Hiring Remote Workers - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Kristina Finseth


Last week, IBM announced they are getting rid of their remote work option, forcing employees to move closer to one of their six regional offices or leave the company entirely.

For a company with a remote workforce approaching 40 percent, this was an alarming announcement. My first thought was that they must need to make some massive layoffs. Of course, cutting remote work is one way to accomplish that goal.

However, IBM has publicly stated that the goal of the remote work cut is to increase overall company productivity, employee morale, and teamwork.

No matter IBM’s true intentions with this change, it’s important for companies to understand the pros and cons of enabling a partially or fully remote workforce.

Here are the pros:

You automatically increase your talent pool In the current war for talent, companies need to have some sort of competitive edge or enticing incentives in order to hire the right people. When it comes to hiring highly-skilled or hard-to-fill positions in your company, the odds aren’t in your favor when you start limiting your outreach to local candidates only. Trying to get people to relocate can prove difficult as well.

Instead, you immediately open up your talent pool and candidate options when you throw remote work into the equation. Then, when you find the perfect fit on the other side of the country – you can still make an offer that’s hard for candidates to refuse. 

Creates a more productive and happy workforce Remote work options really play into creating a productive and happy workforce. According to this Forbes article, over 500 full-time remote U.S. employees were surveyed. In general, they found that remote workers are happier, feel more valued, and are more productive. In fact, a whopping 91 percent felt that they get more work done than if they were required to work in a typical office environment.

As far as happiness goes, remote employees tend to enjoy the autonomy, flexibility, and the work and life balance that working from home brings to the table.

It’s potentially cost-effective on both sides of the fence There are obvious benefits to employees who work remote. Specifically, they save money on commuting, parking, professional work attire, and potential childcare costs – to name a few. What about employers?

If an employer allows employees to work from home just half of the year, they can save approximately $11 thousand dollars in overhead costs per person annually. This means smaller or non-existent communal office spaces, and substantial savings on office furniture and supplies as well. 

Here are the cons:

You can’t see what your employees are doing, and that can be scary Accountability is important in any professional setting. When allowing remote work, it can be difficult for some managers to grasp the idea that their employees are functioning at optimum productivity – especially when they aren’t in the same place at the same time.

What employers don’t often think about is the fact that remote employees feel the same way. They can question whether or not they are going to be picked for projects, promotions, or other opportunities since they are out of sight and out of mind.

Remote work can be great for employers and employees alike, but if you are questioning whether or not you can trust someone to be accountable and productive – it may not be the right work arrangement to get involved in.

Training and on-boarding can be somewhat challenging Not all companies have the ability to fly in their remote workforce for orientation, on-boarding, or ongoing training and development opportunities. If you’re actively thinking about hiring a remote workforce or allowing partial remote work to current employees, it’s important to think about how you’re going to implement training initiatives.

If you don’t have the ability to do any of these things through the technology available at your company, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of purchasing the right tools versus the cost of bringing people to the corporate office for training events. 

Cultivating a company culture has its limitations If you’re dealing with a partial remote workforce, it could have a negative impact on your overall company culture. When people aren’t working in the same location, it’s easy for them to feel disconnected from the rest of the employees they aren’t seeing on a daily basis.

Virtual meetings can be a great avenue for ensuring everyone is on the same page, remote or not. However, you have to understand that a company party where remote workers aren’t able to socially interact with co-workers on a more casual basis can hinder a cohesive company culture from actually happening.


How do you feel about remote work options?