Working From Home, Is It For Your Business ? The Pros And The Cons
As someone that entered the tech industry in his early twenties (23 years old to be exact) and is now thirty five, I have seen a lot of changes in the opinions of companies and employees regarding remote work. At the beginning of my career, most companies were totally against the idea of employees/contractors working from home and off course employees/contractors were ready to embrace this new paradigm. It all came down to control and trust. To be honest in the early 2000's (when dinosaurs roamed the earth :) ) companies were afraid of change but more specifically they feared the following:
1) Employees/Contractors wouldn't be as productive as they were when in the office. Thus that would mean a loss of money for the corporation
2) There wouldn't be as much collaboration or knowledge transfer amongst team members
3) The company data and intellectual property (IP) wouldn't be safe in the hands of employees/contractors since they couldn't be monitored by managers breathing down their metaphorical and physical necks
4) Companies simply did not trust their employees to be responsible adults and moreover professionals
5)Companies (were/are lazy) did not want to use or implement the tools and infrastructure that would empower their employees to work remotely
Today (in 2017, in case you are reading this from the future :) ), things are a little different in the tech industry. While most tech companies do not still offer remote work as an option to their employees (for the reasons outlined above) , a lot of them (like Tech Finity, Automattic, etc) have come around and understand the blessings and rewards that come with offering their employees at least part time remote work if not full time remote work like Automattic does.
Is it a little bit harder at the beginning to have your employees partially or totally work remotely ? Yes it is; but like any worthy endeavors once you pass the initial hurdles, the rewards you reap far outweigh these difficulties. As a company here is why you should consider letting your employees/contractors work remotely fully (if not at least partially):
1) Your employees get a sense of freedom. They feel free to do as they please. They are in their own environment and are reinvigorated
2) There is no commute. So this means your employees keep more of their salary since they do not have to spend on gas, bus pass, parking fees, etc. And for you as the business owner you might not need to rent a permanent space that costs you thousands of dollars a month but rent spaces on demand; thus saving you ungodly amount of money. They are great companies offering such services in the USA these days: wework , workfrom , etc.
3) There is no dress code for your employees, they can work in shorts and t-shirt. Again this another expense they do not have to make. No need to spend money on your work clothes since you are working from home.
4) Your employees / contractors feel more empowered, more trusted because there is no one to look over their shoulders.
5) Your employees can write off a small portion of their home office expenses on their taxes; thus again enabling them to keep more of their money and not having to ask you for a raise too soon :) .
6) Some if not all of your employees are married or have children at home, this type of work situation could be especially convenient for them. You do want your employees to spend time with their spouse, children and raise balanced families right ? :)
Off course, this piece wouldn't be complete without also examining the draw backs of working remotely. First off, working remote is not for everyone. So as a company We (Tech Finity) recommend you hire specifically for that trait if you intend to make your company distributed and enjoy the savings and advantages that this system brings.
During the hiring process you can test for that by simply having your new hire work from home their second week after orientation and see how they perform. Off course you should make it explicit in your offer letter that them remaining on board is contingent on their abilities to work remotely. Now, here are some potential draw backs for your employees when working remotely:
1) It takes a phenomenal amount of self-discipline to start work when they know you don't have to be at the office by 8 a.m.
2) They are the only person around all day, so there is no outside pressure to be busy. They must be entirely self-motivated.
3) As an employee they might miss out on the camaraderie that stems from working with others day after day.
4) There are no coworkers to go to lunch with.
5) They can never escape the office and go home, because you are already there (although they can go to different Starbucks, coffee shops every day).
6) Working from home can be messy and can take up an entire spare room in their home. They don't get face time with their coworkers, so it is more difficult to find out about new projects they might be interested in. The boss can't see that they are working hard or putting in extra hours, so you are judged more on the numbers than your work ethic and other intangible factors.
7) There is a danger of putting in too many hours or overworking. As improbable as this might sound, imagine that it's 11 p.m. and they suddenly have a panic attack about work. It's all too easy to go into their home office and work until 1 a.m.
Although, empowering your employees to work remotely and without your supervision seem scary and a daunting task, we recommend that you do it in steps and with a few employees first. If you wish to be a partially or fully distributed company, the big take away is that for every position you hire for, you should also screen your candidates for their ability to work remotely. The savings and efficiency you will have by being completely distributed are enormous.
We at Tech Finity have a small team with members in Africa (Cameroon), Europe (Germany, France), USA (Washington DC, Maryland, San Francisco) and are able to make it work because team members in each continent do not live too far from each other; so face to face meeting still take place to keep relationships and work place camaraderie alive.
Furthermore, we all meet once a year in a European or African country to have a two weeks long meeting to catch up and outline the future direction of our company. However, besides the few face to face meeting we rely heavily on SLACK, ASANA, EMAIL to collaborate, communicate with each other, our clients and manage our projects. Working like this has enabled our companies to grow, while still being tight knit and leaving each of us feeling empowered and in charge.