For better or worse, there was an unintended consequence to the COVID-19 pandemic. More small businesses in the U.S. are hiring remote workers. In fact, over the last year, the number of remote workers in the U.S. has grown to 30 percent. Furthermore, many companies have decided to keep their employees home instead of returning to the office.
But is remote work good for small businesses? More importantly, does it fit into your organizational model? There a certainly pros and cons to hiring remote workers. Below we weigh the good and bad so that you can determine if hiring remote workers is suitable for your small business.
From both the employer and employee perspective, there are several benefits to hiring remote workers. Some of the most common pros include
1. You Save Money in Operational Expenses
Pay and benefits aside, hiring employees to work on-site is expensive. Small businesses incur a significant amount of operational overhead, such as
- Equipment and supplies
- Building utilities (power, water, AC)
- Workers compensation insurance
- On-site training and onboarding
This is just the tip of the iceberg for some small businesses. All of these operational expenses go away or are reduced significantly when you send your employees home. On average, employers can save up to $11,000 per employee annually by hiring remotely.
2. Some Workers Are Happier and More Productive at Home
Numerous surveys on remote worker satisfaction and productivity have shown mixed results. One of the reasons for this is COVID-related. The pandemic has caused many workers to be forced into working at home – something they weren’t prepared for. Some workers have adapted, while others have gone so far as to lose their jobs due to not meeting job objectives.
In one survey, 22 percent of companies reported that their employees were less productive. In another survey, 32 percent of companies reported that they saw an increase in team productivity. So far, the dust has not settled on this issue – and it may not for several years. As an employer, you need to check the pulse of your employees to determine if you can expect productivity or not within your industry.
3. You Can Outsource Your Work to a Contractor
Not everyone who works expects benefits such as insurance and retirement. These people are known as contractors or freelancers. Essentially, they are small business owners (granted, a business of one) who are self-motivated and highly independent. They are also your best workers in many cases because they understand the entrepreneurial mindset of ‘do or die.’
Contractors and freelancers typically charge per project instead of per hour. That means you won’t have to pay for downtime like you often do with an in-house employee. You and the contractor agree on the terms and conditions of the project with the bottom line being your only concern. This frees you from constantly assuming the traditional management role.
With all the benefits of hiring remote workers, there are also some drawbacks.
1. High Rates of Loneliness and Isolation
Humans are social creatures. In fact, most people thrive in a work setting filled with coworkers. Nothing replaces the collaborative spirit and energy that a team brings to the table. For this reason, these same people will often implode emotionally when spending too much time alone. They often suffer from loneliness and isolation.
One of the biggest issues facing the pandemic today is quarantine-induced anxiety and depression. Many people simply can’t handle being isolated for too long. This condition is true in both their personal and professional lives. Before sending your employees home for good, make sure they are on board with being remote professionally 24/7.
2. Communication and Technology Issues
When you hire professional freelancers, you can generally assume that they have embraced the technology necessary for successful remote work. Contractors and freelancers are adept at using tools such as Google Drive, social media, video chats, instant messaging, and the required equipment/software within their industry.
This type of communication and technology may be a huge learning curve for newly remote employees. As a result, some of your workers are going to find this mode of working challenging. Some will even resist learning new online tools and software. You will also find that communication becomes a problem for people who are used to meeting in person to discuss ideas and issues.
3. Dependability and Professionalism
The same employees who may demonstrate a high level of professionalism at the office may suddenly lose it at home. Why is this? Frankly, some people work better under a higher level of supervision or management than others. They need structure, which brings security, which ultimately results in higher productivity.
To maintain professionalism, you will need to communicate your expectations clearly and often until you develop a spirit of professionalism remotely. You will need to address issues such as deadlines, communication, work schedules, quality of work, dress codes during video chats, handling customers, and representing your company brand. While some of these issues can be ironed out, you will eventually realize that some people just perform better inside those four walls at the office.
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