The Pros and Cons of Remote Work and Combating Loneliness Among Telecommuters

Today’s small businesses rarely look like the quaint mom-and-pops of 50 years ago. From basement-run carpentry workshops to home-office design studios, small-business headquarters can be anywhere their employees are, from the living room to the local Starbucks.

For some small businesses, remote work is essential for balancing the budget. Office spaces are expensive to rent, and with tools like instant messaging and video conferencing to keep employees connected, there’s no reason to waste money on the square footage.

Plus, most folks would rather work from home anyway, for a variety of reasons. That’s according to a recent study of 500 remote U.S. workers by TSheets by QuickBooks. Among those surveyed, 67 percent of respondents said they work remotely sometimes, while 33 percent said they work remotely daily. Respondents were asked to rate their experience in relation to everything from mental health to productivity.

Remote work pros and cons

As with any work arrangement, telecommuting has its pros and cons. For instance, working from home means a shorter commute — approximately the time it takes to get from your bed to your desk or sofa, or wherever you set up shop for the day.

Conversely, working remotely can be a bit lonely, as it’s tough to get the same human interaction with co-workers from a solitary home office.

Nevertheless, among employees, the option to telecommute is a popular one, regardless of its cons. According to another recent study, 57 percent of workers would like the option to work from home.

If you’re considering a telecommute position or thinking about instigating a remote work policy for your employees, here are a few of the pros and cons you can expect, based on survey responses.

Pros:

  • Increased productivity
  • Better physical health
  • Better mental health

Cons:

  • A constant need to prove productivity
  • Difficulties with self-motivation
  • Loneliness

Despite the fact 53 percent of respondents said working outside the office allowed them to be more productive, most felt their workmates had an unfair perception of their productivity. When asked what their concerns were when working remotely, “people think I’m not working” was the second most popular answer.

That’s despite the fact 1 in 3 remote workers actually puts in more hours than they did previously, and they know it. Working more hours was their biggest challenge.

All of that means, despite the fact they’re working harder and longer than ever, many telecommuters still aren’t getting the appreciation they deserve. At the same time, 1 in 5 remote workers is also struggling with working alone each day.

Combating loneliness

Initially, the ability to work from home, free of distracting co-workers and meetings, may sound incredibly appealing. But noticing distractions and wanting to shuck them off completely are two different things. Sure, the social atmosphere of an office breeds distractions, but those face-to-face interactions also give variety to the day and keep employees engaged.

Here are some tips for combating loneliness in a telecommuter team:

  1. Encourage the responsible use of an instant messaging program. Allow employees to create theme-specific groups such as a book-lovers channel or dog-owners channel, to foster a sense of community, even in a virtual space.
  2. Facilitate in-person events. Depending on where people are located, such events could occur anywhere between once a year to once a week. Meet up in a local coffee house for an in-person check-in or organize a yearly retreat in a central location.
  3. Host virtual meetings. Getting everyone on the same page often requires more than a couple of emails. When you need to communicate a message to the whole team, make a point of using webcams, so people have the chance to chat “face to face.”

Despite their struggles with loneliness, the vast majority of remote workers (84 percent) said their mental health was positively impacted by their ability to telecommute. Additionally, 1 in 4 said working remotely has resulted in better physical health. There are pros and cons to every workplace, but allowing workers to put in their time remotely is one practice that benefits employers and employees alike.

Authored by: Danielle Higley

Danielle Higley is a copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution. She has a BA in English literature and has spent her career writing and editing marketing materials for small businesses. She recently started an editorial consulting company.