Workplace flexibility: The pros and cons of remote work

Bearded man with headphones working from home on laptop

Workplace flexibility has evolved from a high-tech perk to a common expectation. Employees are requesting more freedom to choose when, where, and how they work. In order to attract and retain top talent, companies need to take a stance on remote work policies that balance productivity with out-of-office time. There’s been a 78% increase in job posts on LinkedIn that mention work flexibility in the last two years. Plus, not only are flexible roles ever more common, but they’re also correlated with up with 24% higher productivity. 

Yet, questions remain about how to effectively implement work from home (WFH) options that maintain productivity and team cohesion while offering the flexibility employees expect. To stay competitive, businesses must adapt. 

It’s all a matter of time.

Pro: Set your own schedule.

Remote work gives you the freedom to attend to everyday needs as they arise. Whether it’s running errands, caring for children, or making time for a workout, remote work provides the luxury of managing your own schedule and prioritizing personal needs and wants. Plus, setting your own hours means you can make the most of your peak productivity, even if it falls outside of the standard 9 to 5.

having a flexible job allows a healthier lifestyle and lowers daily stress levels

Con: It’s easy to overdo it.

Ironically, working from home often results in working too much rather than too little. When your office is also your home, it can be hard to set boundaries. Work all too easily becomes a filler for free time.

This might sound productive, but ultimately working too much backfires and turns into burnout. Though an occasional late night might be necessary to keep up with deadlines, remote work has introduced a new trend of continually burning the candle at both ends, throwing work-life balance out of whack.

Be wary of burnout stats

Let’s talk team communication.

Pro: Focus with fewer interruptions.

The only downside to great company culture is that employees might find themselves caught up in conversations with coworkers. Working from home allows you to cut out distractions and completely focus on the task at hand without the temptation to gab about the weekend or get sucked into things that don’t align with your priorities. In fact, increased focus is the number one reason employees choose to work remotely. Stale concerns about WFH days filling up with more crime dramas than KPIs can be safely cast aside.

79% of employees work remotely because it improves their focus

Con: Be mindful of miscommunication.

When your coworkers aren’t sitting an arm’s length away, it’s easy to miscommunicate. Slack can turn into a virtual water cooler, and messages might not read as intended. And sharing your “campaign vision” on Zoom can get tricky, especially if you’re getting talked over or your internet stability wavers. 

Despite all our technology, the most efficient way to communicate is still face-to-face. We are social animals, after all, and can pick up on nuances in speech and body language in-person that get lost over even the highest-quality calls.

67% of remote workers say the biggest challenges they face calling into meetings are interruptions and being talked over

Find your work/life balance.

Pro: Cut out your commute.

It’s no surprise that cutting a commute saves employees significant time and money, especially in congested urban areas. Across the United States, the average American commuter spends 54 hours per year stuck in rush-hour traffic. In the Bay Area, that number jumps up to the equivalent of 11 days per year! That translates to roughly $13,800 a year spent on gas. Money aside, mental well-being improves when you don’t have to white-knuckle through congested traffic. Commuting less is proven to reduce stress levels and improve happiness.

Con: Miss out on office culture.

We know that a positive office culture maintains strong employee retention. Considering this, remote work can make fostering a healthy office culture difficult. The interactions that keep you engaged, happy, and motivated at work often happen in the little moments with your team. It can be hard to achieve the same relationships virtually. Remote work can feel socially isolating, no matter how much your Slack is pinging. Those moments of connection are what make your team strong and ultimately increase productivity and motivation at work.

21% of workers report feelings of loneliness

How will you adapt?

Ultimately, remote work isn’t a question of should we or shouldn’t we; it’s a question of how. The number of people who work from home has increased by 140% since 2005. Employees and business leaders have to decide for themselves how to adapt their culture and policies to follow this trend and avoid getting left behind. The numbers suggest that remote work is here to stay.

Here at Design in Mind, we require in-office roles but also know that life happens outside of work. It’s important to accommodate personal priorities. We trust our employees to work from home on a discretionary basis and to stay on top of their projects and deadlines. We found that the majority of our team feels more productive without office distractions and the drain of commuting, but really misses feeling connected to the team. In a small, collaborative environment like ours, facetime is essential to getting work done, and it can be difficult to replicate that connectivity when we’re dispersed.

We polled our team results

As business leaders in a competitive market, it’s important to know 76% of employees said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. We’re only as successful as our employees, so make sure you’re keeping your team happy with a standard for workplace flexibility that makes sense for you.