When the new coronavirus crisis struck earlier this year, the world was pushed to cyberspace as it adapted to the pandemic. Lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, physical distancing, and quarantine measures have made remote work the new normal.
But even before this crisis, the virtual workforce has already thrived. Remote teams have already been providing businesses with expertise and helping them grow and succeed. Before COVID-19, nearly 5 million employees or 3.6 percent of the entire US employee workforce was part of the virtual workforce. Eight out of 10 virtual workers are employed full-time. The impact of the pandemic has doubled this number.
With the sudden and unprecedented shift to virtual work arrangements, let’s take a look at the rewards and disadvantages of being a virtual employee
The perks of working from home are what many people prefer and seek. Below are some advantages of being a virtual employee.
As a virtual worker, you can gain greater flexibility. Instead of spending hours preparing and commuting to the office every day, virtual employees can spend this time on more important matters. The flexible work arrangement gives you complete control over your daily schedule. Thus, you can achieve a better work-life balance. Nearly 9 out of 10 employees would like to work remotely according to the State of Remote Work Report 2019. The flexible schedule is the most preferred benefit of a virtual work arrangement.
The flexibility and time savings allow you to spend quality time with family and friends, build a social life, and achieve other goals not related to work. The traditional nine-to-five workday can be rigid, demanding, and stressful. It seems like you are always hard-pressed for time. With virtual work, you can schedule your day so that you have equal time for work and personal needs.
Driven by their satisfaction at work, virtual employees tend to be more productive. This is attributed to the fact that these employees work in a controlled environment. While there are distractions, they are better able to manage them and create arrangements to fulfill their obligations. Workers are also able to be more creative with their resources and time. Employees of Allshore, a virtual staffing agency, emphasized a significant improvement in their work output with remote work set up.
With a remote work arrangement, employees can save around $2,500 to $4,000 per year. The cost of food, travel, parking, clothes, and gas results in a considerable cut in worker’s compensation. In contrast, work-at-home would only cost you additional home food and energy costs. These are minimal expenses as compared to the cost of going to a physical office. Aside from monetary savings, virtual work also saves time. On average, telecommuting saves around 11 workdays per year, which can be spent on personal time.
Traditional work arrangement entails several health concerns such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and stress. At home, you can prepare a healthy, balanced meal, walk around or do physical exercises, and take breaks when you feel stressed out. Not all workplaces afford these healthy options. Add to that, traditional work arrangement increases the risk of contracting the dreaded coronavirus disease as well as other communicable illnesses. Virtual employees are safe from these diseases.
Virtual work arrangement is not only beneficial to humans but also our planet. On average, American workers spend 25.5 minutes commuting every day or 100 hours in a year. Whether you take private or mass transportation, commuting takes a toll on the environment. Virtual employees don’t need to travel to work thus significantly reducing their carbon footprint. Besides, cloud-based work infrastructure reduces space requirements which also impact our environment.
While working remotely has its rewards, it also has some drawbacks that you need to consider.
Lack of collaboration
Although video conferencing, instant messaging, and phone calls enable communication, the lack of face-to-face interaction among the team members may reduce the ability to collaborate and build rapport. In some teams, the distance might lead to a disconnect from the objective and vision of the organization. Likewise, communication issues may ensue if this seeming deficiency is not addressed.
Discipline is an essential value that every virtual employee needs. Distractions abound and you might find a hard time focusing on tasks. Setting aside space in your home for work can help minimize interruptions. Make your home office conducive for work by removing unnecessary gadgets, equipment, and staff.
Lack of office culture
The on-site work builds an office culture, which is helpful for the entire organization. Employees spend time not just on work-related matters but also on a personal level. This fosters teamwork and creates an atmosphere that drives everyone towards achieving the company’s goals. In the virtual work environment, these experiences are not possible. Engaging with your teammates can be difficult as there are limited interactions.
Limited opportunity for growth
Working as a virtual employee limits opportunities for advancement. Supervisors only see work output and leave out the effort you put in. Also, you won’t be able to see available positions unless they offer it to you. You might even be unaware of your colleagues being promoted or leaving the company.
By bringing home your work, your entire digital infrastructure is at risk for cyber attacks. Virtual workers are increasingly becoming the targets of hackers because of the perceived poor cybersecurity at homes. To avoid being a victim, you will have to invest in beefing up your network security which entails a considerable amount.
Virtual workers also tend to put their guards down with poor IT security habits such as the use of public networks, poor password practices, lack of updated antivirus software and firewall, and not regularly updating. These are just a few of the potential hazards of working remotely.
Remote work set up is increasingly becoming common and the recent global crisis has pushed it to the forefront. If you’re planning to become part of the virtual workforce, it’s the best time to do so. However, be mindful of its benefits and risks.