More than half — 62 percent — of the global workforce currently takes advantage of full-time, partial or after-hours remote work opportunities, according to a 2017 survey from video conferencing provider Polycom.
Some recent research, however, has indicated employees who participate in flexible work programs may face several unique challenges.
Employers, for example, may feel uncomfortable with the arrangement. A Global Workplace Analytics analysis of more than 4,000 reports, studies and articles found that while 75 percent of managers say they trust employees, a third would like to be able to physically see them, just to be sure they’re working.
In addition to supervisor suspicion, remote employment drawbacks can include:
A seemingly endless workday
Nearly a third of U.K. workers say handling remote work from home means they can’t fully disengage and enjoy their personal time, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; 17 percent feel having remote employee access makes them anxious or impacts the quality of their sleep.
Apprehension and health concerns
Without an office to leave — and with messages potentially coming in from areas that operate outside of the employee’s typical 9 to 5 schedule — the longer hours flexible work situations often lead to can result in higher stress levels, according to a report from the International Labour Organization and Eurofound agencies.
Being completely on-the-go may be even more taxing. The report indicates mobile workers who aren’t permanently based in one location experience an increased risk of negative health and well-being outcomes than employees who work from home.
An increasingly isolated office environment
In a paper published in the Academy of Management Discoveries journal, researchers from George Mason University and Boston College suggested employees who do remote work from home often miss the social and other benefits that come from being located in one place — yet additional employees may choose remote employment if the office feels empty, due to the amount of remote employees who have already begun working elsewhere.
While those factors are all worth considering, they don’t mean flexible work policies are necessarily a bad thing.
Having employees who work from home can, in fact, be a valuable recruiting and retention tool. A Stanford University study involving a large Chinese company found allowing employees to telecommute lowered attrition and increased productivity by 13 percent. Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis also found more than a third of workers would choose remote work opportunities over a raise.
The way you structure remote employment, however, can make all the difference.
Like all employees, team members who perform remote work from home, or somewhere else, need to be able to establish clear work/life balance boundaries. Employers, in turn, need to respect them.
If an employee is located in a different time zone, be sensitive to the fact the person may not be as responsive during your typical work hours. Similarly, a 2016 study found 29 percent of employees who regularly use phone and video conferencing have either intentionally or unintentionally left a colleague out; try to schedule meetings for mutually agreeable times that won’t require remote employees to start working earlier or stay online far later than normal.
Telecommuting can have an effect on employees who are left in the office, as well.
If non-remote employees feel left out, try offering some additional perks to make the office feel like a friendlier environment. Sixty-seven percent of the employees with access to free food, for example, say they’re very happy at their current job, according to data from commercial real estate agency TheSquareFoot.
For additional tips on successfully overseeing employees who work from home, in the office or at a remote location, view our blog posts on effectively engaging off-site employees, tackling global management and making flexible work schedules work for you.