Work From Anywhere: Benefits & Challenges

Transforming Workplace - #12

Author:

 

Global Publication March 2022

In our preceding article, we examined the hybrid model of work, which combines some days ‘working from anywhere’ and some days working at the organisation’s worksite. 

We will now discuss the benefits and the challenges of ‘work from anywhere’, including on a hybrid work mode1.

For employees, the ‘work from anywhere’ and hybrid benefits include:

Greater choice and flexibility in location and scheduling 
  • Greater choice and flexibility in location1 and scheduling2 
Maintaining a healthier work-life balance 
  • Maintaining a healthier work-life balance3 
 Enhanced productivity
  • Enhanced productivity4 
Less demand for public transport 
  • Less or no commuting2 
More time with family 
  • More time with family2 
Distractions at home, including from spouse, children, pets, and others in the workspace 
  • Helping to juggle childcare and other responsibilities5 
Better physical and mental health 
  • Better physical and mental health1 
Improved engagement and happiness 
  • Improved engagement and happiness4 
Reduction in personal expenses 
  • Reduction in personal expenses (transport, food, coffee, retail, office clothing).6 
   

A recent Riverbed / Aternity global survey found that most organisations surveyed “are now very comfortable with employees working remotely and believe there are many benefits to adopting a hybrid work model.”7

For organisations, some of the ‘work from anywhere’ and hybrid benefits are:

An enhanced Employee Value Proposition, including attraction, retention, diversity and morale
  • An enhanced Employee Value Proposition, including attraction, retention, diversity and morale8 
Boosted productivity
  • Boosted productivity8 
The ability to source the best talent from anywhere
  • The ability to source the best talent from anywhere7 
Reduced expenses associated with new employee relocation and office setup
  • Reduced expenses associated with new employee relocation and office setup7 
Business continuity during weather and pandemic events
  • Business continuity during weather and pandemic events8 
Improved workplace culture
  • Improved workplace culture9  
Beneficial investment in new remote work technology and hybrid collaboration tools
  • Beneficial investment in new remote work technology and hybrid collaboration tools10 
Reduced office space requirements and less cost
  • Reduced office space requirements and less cost8 
Maintaining or improving teamwork and culture
  • Opportunity to get creative with workspaces to enhance employee relationships and organisational culture11 
Better digital experience for employees and customers
  • Better digital experience for employees and customers.7 
   

A “resounding 84% of” Riverbed / Aternity “survey respondents believe hybrid will have a lasting and positive impact on society and the world.”7

For communities, the environment, and overall sustainability the ‘work from anywhere’ and hybrid benefits include:

Lowered carbon emissions by reduced commuting, business travel, paperwork, consumables, and office
  • Lowered carbon emissions by reduced commuting, business travel, paperwork, consumables, and office energy use8\ 
Less need to build new office buildings due to reduced workplace space requirements
  • Less need to build new office buildings due to reduced workplace space requirements8 
Less pressure on healthcare services due to happier, healthier employees and families
  • Less pressure on healthcare services1 due to happier, healthier employees and families 
Bringing people previously unable to work back into the workforce
  • Bringing people previously unable to work back into the workforce1 
Less demand for private vehicles and public transport
  • Less demand for private vehicles and public transport  
Reduced traffic load on road networks
  • Reduced traffic load on road networks 
Strengthened local communities with more people around during working hours
  • Strengthened local communities with more people around during working hours, more demand for local services, and better neighbourhood security. 
   

Given all these benefits, there is no doubt that ‘working from anywhere’ and hybrid work are here to stay, providing the opportunity for organisations “to build new workplace norms that not only lead to greater fulfilment for employees but also better business outcomes.”3

However, these work arrangements also have downsides that need to be understood and overcome where possible. 

For employees the ‘working from anywhere’ and hybrid challenges include:

No distinct separation or break between home and work; not being able to unplug
  • No distinct separation or break between home and work; not being able to ‘unplug’12 
Putting in more hours
  • Putting in more hours13 
Difficulty with collaboration and communication with colleagues
  • Difficulty with collaboration and communication with colleagues12 
Loneliness and isolation, especially for introverts
  • Loneliness12 and isolation, especially for introverts14 
Staying motivated
  • Staying motivated12 
Being in a different time zone from teammates
  • Being in a different time zone from teammates12 
Picking up subtle clues about own work performance is more difficult
  • Picking up subtle clues about own work performance is more difficult15 
Harder to develop relationships with leaders and colleagues
  • Harder to develop relationships with leaders and colleagues16 
Potential negative impact on career advancement
  • Potential negative impact on career advancement17 
Distractions at home, including from spouse, children, pets, and others in the workspace
  • Distractions at home12, including from spouse, children, pets, and others in the workspace17 
Being out of the day-to-day flow of information and activity
  • Being out of the day-to-day flow of information and activity17 
Least experienced workers need the office the most
  • Least experienced workers need the office the most18 
Increased hot-desking when in the office leads to less feeling of belonging
  • Increased hot-desking when in the office leads to less feeling of belonging 
Video-chat exhaustion Zoom fatigue
  • Video-chat exhaustion (‘Zoom fatigue’).19    
   

For organisations, some of the challenges from ‘work from anywhere’ and hybrid work are:

IT security-related challenges from multiple mobile devices in multiple locations
  • IT security-related challenges from multiple mobile devices in multiple locations20 
Weaker employee loyalty
  • Weaker employee loyalty21 
Presenteeism
  • Presenteeism16 (some employees feeling the need to show up at work) 
Favouritism shown to office-based employees due to proximity bias
  • Favouritism shown to office-based employees due to proximity bias22
Heightened competition between at-home and at-work employees
  • Heightened competition between at-home and at-work employees16 
Harder to recognise when an employee is struggling with a task and needs support
  • Harder to recognise when an employee is struggling with a task and needs support23 
Reduced creative opportunities for employees
  • Reduced creative opportunities for employees23 
Resentment among employees who cannot do their jobs from home
  • Resentment among employees who cannot do their jobs from home24 
Management resistance to change
  • Management resistance to change17 
Maintaining or improving teamwork and culture
  • Maintaining or improving teamwork and culture. 
   

Finally, for communities, the environment, and overall sustainability the challenges arising from ‘work from anywhere’ and hybrid work include:

Less demand for private vehicles and public transport 
  • Less demand for public transport24 will reduce revenue, with likely effects on city/state budgets and employment 
Less people in cities and lower demand for city food, hospitality, and other retail services
  • Less people in cities and lower demand for city food, hospitality, and other retail services24 will reduce city vibrancy 
Income reductions for city traders and landlords may increase business failures
  • Income reductions for city traders and landlords25 may increase business failures 
Reduced state and local tax revenues
  • Reduced state and local tax revenues.26 
   

In summary, we have outlined many benefits, and numerous challenges that flow from employees ‘working from anywhere’ or on a hybrid work model.

However, it is worth noting that “we’ve all been living through the greatest workplace disruption in generations and the pace will not slow down.”27 The challenges outlined in this paper “are all wrinkles that companies can and should iron out…since remote work is here to stay.”28

Our next paper will consider the benefits of introducing short-term, temporary options for your employees to ‘work from anywhere’.

Norton Rose Fulbright assists organisations to efficiently and effectively address the legal aspects of the new global work environment, including working from anywhere. Please reach out if we can assist your organisation in this respect.


Footnotes

1 The Week UK, ‘The Future of Work: Pros and Cons of Hybrid Working’, 14 February 2022.

2 Buffer.com, ‘The 2021 State of Remote Work.’

3 Microsoft Worklab, ‘To Thrive in Hybrid Work, Build a Culture of Trust and Flexibility’, 9 September 2021.

4 Citrix Solutions, ‘What is Hybrid Work?’

5 M Hoff, businessinsider.com.au, ‘It’s no Longer About the Virus – Remote Workers Simply Don’t Want to Return to the Office’, 16 February 2022.

6 McKinsey, ‘What’s Next for Remote Work: An Analysis of 2,000 Tasks, 800 Jobs, and Nine Countries’, 23 November 2020.

7 Riverbed / Aternity, ‘Hybrid Work Global Survey 2021’, September 2021.

8 SHRM Toolkit, ‘Managing Flexible Work Arrangements’, (including references to Unilever policy).

9 M Baker, Gartner, ‘How to Create Culture in the World of Hybrid Work’, 10 November 2021.

10 K Racz, Owllabs.com, ‘Key Findings From our Hybrid Work Survey: Fall 2021’, 16 September 2021.

11 PwC US Remote Work Survey, ‘It’s Time to Reimagine Where and How Work Will Get Done’, 12 January 2021.

12 Buffer.com, ‘The 2021 State of Remote Work.’

13 Randstad Workmonitor, 2021 Second Edition, ‘Workforce Transformation Through the Great Enlightenment’.

14 P Choudhury, Harvard Business Review, ‘Our Work From Anywhere Future’, November-December 2020.

15 M Levy, Sydney Morning Herald, ‘What WFH Does to the Brain’, 8 December 2021.

16 K Bishop, BBC Worklife, ‘Will Workers Continue to pay a Price for Flexibility?’, 10 January 2022.

17 SHRM Toolkit, ‘Managing Flexible Work Arrangements’.

18 PwC US Remote Work Survey, ‘It’s Time to Reimagine Where and How Work Will get Done’, 12 January 2021.

19 M Elgan, Computerworld, ‘Remote Work 2.0 – When WFH Really Means Work From Anywhere’, 8 February 2021.

20 Citrix Solutions, ‘What is Hybrid Work?

21 The Week UK, ‘The Future of Work: Pros and Cons of Hybrid Working’, 14 February 2022.

22 B Lufkin, BBC Worklife, ‘Why Workers May Eventually Reject Hybrid Work’, 21 September 2021.

23 M Savage, BBC Worklife, ‘What Bosses Really Think About Remote Work’, 13 September 2021.

24

D Thompson, Atlantic, ‘The Five-Day Workweek is Dying’, 23 February 2022.

25

D Ziffer, ABC, ‘Work From Home is the new Normal as Employers Struggle to Make the Daily Grind Work’, 5 January 2022.

26

McKinsey, ‘What’s Next for Remote Work: An Analysis of 2,000 Tasks, 800 Jobs, and Nine Countries’, 23 November 2020.

27

B Kropp and E R McRae, Harvard Business School Publishing, ‘11 Trends That Will Shape Work in 2022 and Beyond’, 13 January 2022.

28

M Blanding (quoting T Neeley), Forbes / HBS Working Knowledge, ‘Succeeding in the New Work-From-Anywhere World’, 2 August 2021.



Recent publications

Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest legal news, information and events...