“As we’ve moved to virtual work, we haven’t just coped, we’ve thrived. We are more focused on the things that have the greatest impact on our customers, associates, and the business.” –Suresh Kumar, Walmart CTO

Pre-COVID, only a small percentage of employees worked from home. But in subsequent years, remote work has blossomed exponentially. Although some employers have transitioned workers back in-house, reports that 28% of Americans still work remotely. Since more than one-fourth of American labor occurs at home, examining remote work’s effects on American businesses is a timely endeavor.

To that purpose, we should first note that some industries (factory and construction work, for example) require on-location contributions. However, even if your industry requires in-person labor, certain business elements may mesh well with a remote work model. Below are some industries and departments that often engage remote workers to complete necessary tasks:

  • Accounting
  • Customer service
  • Human resources
  • IT
  • Marketing
  • Project management
  • Recruiting
  • Telehealth

The Downside of Remote Work

While remote labor helped businesses comply with social distancing during the pandemic, employers have noticed these drawbacks to allowing remote work.

  1. Less connectedness. Since remote co-workers interact infrequently, they’re less likely to create close friendships with one another.
  2. Communication gaps. Since employees can’t walk over to each other’s desks in the remote world, they must rely on calls, texts, and emails. At times, workers may overlook crucial work-related information.
  3. Lower collaboration. Because close interpersonal relationships foster teamwork, collaborative efforts are less fruitful in the remote environment.
  4. Laundry, dishes, grumpy toddlers, or family pets may distract remote workers from their work.
  5. Longer hours with fewer breaks. Frequent interruptions lower productivity and require more hours to achieve productivity goals. Plus, remote workers may fail to take regular coffee or lunch breaks.
  6. Differing statistics on productivity. According to the New York Times, studies divergently report productivity increases and decreases linked to remote work. Since statistics differ widely on this point, remote work’s effects on productivity are inconclusive.

The Upside of Remote Work

In some situations, the work-from-home trend has become a boon for employers and employees. Here are six ways that your industry could benefit from incorporating remote work:

  1. Lower business expenses. When employees work remotely, employers save money on expenses like office space, utilities, parking, and office electronics.
  2. Increased employee satisfaction. Without a daily commute, workers achieve a better work-life balance and save on childcare, gas, and clothing. In turn, employees are happier working remotely and tend to have more job longevity.
  3. Increased innovation. With the potential to hire anyone, anywhere, you can hire the worker who would benefit your company the most—even if they are in a different country!
  4. Flexibility. Because you can hire workers across the globe, the sun will never set on your business. If you want round-the-clock productivity, you can assign multiple shifts based on each employee’s time zone.
  5. Potential hybrid schedules. Even if fully remote work doesn’t suit your company, hybrid work may be the answer. In this model, employees work from home part-time but spend the remaining days at the office.
  6. Environmental sustainability. Fewer cars on the road and the health benefits of workers eating at home make remote work earth-friendly.

Although some industries may not support a remote work model, specific industries or departments may incorporate at-home labor very well. Remote work distractions and limited communication may undermine efficiency from time to time, but the benefits of flexibility, lower costs, greater innovation, and environmental sustainability may overshadow initial drawbacks. From all appearances, remote work is here to stay. Learning to use this business trend to your advantage will make your industry more robust and resilient.