What is remote working? Here are the pros and cons of working remotely

In today’s digital age, advances in technology mean that almost all work-related activities can be conducted from anywhere in the world via a laptop, an internet connection, and a phone. This leaves more and more businesses asking the question as to whether they even need to have a permanent office.

But before you hand in your notice to your existing landlord, or tear up that lease agreement for that new office you were considering moving in to, have a think about whether working remotely really is the right move for your business.

Let’s understand the pros and cons of working remotely.

Avoiding rental costs is the most obvious advantage of working remotely. Office rent usually accounts for a large amount of most business’ fixed costs, so a significant saving here could have a very positive effect on your year-end profit and loss.

But have a long think before taking the plunge. For example, do you need storage? Will you be moving to a serviced office or co-working environment as an alternative workspace solution? Will your colleagues and employees also need to be close to you in your new chosen work location?

If you start taking these costs into consideration any savings that you make on rent could soon diminish. For example, let’s say you are paying £1,000 per month in rent. You have decided to work remotely and need somewhere to store your office files and equipment. Storage costs you £350 per month. You and 2 of your employees wish to move to a co-working shared office space at a cost of £200 per person. Your total costs now come to £950 per month. Is it really worth the hassle?

Business rates 
If you are paying business rates at your current office then there can also be a considerable saving to be made by handing your keys back to your landlord for good. 

But have a long think and do some research before taking the plunge. Once you have identified your new work location, make inquiries to ensure there are no restrictions or taxes that need to be paid to the council. For example, if you decide to move your business operations to the large shed at the back of your garden, your local authority may take the view that this is a “place of work” and decide that you are liable for business rates as a result.

Utility bills, cleaning and maintenance
By turning your back on the office you are also turning your back on the utility companies. Gas, water, and electricity savings alone are likely to be large enough to make a significantly positive impact on your year-end accounts. You also automatically save on office cleaning and associated maintenance costs. 

But remember that wherever you decide to work from as your new work location, be it your home or from a different location, you will still need to consume basic utilities like electricity and water, and you’ll also need an internet connection. Make sure you plan for this carefully. If you find yourself and your employees working from home and you’re having to foot the utility bills for everyone; you could find yourself with another mountain of bills to pay.

Flexibility and work-life balance
Working remotely no doubt gives you the flexibility to turn your laptop on and off at your will and work when it suits you. It also helps with trying to achieve the perfect work-life balance. But flexibility isn’t always a good thing. Other activities could soon start taking over and eating into your “work time”, thereby affecting your output. For example, the 20-minute stroll in the park could easily turn into a 20-minute stroll followed by a 15-minute trip to the shops and a 10-minute chat with your neighbour on the way home, leaving you with less time to do your work. There’s also those unexpected visits and phone calls that you may need to engage in, at the cost of your work time.

Relaxed mind
Most employers will agree that a relaxed mind results in better output. So working remotely is certainly appealing when it comes to reducing stress levels. No long commute to work, no sitting at your desk all day with an uninspiring view, no more having to sit near that annoying colleague all day that you don’t see eye-to-eye with, and no more disturbance from that colleague who is extra loud on the phone.

But does working remotely really result in a relaxed mind? If you’re working from home and you’re surrounded by distractions all day from family, traffic, neighbours, etc you could soon find yourself wishing you were away from it all, back in the office. On the opposite side of the spectrum, working in isolation with nobody to interact with could leave you feeling stressed, lonely, and depressed.

Working remotely in a comfortable and relaxed environment should have an overall positive impact on your business. But in some cases, it can actually be counterproductive. We have already mentioned that working remotely could result in distractions and stress. But you also need to think about employees and how their work output may change when they’re not in the company of other colleagues.

Communication with colleagues, customers, and suppliers
Advances in technology mean that communication with those that are essential to your business is now easier than ever. Cloud-based VOIP phones that allow you to make and receive calls from your PC or mobile are now the norm. There are also a number of video conferencing apps available that allow you to have group discussions.

But sometimes technology can be an overkill. In an open-plan office, to ask a colleague a question all you had to do was call out and the conversation was over in a few seconds. Working remotely means having to now rely on technology to speak to a colleague, which takes significantly longer.

Also by working remotely you lose some of that personalised touch on your business, especially with your customers. Communicating face-to-face is always easier than trying to do it over the phone or by staring at someone on a monitor.

Going green
Many would argue that working remotely is an eco-friendly decision. This notion is certainly reinforced when you take into account that there’s no longer the need for public transport to commute to and from work. Also, you are no longer consuming gas, electricity and water. No more water is being used for tea and coffee and the washing up. There are no more toilets being flushed, no more hand towels and toilet paper being consumed, and no more plastic waste from water bottles and water dispensers.

But in reality, although some of these rituals are eliminated, quite often you may find that their consumption is being moved to a different location to wherever you and your colleagues decide to operate.

Reputation matters
Working remotely often means that you can create the perfect face for your business. There is no shortage of virtual office providers which means you can choose a virtual address as the face of your business that suits your ethics and brand identity. However, with no physical office, this can prove problematic when an important customer or supplier wants to meet you at your place of work for a meeting. Meeting them at the closest coffee shop may provide a solution but may not do your image or reputation any favours and it could also lead to a loss in confidence within your business circle.

Also, many virtual office providers have addresses that are no more than a letterbox stuck to a wall. Again this will hold no benefit to your imaging if somebody looks up your address on Google Maps. There is also a brand association to consider. Most virtual addresses will have hundreds of other companies registered at their address. Are you comfortable being associated with these companies when they all come up on a Google search at your businesses’ address?

In summary, working remotely is an attractive proposition but if not managed and planned correctly you could soon find yourself with extra unwanted baggage which you may have been without when working from a physical office.

This is a collaborative post that was ghost written for More From My Career.

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