Remote vs Onsite Employees

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - 09:00

Workplaces have changed and provided more employee options over the last few year both in physical space design, the flexibility in hours employers provide, and the options to work from offsite or on. These changes are in response to employers trying to create the most productive work environment for their employees and to satisfy the growing need to accommodate a new generation looking for more flexible work experiences.

Remote work is one of those accommodations that organizations have explored to meet this growing need. Research by Gallup in 2017 found that in 2012 39% of employees worked remotely at least part of the time, this grew to 43% by 2016. Current projections indicate that this number could continue to grow by 2020 up to 75% of employees who will spend at least some of their work time offsite. In looking at the different cohorts of employees, while 90% of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers have worked remotely, it is 60% of Millennials taking full advantage of remote work options, compared to 33% of Baby Boomers (Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM,; Comaford, 2017)).  

The Case for the Onsite Workforce

Organizations often quote a number of reasons as to why having remote employees does not work to their benefit. Yahoo, Best Buy and IBM have moved to decrease the number of remote employees due concerns of decreased teamwork, collaboration and communication. Other claims include that:

  • Employees who work remotely 100% of the time are less engaged
  • It’s harder to integrate new employees who are remote
  • The company culture suffers when colleagues are not part of the everyday environment
  • It causes leadership challenges
  • It increases concerns with data safety and security
  • Time zones create alignment and communication challenges

“Speed, agility, creativity and true learning experiences within your team,” are just some of the benefits of working together, in-person, from an office... - Michelle Peluso, IBM

Why do organisations say that they prefer having employees onsite?

  • Fosters innovation
  • Employees onsite are easier to manage
  • It’s easier to support technical issues
  • Some employees like being onsite better
  • Not everyone is suited to working remotely
  • Not all jobs/tasks can be done remotely
  • Communication is easier and sometimes clearer in-person
  • Higher trust in onsite employees (No out of sight, out of mind)
  • Younger staff receive guidance/mentoring
  • Flexible hours and part-time work is available

Why Remote Makes Sense

“Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce” - Sir Charles Branson, Virgin

Employees cite a number of reasons why working remotely appeals to them. The following are the top 5 reasons employees give for working remotely (Source: West Unified Communication Services Remote Workforce Study)

  1. Sick children
  2. Transportation issues
  3. To avoid a long commute
  4. To improve productivity
  5. To avoid distractions

From the point of view for an organization considering integrating remote employment options, the following reasons echo many of those given by employees:

  • Cost savings in terms of physical office space needs
  • No commute means more time, more money, and less stress
  • Gives greater autonomy to the employee and empowers the individual
  • Less distractions off site leads to more focus which means that employees are more productive
  • Employees who work remotely at least part of the time are more engaged and find a more positive workspace than those who never work remotely
  • Often provides for a wider talent pool from which to select employees

So which comes out ahead in the onsite vs remote employee debate?

As has been outlined there are many contributing factors to be considered when deciding which environment is best for an organization. In the end it’s not really a case of right or wrong, but rather what enables your organization to achieve its goals most effectively.

This article is an excerpt from Rebel, N. (2017). Remote vs Onsite Employees: Challenging the notion that one size fits all, SIRCuit. Click to Read the full article.


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Mann, A. (2017). 3 Ways You Are Failing Your Remote Workers. Gallup Blog.

Mann, A. and Adkins, A. (2017). How Engaged is your Remote Workforce? Gallup Blog.

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Zuppello, S. (2016). Remote Work: The 10 Biggest Misconceptions. Trello.