your skill set is expanding. You’ll soon get better at estimating the time needed for task completion, diving projects into small, more achievable chunks, reviewing your work, and, in general, being self-reliant. At the office, the temptation to ask for advice or help is sometimes insurmountable. At home, you’ll look for solutions instead. That doesn’t mean you will have to become a jack of all trades (and as the saying continues: master of none…) but you will definitely develop the capacity for self-management and be able to control your tasks.

There is one thing that I have noticed in almost all of the people I know who work solely remotely: they have some entrepreneurial spirit, even if they are not businessmen of any sort. They are focused on productivity, know their constraints, and constantly go forward. This doesn’t mean that those working in an office can’t be entrepreneurs, but the need for skills like self-management may be smaller. Plus, time-wasters. How productive are you at work, really? There’s a coffee break, lunch break, a phone call that has to be answered, emails to be checked, social media updates to be seen, news to be read… In general, the office doesn’t give you +100 points in productivity but quite the contrary: you’ll do everything else but work. In 2016, the team of Scoro gathered some data and put up an infographic that shows we waste about 40% of our working time. Which means that 2 out of 5 days in a week are totally unproductive. Now think about all these things that you could do in this much time…

The dreads of commute

Yes, commute is a struggle. An avoidable one! Working from home does not only save your time but also money. Whether you use public transport or your own car, it’s still some expense. The money is not the most important part here, though, as commuting is often related to time-wasting and stress. We all love the rush hours, don’t we? Gigantic traffic jams, overcrowded buses, and being late. Flexible working time and no commute definitely appeal to me.

The talent pool has no limits!

Let’s now have a look at some benefits for the employer. The first one I see: you can hire the best people no matter where they are. When you’re about to hire a new person, you’re looking for a set of certain skills and finding the right match is not always easy. If you’re open to people from all around the world, the task may not be as gruesome.

It’s not all that beautiful

All the benefits listed above may make it seem like working remotely is like living a dream, but in real life, it’s not. So what can be wrong with working remotely?

Time management strikes again

You may learn to self-manage but you may just as well fail. When you work from home, there are certain obstacles that you have to overcome. First of all, get out of bed. Motivating yourself to start working in the first place may turn out to be a challenge. Then, when you start, you’re tempted to check your email or messenger every five minutes, just to see what’s up. There are distractions everywhere. TV, social media, perhaps your kids running around – all of these can channel your attention to things much different than work. You may find yourself switching between tasks too often, not being able to prioritize, or failing to deliver your project by the deadline.

Are we a team, really?

There’s a risk that people in the team will not develop bonds that they otherwise may have created. They don’t hang out at the office, go out for a drink. Their communication is sometimes restricted to exchanging information concerning the project and that’s it. If you face a real problem that you don’t know how to solve, there are other people around at the office and their help is sometimes priceless. Just spending time together makes us see things in a similar way and, with time, we share some values and see how the company’s culture is evolving. It’s hard to stay in the loop when you’re in different places. Even with the great collaboration and communication tools, nothing is really the same as the physical presence in the same room.  I acknowledge the fact that remote teams usually do meet sometimes but it’s just not the same as regular contact.

Teamwork

Time zones

Having a multinational team is an amazing experience with all the mixing of cultures and traditions. As long as there is one language that the entire team can freely use to communicate on daily basis, there should be no problem. But what about time zones? What if your team is mostly based in Europe but then you hire someone from Australia and someone from Mexico? When working remotely, you do have all the freedom to work whenever you feel like it but sometimes you need to get in touch with this particular person right now and what if they’re away from keyboard? And what if a call you’ve scheduled for the entire team happens to be in the middle of some of your employees’ night? There are some ways to deal with timezone differences (read more about that in our article: How to deal with a time zone difference in outsourced projects?) but it’s still some hindrance.

What’s the result of all that?

I see both the pros and cons of working remotely and I’ve also experienced both. I started off disorganized and confused. Where do I start? Can I put the most horrendous task off until… it disappears? I tried multitasking, reacting to new tasks instantly, and I made many other necessary mistakes before I found my Holy Grail: limited work from anywhere. What does that mean? I am given the possibility to use the flexibility of working from home (or any other place in the world) but, at the same time, I am encouraged to come to the office at least sometimes. The result for me and many of my coworkers is that we actually want to come to the office. We appreciate spending time together, having the advice and support in our coworkers, and the fact that we’re free to stay home when we don’t feel like leaving the house. And we can work from any other part of the world.

A reasonable combination of working remotely and at the office seems to do the job. Being at the office, we’re given a chance to get to know each other better and enjoy one another’s company. Staying at home, we can make sure that we have enough flexibility to manage our own working day the way we want. We take the best out of both of these solutions and it works great. And what’s your experience with working at an office or remotely?

 

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Written by:

Kaja Polachowska

Communication specialist in love with the English language, a translator who also translates from tech to human. Follow at Quora

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