During the COVID-19 crisis, the number of people remote working has reached its highest peak ever. During lockdown, all companies that were able to, set up remote working, with all the benefits and difficulties associated with it.

Now they are facing an important choice for their future. Do they continue to give staff the opportunity to work from home or do they go back to a traditional approach?

Obviously both options have pros and cons. Let’s look at the main ones.

The advantages of remote working

  • Fewer distractions – Chattering colleagues and ringing phones are factors that are almost eliminated when you’re working from home, allowing you to concentrate better.
  • Better time management – Not having to commute from home to the office and being able to work when it suits you best help improve your personal life. This factor is of particular interest to parents, who can enjoy greater flexibility over their children’s activities, especially during school holidays.
  • A more balanced diet – Eating at home lets you prepare healthier food that suits your tastes more, compared to the staff canteen, a restaurant, a bar or a packed lunch.
  • Greater autonomy – Not only in terms of time, but also workflow management. Remote working allows individual responsibilities, both personal and towards your work group, to increase.

The disadvantages of remote working

  • Solitude – Working in a team helps keep motivation high and encourages a creative exchange of ideas, while coffee breaks or a quick chat with a colleague can help reduce stress. Working in a shared space encourages collaboration and evolution of the organisational model, based on individual needs.
    Isolation is one of the main features of remote working, and phone calls and video chats do not always manage to reduce the sense of abandonment in workers.
  • Poor ergonomics – Not everyone has access to an office at home and people often have to make do with an improvised workstation, leading to problems with their joints because of adopting an incorrect sitting posture throughout the day. This does not happen in offices planned with ergonomic desks and chairs, and whose layouts are defined based on individual physical and occupational needs.
  • Distractions at home – Unless you live alone, home can also become a source of frustration, because there are kids and animals, or the neighbours are too noisy.
  • Technical problems – Poor internet connection in some parts of the home, screens that are too small, computers that are too slow…these kinds of difficulties are frustrating and can lead to a dip in performance.
  • Scant availability – Technical difficulties also have a knock-on effect on worker availability. How often does an unstable internet connection or a permanently busy phone make it impossible to schedule a meeting with a group of people? Factors that can cause organisational problems visibly increase, in relation to individual needs: lunch time, family time or when you start or finish work.
  • Information overload and difficulty in finalising things – Mail, WhatsApp, Telegram, telephone, video chat, work management tools, internal chats: when you’re working from home, throughout the day, you receive a lot more communication than you should. And often it yields no solid result, because not everyone can stay connected for a sufficient length of time or the person talking cannot really express themselves properly, creating confusion. This factor makes a lot of workers prefer the office, to sort the most pressing things out face to face, in a matter of minutes.
  • Difficulty switching off – Poor time management may lead to much longer working hours than you would normally put in at the office. A study of 2,000 Italians by LinkedIn revealed that during the COVID-19 crisis lockdown, 48% of workers found they worked on average an extra 3 days a month, when overtime hours were added up. Find out more about that here.
  • Problems of privacy and security – Office work implies security protocols, in place to best protect the privacy of all company stakeholders. At home this can only take place to a minimum level. The problem is not just that prying eyes may have access to company documents. The greatest risk is cybersecurity. Incorrect home router setting, smart home devices with IoT connected to the same network or classic BEC attacks (via email) can make life easy for cybercriminals, leaving the door wide open for them to access company servers.

A common mistake: remote working and smart working do not mean the same thing!

As we have already examined in detail in another article, remote working means sticking to office hours, but working from home. Smart working is actually much more. In this case, staff can choose when and where they work, and with what tools. And “where” is not just from home. The company work café can become a shared workspace, which encourages collaboration and creativity.

Only by carefully assessing all aspects can a company find the perfect balance, which is nowadays constantly evolving.