HR Management

The Remote Work Debate: C-Suite Executives vs. Employees

IBM recently announced a new company-wide policy that employees are no longer allowed to work remotely. The policy states that IBM’s U.S.-based employees will eventually have to begin working from one of six main offices located in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Cambridge, Atlanta, or Raleigh. Employees who do not live close to one of these areas must either move or leave the company.

remote work

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Why are corporations reverting to a more traditional workflow, rejecting remote work options employees everywhere have come to love and depend on? Turns out, for IMB it was a solution to several quarters of revenue loss. So, it would appear we have a growing debate on our hands: Employees today thrive on flexible work hours, whereas C-Suite executives believe structure and the typical 9 to 5 schedule are recipes for productivity. So, who is right?

The Case for Remote Work

High-level executives are holding onto the traditional idea that organizations are only productive when employees are sitting at their desks where they can be observed to make sure they are on track. In the past, this made more sense as technology and resources were not readily available outside the office.

But today, employees have access to these resources almost anywhere, making remote work possible, and sometimes more efficient. According to the State of Workplace Productivity Report, which surveyed 2,009 full time employees 18 years or older, 65% of these employees believe a flexible and remote work schedule would increase productivity.

The Case for Office Work

On the other side of the argument, employees working from home have the potential to lack self-discipline. In this case, it makes sense for CEOs to want employees in the office during work hours, where it’s easier for the executive team to manage their employees and help out at moment’s notice.

A central office provides employees with a workspace that facilitates increased focus and productivity. Working in an office also creates opportunities for easier flow of communication and collaboration, which naturally leads to a unique company culture that can be difficult to recreate remotely. A study that surveyed more than 1,400 CEOs and CFOs found that 50% of respondents believe productivity, creativity, and profitability are influenced by corporate culture.

There are pros and cons to both working remotely and working in an office. Neither option is superior – compromises must be made to acknowledge the needs of both sides. Remote workers need to show company executives that they are willing and able to work in a structured setting.

Company executives must acknowledge the importance of flexibility and offer benefits to help employees balance work and life if remote work isn’t an option. Hopefully, finding a middle ground between both extremes will result in increased revenue and reduced employee turnover.

Matt ThomasMatt Thomas is the President of Indianapolis-based WorkSmart Systems, Inc., which he founded in 1998. He is active with the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), and has dedicated more than 20 years to the Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) industry dating back to his early career with industry leaders ADP and NovaCare Employee Services. WorkSmart Systems Inc. is a leading PEO, which serves over 200 client companies with employees in 37 states.