CEO Insider

In-House v. Remote Workforce: Which one is better for business?

Much is being made of working remotely. The internet is rife with articles that espouse the benefits of having a completely remote workforce, touting everything from higher levels of productivity to less overhead costs. But while many are tipping remote work as the new trend that the best and brightest are seeking when looking for jobs, is it really the case that remote workforces benefits both businesses and employees more than working in office?

According to a recent Gallup poll, 31% of Americans work from home 4-5 days a week, and while that is a significant number, it’s not the entirety of the workforce.

Many businesses still prefer to hire employees to work in-house, and for good reason.

Easy Onboarding

One of the most fundamental ways in which an in-house workforce is a positive for the company is an easy onboarding procedure. When employees work in-office, it makes it much easier to introduce them to protocols and procedures, familiarize them with office culture and information flow, and encourage in-person meet-and-greets with other team members.

It may sound simple, but in-house onboarding can nip many potential issues in the bud, and can help the employee feel more oriented with the company more quickly, leading to a greater sense of investment and trust in the company.

Builds Trust

In-person interactions with coworkers help build trust in ways that digital-only communications just don’t. Especially when an employee is new to the company, meeting and conversing in-person with other members of the team can establish a base level of trust and communication more quickly than if the employee were working remotely. Trust is fundamental in establishing solid business relationships, which are in turn essential in running a successful company.

Better Communication

Remote workers often have weaker communication with others in the office. In-person interactions with colleagues can often give rise to what’s called “serendipitous interactions” – essentially the on-the-fly discussions that pop up everywhere in an office, around the water cooler, in the break room, by a desk. These serendipitous interactions are a valuable incubator for ideas and creative problem-solving. Being able to walk across the room and proactively brainstorm a solution to an immediate problem is a benefit of working in-house that is often underplayed.

Sure, remote workers can call a colleague with an idea, or hop on a video conference, but the one step that removes employees from the immediate access they enjoy in an office is enough to kill spontaneous creativity and problem-solving, and businesses may suffer for it.

In-house Employees Invest More in the Long-term

Employees that work in-house are more likely to invest more in the job and consider it a long-term prospect than employees who work remotely. There is a psychological component to working in-house that encourages loyalty to the company and to the team.

Security Concerns

Depending on the type of business it is, having a remote workforce can significantly increase security risks. It’s more difficult to monitor and enforce best practices for cybersecurity when dealing with a remote workforce. Not everyone who is working outside of the office will be as careful with sensitive information as they might need to be.

Not Everyone Works Well Remotely

There are many studies that purport to show that employees are more productive when working remotely, but the basis of most of these studies is the employees’ own estimation of the amount of work they accomplish when working outside the office versus at their desk in-office. Though many may think they are more productive when working remotely, that’s often not the case.

According to a study by the Association for Psychological Science, increased productivity and effectiveness in remote work isn’t necessarily a given. Instead, levels of effectiveness and productivity are tied to the needs of the organization, the circumstances of remote work, and the individuals involved. All of which are difficult to anticipate or measure.

Though there are some employees that are very self-motivated and can set boundaries for themselves to complete tasks and reach goals when working outside the office, the majority of people need some structure that provides boundaries and motivation in order to reach their full potential.

In-House Doesn’t Mean Inflexible

The key thing to remember is that when it comes down to it, working in-house or working remotely doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. The benefits to having an in-house workforce does not exclude the fact that flexibility is necessary in today’s work environment, and that employees, whose lives are often busy and demanding, actively seek this. Just because a business opts for an in-house workforce doesn’t mean that all employees must be chained to the desk from 9-5, Monday to Friday.

Instituting a mix of remote work and in-house work is a great way to give employees more flexibility with their busy lives and schedules but to still maintain the advantages of having a workforce that is in-house. This is the approach we take at StickerYou. From working from home a few days a month to allowing employees to come into the office early and leave early or come in late and leave late if it best suits their schedules, being flexible can go a long way towards making people feel valued. And when people feel valued, productivity and general workplace happiness improve, benefiting everyone.

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Andrew Witkin
As the founder and president of StickerYou, Andrew Witkin believes in the enormous power of customization. With over a decade of StickerYou success, he is one of Canada’s leading experts in e-commerce, customization, startups, marketing and the tech economy. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University. Witkin has previously served as VP North American Licensing for Nelvana/Corus Entertainment and Director of Marketing for MegaBrands/Mattel. Andrew is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.