Why a Distributed Workforce May (or May Not) Work for Your Business

iStock-871385152Have you really thought through how a distributed workforce could work (or not work) for your business? Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages.

Finding and retaining good talent is increasingly challenging these days. Business owners who want to keep a competitive edge by obtaining the best talent must consider allowing employees some flexibility with personal time and commute hours.


Gone are the days when organizations with distributed workplaces, otherwise referred to as telecommuting or remoting, had a big stigma associated with them. Back then, they were considered “less than”—not a real business. Fast forward to today, technology has changed our perspective. Advances in computer and mobile technology have created faster, more flexible, dependable ways to communicate. Also, our priorities have changed to value improved quality of life and work-life balance.

However, many business owners still have a kneejerk reaction to having a distributed workforce. As commercial real estate advisors, we often discuss this option with business owners when weighing lease options and prices against their overall goals and strategy. There are many advantages and disadvantages to having a distributed workforce. Evaluating both the pros and cons can help you discover how a distributed workforce will (or won’t) benefit your business.

 

Advantages: 

  • Better recruiting and increased retention – Allowing an employee to work from home will improve your chances of attracting really good talentand, if you don’t offer it, your competitor will. Also, you’ll open up the pool of candidates since you’re not limited to hiring only in your geographic location. Additionally, many remote companies have said that they’ve seen retention rates increase.
  • Lower cost for workspace  Fewer employees in a facility means less space you’ll need to lease or buy. You’ll reduce price per square foot, utilities, and other expenses if you have fewer—or no—physical employees in your office. Your employees will also benefit from lower expenses for transportation or car maintenance and gas needed to get to and from work every day.
  • Employee Quality of Life – When employees don’t waste time and mental energy commuting, productivity increases if (and we mean a big IF) a distributed workforce is managed correctly. Not everyone is a self-starter but there many ways to encourage productivity without having to painfully micromanage. By setting expectations, communication procedures, and daily structure, you can easily get better quality and time from employees.   
  • Knowledge Retention – It’s easier for employees to stay with the business. When people move and leave your company, you lose institutional knowledge that only comes from having an employee with you for a period of time. For example, employees may want flexibility to move to another state or country for a new experience or because their partner was offered a work opportunity elsewhere. Allowing employees to choose not only when, but where, they work will keep good talent from leaving.

Disadvantages:

  • Not suitable for all companies – It may seem a little obvious, but this only works for certain types of business. It won’t work for brick-and-mortar businesses like retail. If your business relies on the physical presence of customers, then this is probably not an option for you. However, you could consider making certain positions within the company distributed, like the payroll or billing departments.  
  • More effort to manage employees – A distributed workforce isn’t more difficult to manage, it just requires a lot of structure. Build routines and strong communication with touch points throughout the day and find various ways to engage employees since everyone responds differently.    
  • Less collaboration – Technology will never replace true face-to-face interaction. However, even virtual collaboration can be difficult with a distributed workforce. With flexible work schedules and different time zones, finding time to all get together can seem impossible. Counter this by meeting as often as you can and creating focus groups that work more intimately together on assignments and tasks. Also, plan some face-to-face time with your team. Your company and employees will benefit greatly from in-person meeting time, if possible; if it’s not, video chat can substitute.  
  • Lack of company culture  Employees feel fulfilled and valued in their work when there is a strong company culture. It can be harder to get people to feel like they are all part of one company in a distributed workplace. Ensure employees are included in activities and share your passion and enthusiasm with them often to promote culture.  

When comes down to it, you need to decide whether a distributed workplace can work for your business or not. Either way, approaching business as the same-old, same-old will only hurt you by losing really good talent. If you can’t manage and enforce a total distributed workplace, consider applying some changes to policy so employees have greater flexibility. The more options employees have, the more likely they will want to work for you.

If you’re thinking of implementing a distributed workplace and need to reduce or rethink your workspace, contact
Verity Commercial.