Does remote working damage social enterprise morale?

Picture the scene: one social enterprise, two very different employees.

Sarah relishes working from home. It enables her to get more done and means she rarely misses important family gatherings.

As a result, Sarah is vocal about the benefits she enjoys when working from home.

Paul hates working from home. Invariably, he’ll choose last night’s Game of Thrones episode over preparing for that looming client meeting and feels cut-off from the rest of the organisation.

As a result, Paul can’t stand to hear Sarah waxing lyrical about remote working.

Predictably, tensions rise, and productivity dips on both sides of the fence as the home worker and anti-home worker spend more time justifying themselves than focussing on their priorities. Paul thinks Sarah should be in the office more; Sarah thinks Paul needs to modernise his approach to work.

In truth, neither employee is ‘right’ – they both simply have polar opposite approaches to work.

And that shouldn’t be a problem, but with remote working fast becoming the default choice for many (stats suggest 30% of remote workers are more productive), the advantages and disadvantages demand further exploration.

To keep things fair, we’ve picked six of each:

Remote working: the advantages

1. Productivity

Without meetings and constant colleague interruptions, working in a solitary fashion at home is a great way to get a tonne of stuff done.

2. Reduced commuting

If your commute reduces from a twenty minute car journey to a twenty second descent down the stairs to the dining room, the social enterprise you work for will lower its carbon footprint.

3. Improved staff health

Although not guaranteed, many remote workers use the extra time they gain to stay active by taking regular exercise breaks.

4. Loyalty

If you give employees ultimate control over their schedule, they should repay you with loyalty and greatly reduced staff turnover.

5. Lower overheads

Housing people in offices is expensive, and if more people work remotely, you’ll greatly reduce the energy and tech required to keep them functioning.

6. Happier staff

If you can avoid the distractions and focus on being productive, working from home is a far less stressful affair, and less stressed employees are happier employees.

Remote working: the disadvantages

1. Isolation

Working remotely affords plenty of productivity, but it can also be a lonely endeavour. Too much of it, and you risk being cut off from the rest of the company.

2. Lack of community

If the workforce mixes remote and office employees, the ability to build a positive community and company culture is inevitably more challenging.

3. Poor communication

Even with the best digital communication channels at your disposal, some remote workers will actively or inadvertently avoid them, making collaboration tricky and raising the likelihood of vital information being missed.

4. Distractions

The TV, sunny garden and other family members are classic examples of distractions for remote workers that might be too hard to resist.

5. Trust

If trust is already an issue with certain employees, their decision to work from home will only prove more stressful for a manager who is already suspicious of their work rate.

6. Over-reliance

Mixing remote work with office visits is preferable, because an over-reliance on the former is far too easy to gain once you become a convert.

Conclusion

Remote working isn’t right for everyone, but for it to deliver value to your social enterprise, you need to avoid clashes of the Sarah/Paul kind.

The more you embrace remote working as purely an option, the less chance you’ll have of a stigma being attached to either it or the decision to work in a more traditional manner.

If you decide to introduce optional remote working, make it available to all and ensure you have the best systems in place to foster a culture of collaboration and joint productivity, no matter where individuals happen to be located.

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