Working Remotely: Advantages & Disadvantages for Employees and Companies

Michael Firnkes Last updated 07.09.2021
13 Min.
Michael Firnkes introduction interview
Last updated 07.09.2021

I've been working entirely from home for the past nine years. Initially as a self-employed person later as a part-time employee. Personally, I couldn't go back to an office. At the same time, I understand the challenges of remote work or temporary home office. This article looks at working from home from the perspective of employees, agencies and companies.

I have been with RAIDBOXES since April 2019. Of course, I am attracted by the task, the independent work in the Holacracy model, the young team (I am no longer the youngest myself) and the start-up character. However, I decided to join the company for another reason: RAIDBOXES allows me to work almost completely from home. And I do it part-time. Many men are still looked at strangely when they express this desire.

For Torben and Johannes from RAIDBOXES , none of this was a problem, although they too are definitely aware of the challenges of remote working. More on that later. There are several reasons why employees and companies choose the home office as their workplace:

  • The team cannot find suitable qualified candidates nearby.
  • You want to work from home out of choice. Perhaps you can concentrate better from home, for example, or you're more flexible in terms of time.
  • Working from home is the only way to balance your personal, family, and work life. For example, if you have small children or a lengthy commute.
  • The company doesn't have a large enough office, it's completely remote, or operates from abroad.

Of course, not every job is suitable for the remote model. But in fields such as (online) marketing, software development, support or even sales, most jobs can be done well from home - provided everyone involved is prepared to adapt. We'll look at the advantages and disadvantages of working from home today. Are you interested in this topic? Check out our other articles on remote work:

Tip: We are still looking for reinforcement. Become part of the RAIDBOXES team - whether in Münster or in the home office. Take a look at our current job offers.

Advantages for me

What I appreciate most about work is the flexibility it offers me. I didn't want to give up being a freelancer entirely. That's why I decided to keep on working for myself alongside my part-time position. For my second job, teaching online marketing, I often have to travel. At the same time, I need to take care of my young daughter. Neither of these would be possible if I had a traditional 9 to 5 office job.

Remote workspace
My work station in my home office

In addition, I work in a very special environment. Companies that focus on WordPress are not around every corner. The remote model gives me the opportunity to work in my preferred environment. And at the same time, I can reconcile my private and professional life.

Depending on your personal circumstances, there may be other benefits to working remotely:

  • Concentrated work: For me as a creative copywriter, this is extremely important. I travel to our office in Münster from time to time. A very dedicated and lively team works there. What some people love, is sometimes hell for me. I need almost complete silence to blog or do content marketing. Even headphones and the like don't help. The home office can also be a blessing for highly sensitive people or employees with autistic traits.
  • No commute: You save yourself the commute. I used to commute two hours to and from work in some cases. That's 10 more hours of free time per week (converted to a full-time job).
  • Family time: The daycare center closes at 4 p.m. and your partner can't take over? Are you a single parent or do you only see your children on a daily basis? You have pets? That's often easier to reconcile with remote than with a traditional office job.
  • Private appointments: The mailman doesn't ring twice? Taking half a day off because the water meter is being read or the washing machine is being delivered? A quick trip to the hairdresser during the break? All this is easier to do from home. But of course it shouldn't get out of hand and must be well agreed with your employer. At RAIDBOXES , we have a channel that our remote colleagues use to log on and off for such short breaks from the screen. More about this later.
  • Cost savings: You may save yourself the expensive public transport subscription or countless kilometres by car if you work in the remote model. On the other hand, there are of course additional costs for the home office that should not be underestimated (electricity, water, heating, fast internet). You can deduct some of your travel costs from your taxes, and under certain circumstances you can also deduct the home office. Or you can get an allowance from your employer.

The last point in particular needs to be calculated properly. In general, you should weigh up the pros and cons carefully. While some people welcome the seclusion of the home office and find they can concentrate better, others prefer their colleagues to be around them. Some people even need their presence to be creative in the first place.

Tip: Remote work doesn't have to be done from a home office. If you want to take advantage of the model without losing contact with your fellow human beings, you can also rent all or part of a coworking space. There are now coworking spaces in all major cities and towns.

Challenges for employees

"Working from home? I could never do that!" I get to hear this sentence nearly every time I discuss working remotely with friends. This model certainly isn't for everyone. But you can get used to working from home. Especially if: 

  • There are regular core working hours within the company
  • Your job regularly involves travelling to customers, suppliers, congresses, or training courses.
  • You have a second job where you are more socially active

This is also true for me, even if I tend to be for solitary. Without the seminars where I come into contact with many different people, the job would be too lonely for me. Likewise without the days in the RAIDBOXES office in Münster.

For a while, I worked in a company that was entirely remote. This meant I only saw my colleagues about twice a year - that was definitely too little contact for me.

Tip: Find out where your limits are. Ideally, you should work for a company that gives you a certain amount of flexibility in terms of office working days. At least until you find the right balance.

Of course it helps here if you don't have to travel across Germany or even Europe to get to your employer. Too much local proximity increases the temptation or pressure to be on the spot more often than you'd like. As you can see, it makes sense to approach the idea of remote work slowly. And keep in mind that your needs change as years go by.

Some questions you should clarify in advance:

  • Personal responsibility: Do you know from previous jobs or projects that you can focus on a very independent way of working? Or do you, on the contrary, need someone at your side site to guide you through the work steps and tasks?
  • Professional development: Are you "seen" enough as a remote worker? Can you get by without the floor talk? If you have ambitious plans for your career, this could be a problem.
  • Task sharing: Are you good with briefings via phone, chat or email?
  • Infrastructure: Do you have the necessary tools and a separate area for your home office? More on this in a moment.
  • Corporate culture: Do your colleagues and superiors already have experience with remote employees? Is it already clear which tools will be used? I will introduce you to some of them later.
  • Financial arrangements: Who will pay for the additional costs incurred by a home office? Is this included in the (higher) salary? Is there a travel budget that you can draw on to get to the company's headquarters on a regular basis? And to stay overnight in the vicinity?

Another point that is very important is whether you get your social contact through your working environment? Do you have a strong enough private network? Does your partner give you enough space and freedom to work from home? Quite a few remote workers underestimate how much working from home can affect your private daily life.

Tip: Some remote workers work completely independent of location, as so-called digital nomads. Read our interview with Michael Hörnlimann . He names the advantages and hurdles of this way of working.

coworking space
You can work from anywhere, for example in a co-working space

Distinction between work life and personal life

I've always kept my work and private life strictly separate. This is essential whether you work at home all the time or only occasionally. This separation is the only way you can get your work done. This way you don't run the risk of turning on the computer late in the evening or on your days off "just for one quick thing" or being constantly available for your employer. Above all, pay attention to the following:

  • Communication: Separate your channels. Do not use your private computer and your own smartphone for professional communication.
  • Your desk: The same goes for your documents: Are work documents and personal bills flying wildly around your desk? Not a good idea.
  • Working hours: Agree with your employer when you are available and how, and when you are not. You need times and spaces in your private environment where you and your family are not disturbed.
  • Availability: At the same time, make sure that you can actually be contacted during the agreed working hours. Otherwise you should "log off". Employers who have no remote experience will otherwise quickly become suspicious.
  • Not now: Nevertheless, you usually need fixed slots in which you can work in a concentrated manner. Or you can signal in tools like Slack that you are busy. See the relevant section below.

Video conferencing grants deep glimpses into your private space Here too, it makes perfect sense to have a separate area within your home for this.

Also, make sure you're home alone when you work. From time to time, your children's or partner's presence is going to be avoidable, e.g. due to illness. Here you need good coordination but and a consistent spatial separation so you're still able to work properly. At least that's what my experience has been.

More tips for everyday life as a remote worker:

  • Get into the habit of having a regular work routine with fixed times, as if you had to drive to an office. It'll help you focus on the job.
  • You don't necessarily have to set up your own study. But you need your own area and a desk for your work. Just like your employer, you should pay attention to ergonomics here.
  • Work in a tidy environment. You should feel comfortable but not get too cozy. The sofa is not a suitable place to sit when working from home. 
  • Move your private smartphone to another room. It'll distract you too much. Make sure you take regular breaks.
Working from home
Don't get too cozy. Working from the sofa isn't a good idea.

Advantages for companies

I know of many companies with modern setups who still refuse to allow remote work. I'll come to the reasons why in a moment. The model has several advantages:

  • Recruiting: Especially in the technical environment, there is probably no company that is not desperately looking for skilled workers. Opening up to remote increases the catchment area enormously. Especially for companies in rural areas.
  • Less effort: New employees no longer have to go to migrate if they want to work for your company. This way, a cooperation can also be tested first.
  • Cheap workingmodel: Remote working may save you a lot of money. You don't have to set up additional workstations or even look for a new office when new hires work from home.
  • Customer proximity: If the company operates across Germany or Europe: Remote workers may be located much closer to individual customers, suppliers and new markets. You can take advantage of this.
  • Expansion: In the long term, even new branch offices can be established in this way.

The shortage of skilled workers is probably the most important point. Small companies and start-ups in particular are increasingly opening up to remote work, as otherwise they would have no chance of filling all the vacancies. It's quite similar for RAIDBOXES us. For important positions we found employees faster.

Tip: Keeping good employees is almost even more important and is often neglected by companies. A very esteemed colleague of ours has moved from Muenster to Hamburg for private reasons. Without remote work we would certainly have lost her.

Challenges for companies

Remote work ain't easy - especially at the beginning. Remote work can also fail if a company or employees aren't yet ready for it. Probably the biggest challenge is to maintain contact with colleagues while working from home:

  • Employees working remotely still need to feel like they're part of the team. This isn't so easy without the everyday personal contact.
  • The company or the management need to have a good relationship with the employees and, most importantly, a lot of trust.

Remote workers instinctively sense whether or not this leap of faith is being made for them. They also sense whether they're fully accepted by the local team, whether they're considered less valuable employees, or whether there's even some envy towards them. After all, working from home does offer some privileges that employees on site in the office don't enjoy. This is where management needs to be very attentive but also to provide information. You have to communicate all the advantages of remote work to your remote worker and the team as a whole.

Here is how to stay in contact with employees working on site in the office: 

  • Presence times: Homeworkers should also show up at the office for a few days every now and then. The rotation can be made dependent on how time-consuming the journey is.
  • Social activities: RAIDBOXES organises joint team events on a very regular basis. The effort to involve us remoters here is not insignificant. But Johannes and Torben have realized that this is very important for integration.
  • Feedback loops: Remote workers don't get the vibe in the office. They also have less of a sense of whether and how their work is being received. This is where good feedback is important. See our 10 tips for a better feedback culture.
  • Infrastructure: What techniques and tools are needed to make collaboration work? This ranges from systems for video conferencing to optional time recording.

Most important for remote workers is access to information. I don't hear my colleagues' discussions at my desk, in the kitchen, or during lunch breaks. Sometimes things are explained or agreed upon quickly in the spaces that I actually should know about There must be a role or processes in the company collects and documents important information and shares it in openly accessible channels. Remote works can be of assistance here. They're the first to recognize at what points information is getting lost. 

This is time-consuming, but in the end all employees benefit from it. Finally, comprehensive documentation is created along the way. RAIDBOXES solves this point with an internal wiki and specialist groups in Slack . See the section "Tools and Meetings".

Note: Companies should set out in writing important points of collaboration with remote employees. For example in the employment contract. This includes points like rights and obligations, working hours, data protection, and access to customer data.

Do remote employees work less? 

Many companies refuse to allow remote work because it can't be controlled to the same extent as having employees on site. From some corners, there are even concerns remote workers tend to be lazy and less productive. In fact, some studies have shown remote employees end up working more. Because at home, some people are more inclined to spend evenings working on work projects.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. At home, I'm tempted to walk the dog or hang up the laundry - that's what breaks are for. However, I'm not going to get distracted by other colleagues at home. In my experience, this point shouldn't be underestimated. Almost every work discussion slides at some point into private chatting. And if someone interrupts me at my desk, I'll often have to start what I was doing again from scratch. Remote employees can create a more protected setting for themselves in this respect. 

Working in the office
Feeling a bit silly? You can also do that in the office.

In my opinion, the discussion about where more or less work is done is not central. What matters is whether my employees are motivated - regardless of where they work. Because ducking out and "taking it easy" is also possible in the office. Ultimately, it's a question of corporate culture. Here, too, models such as the Holacracy to promote independent action.

Remote employees who are performing fulfilling and appreciated work will also be fully committed. Employees working from home tend to be very loyal because they appreciate what the company offers them.

Tools and meetings

You need to use the right tools to involve employees in the work processes. Which tools are the right ones for your company depends on your processes and what software you're already using. Here is a small selection: 

  • Slack : Slack is a kind of chat tool for companies, with which employees and teams can exchange information. You can also use it to send files, create reminders, make calls in groups or set up video conferences very quickly. It is suitable for fast office communication as well as for the exchange with remoters or external specialists. We at RAIDBOXES work very successfully with Slack .
  • Video conferencing: We use Google Hangouts for video conferencing, despite Slack . Because the quality is not always really good at Slack . Our conference room in Münster is equipped with the appropriate equipment so that we can see each other but also share screens (cameras, micro, airtame). So the remoter can participate in all meetings if needed.
  • Virtual Meeting Rooms: We have set up virtual rooms in Google Hangouts for each remote location. They are easily accessible via a link in our WordPress dashboard. So you can quickly meet with one or more remoters in "Hamburg", "Magdeburg" or "Freiburg".
  • Project management: A good project management tool is important for any company that works in a technical environment and with mixed teams. I enter all my tasks there. That way, my colleagues know what I'm working on at all times. And it helps me with self-organization. We currently work with Zoho, but I've also had good experiences with Trello.
  • Editorial planning: Distributed content teams in particular need to be well organized. The classic here is still Excel - or Google Sheets as a modern variant. You can find countless templates for editorial plans on the web.

A bit more about Slack: Channels for groups and themes are an important instrument to avoid a confusing jumble of information. We have a channel, for example, where we log on and off for our breaks. There's even a "water cooler" channel for small talk. And one solely for marketing topics. Everyone can decide for themselves where they want to participate.

There are now robots that allow remote workers to move to the workstations of their on-site colleagues and talk to them virtually. See this provider. We briefly considered purchasing one. However, some employees had privacy concerns. You should generally consider these, with all tools.

double hallway
The "double" robot in action. Image © Double Robotics

Do you know any other tools? How happy are you with the solutions mentioned above? Feel free to add your experiences or tips in the comments.

Conclusion

If you consider the following points, remote work brings more flexibility for both companies and employees:

  • It takes a while before the appropriate processes are in place. In the beginning, remote employees and the teams on site should be in constant exchange about what can be optimized and how. The necessary resources must be available.
  • You need good social contacts outside work if you work mainly from home. 
  • Information in the company must be freely accessible to everyone.
  • In addition to the virtual meetings, remote workers should meet regularly with the office teams in person.
  • The remote model is not suitable for very controlling business personalities.

I wish you good luck with your remote job or with introducing remote team members.

You have questions about remote work? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to be informed about news on WordPress and WooCommerce ? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

Further articles about the topic

Here are some more links for employees, agencies, and companies:

Images: Alif Pratama, Shridhar Gupta, Damir Kopezhanov

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