The Pros and Cons of a Remote Workforce

Four professionals listening to a woman speaking on the screen through a remote call

The technology available to help us work and collaborate digitally is always improving. Thanks to an array of virtual tools, employees can work from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection with very little difficulty, and Covid-19 has only hammered home how seamless it can be for some workers to make the switch to working offsite.

Even before the pandemic struck, though, remote work was well on its way to becoming the norm rather than the exception. A survey¹ by Upwork and Freelancers Union estimated that nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce would consist of remote freelancers by 2027.

Another survey² by AND CO of more than 3,700 employees who work remotely found many companies are already embracing the trend. It reported:

  • 55% of current virtual workforce employees say they are already full-time telecommuters.
  • 28% say they alternate between working remotely and working on-site.
  • 15% report working primarily onsite with some remote work opportunities.

This is a big segment of the workforce doing at least some portion of their work remotely. 

Is a Permanent Switch to Remote Work Right For Your Business?

A growing number of major corporations, including Facebook, Twitter, and Slack, have started offering the option to work remotely, and more SMBs are considering it, too. It’s a situation that can have numerous advantages as well as potential concerns for employers. 

We’re breaking down some of the biggest pros and cons to consider. 

The advantages of being a part of a remote workforce as an employee are pretty obvious: flexible scheduling, access to employers outside of a commuting distance, greater independence, higher job satisfaction, cost and time savings (gas, wear and tear on vehicles, commute time, etc.), and the potential for greater productivity. 

But what are the advantages of telecommuting for employers? Here are 10 of the biggest ones. 

10 Advantages of Employing a Remote Workforce

1. Cost savings

A virtual workforce is more cost-effective than providing physical space, office supplies, and covering other costs for an onsite team. According to Global Workplace Analytics³, which studies trends and forecasts surrounding work in America, a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per employee, per year, by going remote for just 50% of workdays. The average employee would save between $2,500 and $4,000. 

2. Bigger talent pool

Making virtual positions available increases your access to a more talented pool of candidates who live outside of commuting distance (or even internationally, for that matter). This can be a great advantage if you’re looking to compete at the global level or if you need to fill niche positions. 

3. Ability to collaborate

There’s no doubt that collaboration among team members breeds greater creativity, inclusion and innovation. But collaboration can still be accomplished virtually thanks to the plethora of widely available services for video and audio conferencing. In fact, teleconferencing may even expand your ability to collaborate, like with team members from other locations across the country who wouldn’t normally be included in in-person meetings. 

4. Higher morale

If you want happier employees, let them work from home. Research has shown that flexible work options lead to increased employee morale⁴ and satisfaction; according to OWL Labs’ State of Remote Work report, people who worked remotely at least once a month were 24% more likely to feel happier and more productive at work than those who didn’t work offsite. 

5. Lower turnover

Offering remote work opportunities leads to reduced employee turnover and attrition. Improving your stats in this area can also contribute to significant cost savings for your organization. 

6. Fewer meetings

Employees who work remotely have fewer unnecessary meetings. According to Doodle’s State of Meetings report⁵, poorly organized meetings cost U.S. companies close to $400 billion a year in lost time and productivity. 

7. Increased productivity

Believe it or not, many companies find that employees get more done when they work from home. A Stanford professor did a case study⁶ on a travel company with more than 16,000 employees. He broke the employees into two groups—one that worked remote and one that worked onsite. He found that the offsite group produced a boost in output equivalent to a full day’s work—and their attrition decreased by 50%.

8. More independent workers

Since remote workers don’t have a manager constantly looking over their shoulder, they’re forced to be more independent in their work. This can be a plus, since micromanaging tends to hurt morale. 

9. Reduced absenteeism

Unscheduled absences are a big expense for employers, costing companies about $1,800 per employee, per year. For the whole country, that adds up to about $300 billion. The Global Workforce Analytics study we mentioned earlier found that telecommuting programs reduce unscheduled absences by 63%.

10. Environmental benefits

Employing a virtual workforce that doesn’t have to drive to work contributes to making a company more eco-friendly. In fact, it’s one of the most effective things a company can do to reduce its carbon footprint. If workers in America with a remote-work compatible job worked from home just half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of taking New York State’s entire workforce off the road.

5 Disadvantages of Employing a Remote Workforce

Although having a partial or full-fledged remote workforce has numerous benefits for employers, it also has some potential drawbacks to consider.

1. Loss of oversight

In a move to remote work, management may worry about lack of accountability because employees are not as “visible” (although technology offers plenty of ways to track worker activity).

2. Lack of human element

There’s definitely something to be said about the energy of being in a room full of like-minded people working toward a common goal, and that’s an element you can’t quite replicate over a video call. Management may have concerns about reduced collaboration or creativity as a result of staff not being able to meet face to face on a regular basis. 

3. Not suitable for all employees

Some employees simply work better in a physical workplace. To manage the switch to remote work successfully, you’ll need to invest in giving employees the tools, coaching and resources they need to succeed when they’re not a few cubicles away from their colleagues or boss. 

4. Perceived unfairness/favoritism

There’s another factor to remote work we haven’t touched on yet, and that’s that not all jobs can be done offsite. If you move to a partially remote workforce, there are risks of jealousy or perceived favoritism among the employees that have to remain onsite out of necessity. 

5. Infrastructure costs

While remote work comes with long-term cost savings, there is an upfront investment. You may need to make potentially expensive updates to your IT infrastructure, security, and technology to support virtual work opportunities.

An Example of a Successful Virtual Workforce Integration

As a recruiting and staffing agency for small, medium, and large businesses, 4 Corner Resources (4CR) has worked with clients across various industries around the United States. As such, we have been privileged to be a part of many successful remote workforce integrations. Here is one such example:

One client, a public e-learning school that serves K-12 students throughout Florida (and elsewhere) through online content, decided to develop their own Learning Management System (LMS) in 2017. This multi-million dollar project required additional employees to plan, develop and execute company-wide. The skill sets the school sought in employees for the project were part of a small niche — which placed the organization in a position of having a limited candidate pool to select from in the immediate area.

By deciding to embrace a remote workforce, the educational company expanded its candidate pool and gained access to a more extensive network of candidates who did not live within a daily commute distance. The company enjoyed great success finding the talent they needed to have a successful project completion and has since followed a remote working module.

As the preference for working remotely continues to gain traction among candidates, allowing offsite work some or all of the time, for some or all of your employees, can be a useful way to differentiate yourself from other employers and better compete for the best talent. 

Hire Accountable, Independent Employees with 4 Corner Resources

It takes the right type of employee to successfully work from home. It requires diligence, organization, accountability and a strong work ethic. Let 4 Corner Resources identify these qualities in candidates for your open role by choosing us as your staffing partner. 

We help employers of all sizes fill their remote staffing needs with talented employees who bring the right mix of technical skills and real-world experience. From full-time to part-time, permanent to temporary, we can help you source, screen and hire the type of employees that will help your company thrive while working remotely. Start the conversation with our team of staffing experts by scheduling your free consultation now.  

Resources and Sources

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn