Remote work vs local work: In a rapidly evolving world, people have more choices than ever before. Including where they want to work. This article will investigate some of the pros and cons of remote and local work for employers and employees.
Working remotely used to be a lifestyle choice. The purview of freelancers, world-wanderers, and nomads who are able to take advantage of the pervasivity of the world-wide-web; remote working is a tempting gig for those who can score it. However, it’s not all beaches and sunshine; remote work is not as easy as one might expect, both for employer and employee.
A bunch of people working in the same office is the model most of us are used to. Local work may seem to be an old-fashioned choice in this day and age. Some disadvantages cannot be ignored – for example, close proximity and open office spaces mean that in the time of the pandemic, contagions can spread like wildfire. However, local work is not all bad; many workers in fact, miss the office!
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But first, remote work vs local work: What are they?
Very simply – local work is done at a location stipulated by an employer. Typically, this is an office space. Communication happens face to face.
Remote work allows professionals to work away from the traditional office environment. They may elect to work at home or in a co-working space or coffee shop. Communication is done over the e-mail or telephone.
Another way to look at this is through the idea of co-located or distributed teams. Co-located teams occupy the same workspace. Distributed teams do not.
The current necessity to work remotely has shown that remote work, in fact, does work. And there are many indications that remote work is the future. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of remote work vs local work, for employers and employees.
For the employee:
Depending on their personality and lifestyles, remote work usually trumps local work on a number of fronts. However, it can be a double-edged sword; certain benefits may turn out to be detrimental. For example, remote work offers flexibility. One might think that it would lead to greater work-life balance. But for certain groups of people, like parents, it may not work out that way at all. Especially in this period when schools and daycare centers are closed and social distancing enforced, parents are finding themselves juggling full-time work, housework, childcare, and child education, sometimes for more than one child. It’s an extreme situation that does not apply to everyone, but for those who are living it, it’s certainly not the dream!
Here are some other pros and cons of remote work and local work for the employee:
This means not being a slave to the alarm clock. It’s empowering to decide when and where to work. This is the main reason why remote work trumps local work in the eyes of the employee.
However, no more 9-5 also means, no more 9-5. With local work, you clock out and leave work behind. With remote work, your home is your office. There is no divide, and for some people this may be very difficult. Some managers may also lack a sense of boundaries, sending messages and e-mails at times way past the normal work hours.
Many report being more productive while working remotely. The lack of strict rules and regulations help an employee work when they feel like they can produce more.
However, due to the lack of structure, some people may feel like they lack the motivation to work. After all, with no-one looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to fall down the many rabbit holes of social media. It’s easy to watch cat videos for an hour, then cook lunch, and before you know it half the workday is gone. Add to that personal distractions like familial and domestic responsibilities, and it’s really easy to see how remote working may actually lead to a decrease in productivity (which is why employers don’t love this option). For remote work to really work, individuals need self-discipline and to work out a doable schedule and stick to it.
A definite pro of remote work is the reduced commute. Commute swallows up hours, and taking it completely away is good in so many ways – better mental wellbeing, reduced carbon footprint, more time to spend on things that really matter, more money saved from cutting the costs of commute.
However, if you’re working locally in an office, that means spending most of your day at an establishment that is not your home. While you’ll be spending on the commute, you’re also saving on costs like electricity and water. It may not balance out totally, but this is something to be aware of. No one workplace is completely cost-free.
One of the biggest cons of remote working is the lack of collaboration and personal face time. In an office, you’ll be spending time with the people around you. It is really nice to make friends at work and participating in the office culture creates a sense of belonging and familiarity. It’s one of the reasons why leaving a job can really be an emotional trial. With remote work, the chances of loneliness and boredom encroaching are really high. This is not something that applies to everyone; some people really do love working by themselves, with no distractions, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Another thing to consider is that if you need someone, you won’t be able to just stroll over to them in another part of the office. There will be some lag time between when you reach out to them and when you get a response. This is especially true for teams that have members distributed all around the globe; timezones then pose some challenges.
One hidden pro of working remotely is that your communication skills will probably improve exponentially. It is very clear when the way you communicate isn’t working, and you’ll be forced to fix your issues much quicker, which means that you will improve much faster.
The reason for the current necessity for remote work is the Covid-19 pandemic. It is clear that, as beneficial as spending time with other people can be, working in close proximity can also help germs spread that much faster. That’s why there’s always a flu season in the office. Working remotely solves this issue. Remote work also improves health in that professionals can make time for exercise and to eat better, which may not be as possible when working in an office.
For the employer
It’s a cliche that bosses need to actually see their employees working to believe that they are being productive. But this is a stereotype that is increasingly challenged by the simple fact that work still gets done when people are not in the same physical space together. Remote work, for those sectors where it is actually possible, has been on the rise since the widespread availability of the internet. And as millennials grow older and into managerial positions, they are also more relaxed about giving the nod to remote work. It’s a practice that has even been shown to increase employee retention; happier employees mean greater productivity and less turnover, which is good for the company.
Here are some other pros and cons of remote work and local work for employers:
As more and more people demand the flexibility of working remotely, companies that want to stay relevant have to acquiesce if they want to continue enjoying the cream of the best talents. When companies say OK to remote work, they also open up their talent pool a lot more because they will be able to access talent from anywhere in the world. They will be able to access talent that, for many reasons, may not want a full-time job at a set location.
It’s also a competitive move to offer remote working as an option. As employees enjoy greater autonomy and flexibility, work-life balance and job satisfaction also increase. That means they stay at their jobs longer, and the company attracts and retains top talent they need. Everyone wants to work in a diverse, flexible workplace!
When you have an office, you also have to foot the bill for it. Rent, renovation, utilities, maintenance, parking spaces, office supplies, furniture, food to stock the pantry with- that all costs money. Remote working erases the need for a physical space, erasing the cost of maintenance as well.
Remote working also saves employees time because they are no longer commuting to and fro. This extra time can be put to use effectively to increase productivity. Not only does this reduce costs and time-wasted, but it also reduces a company’s carbon footprint. It makes the company look responsible and forward-thinking.
However, going remote is not completely free. Distributed teams still need communication tools- this means high-speed internet, conferencing devices, team messaging tools like Slack and project management tools. There’s also evidence that video conferences are exhausting for the employee, which is an issue to address if going remote is your long-term plan.
Most managers would prefer to manage a team that is all located in the same place; it is somewhat easier because there are fewer factors to consider. Local work makes face to face communication and collaboration easier and faster, and decisions can be made via a single on-the-spot meeting. A project manager need not factor in timezones or geolocations when calling for a meeting, the way they might have to do for distributed teams.
However, here is where technology comes to the rescue. Project management and collaboration tools abound; managers simply have to be flexible in their thinking as well as proactive in providing the appropriate training and support needed to smoothen the process.
Remote work vs local work: Some considerations
It may seem daunting to convert what was a full-time colocated team into a remote one, but it is possible. Here are some considerations to pave the way to success:
- An acceptable level of communication should be maintained: what kind of equipment and technical support do you need, and who will provide and maintain it?
- How will meetings and joint projects be handled?
- Will working hours be tracked? Determine if this is actually necessary; and if not, communicate to employees how work will be evaluated.
- Do you use a shared server? Is this available for everyone to access, no matter where they are? If not, then how do you share data?
- What efforts will be made to ensure that everyone is on the same page, committed to the same goals?
In conclusion, while both remote and local work have their advantages and disadvantages, it appears that remote working will be part of the new normal for the foreseeable future. Not only is it the more attractive option for employees, and employers who wish to attract the best talent, it is also the best option for safeguarding the health of individuals and communities. For employers forging, the best thing to do is to switch their mindset going forward and think of how best to maximize the potential of remote working.