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The Remote Work Debate: Which Side Will Win?

In a recent announcement, IBM stated it will be implementing a new company-wide policy that no longer allows employees to work remotely. U.S.-based employees will have the choice to commute to one of six main offices located in New York, Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco, Raleigh, or Cambridge, or they will be asked to leave the company altogether. According to IBM, this decision was made as a solution to combat several consecutive quarters of revenue loss. Like IBM, other companies are starting to return to a more traditional workflow by removing the flexible remote work options that many employees have come to depend on.

It would appear we have a growing debate on our hands when it comes to whether companies should continue to offer remote work options to employees. Based on our insights from behind the scenes, it would appear that C-Suite executives believe employees are most productive with the structure that comes with a typical 9 to 5 schedule in a centralized office, while employees would argue that flexible work hours fuel their efficiency and positive performance over time. So, which side of the debate is correct?

The in-office perspective

To sympathize with the C-Suite side of the argument, fifty percent of respondents from a study that surveyed more than 1,400 CEOs and CFOs reported that corporate culture influences productivity, creativity and profitability. From the C-Suite standpoint, employees that work from home are more prone to distractions and temptations to be lax with their work, which is why executives argue that all employees should be in the office during the work day. With the ‘all staff in the office all the time’ solution, execs are able to better manage employees more directly and have more opportunities to provide immediate assistance when needed. As a secondary benefit, a permanent, centralized workplace creates an environment that promotes heightened productivity and focus among team members. Ensuring that all employees are in the office during work hours naturally provides face-to-face opportunities to develop a positive company culture, which typically can’t be done in the same way among remote employees.

The remote work perspective

Sixty-five percent of full-time employees 18 years or older surveyed for the State of Workplace Productivity Report agree that a flexible and remote work schedule would increase productivity. From the employee standpoint, the option to work remote has not only become an expectation, it has become an argument for increased efficiency due to the flexibility and opportunity to take more breaks as needed during the work day. C-Suite executives tend to still believe corporations can only be successful and productive when employees are at their desks where they can be consistently accounted for their work. This traditional idea may have made more sense in the past with limited access to technology outside of the office, but today employees are able to obtain their necessary work resources from almost anywhere, anytime. Improvements in technology makes working remotely possible today, and in some cases, more effective.

Neither working in an office nor working remotely is inherently superior. Both come with pros and cons, and both require compromises to be made to address the needs of C-suite executives and employees alike. Executive-level management teams need to recognize that flexible work hours help employees balance life and work, which means that some form of this benefit should be offered. Remote workers must demonstrate to C-suite executives their willingness to be in the office when needed and that they understand the value of working in a structured work environment. Compromises on both sides will hopefully lead to less employee turnover and an increase in company revenue over time.

About WorkSmart Systems Inc.

WorkSmart Systems Inc. is an Indianapolis-based Professional Employer Organization founded in 1998. As a leading PEO, WorkSmart serves over 200 client companies with employees in 37 states. WorkSmart is also an active member of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations. Connect to more about the company by clicking here.

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