Benefits of Working in an Office vs. Remote Work

August 11, 2020

As lockdown measures continue to push businesses of all shapes and sizes to adapt to remote working, many employers are beginning to challenge the need for traditional office environments altogether.

The rapid climatisation to a completely new way of working has surprised many businesses and promoted many employees to rethink their work-life balance. A recent survey by IBM survey found that 58% of employees who are currently working from home due to the ongoing pandemic would like to exclusively work from home in a post-COVID era.

That said, Stanford economist, Nicholas Bloom explains that firms could face a “productivity disaster” as more and more people are forced to “work alongside their kids in unsuitable spaces, with no choice and in-office days”.

Sudden changes to our daily lives have prompted big questions across the accountancy sector about the future of work. Join us as we explore the costs and benefits of both remote working and office environments to shine a ray of light on this increasingly pressing debate for modern businesses.

Is Remote Working the Future?

Knowing how to reduce overhead costs in business while also finding opportunities for financial growth forms the backbone of almost all decisions in the workplace.

While many accountancy firms view the move away from physical office spaces and adapting to remote working as a means to cut expenses, others fear the performance costs from reduced team interaction and negative impacts of company culture could outweigh the financial benefits.

As accountants, we’re always interested in finding marginal gains and attaching value to our actions to help clients make intelligent business decisions. Instead of blindly adopting new ways of working, today’s accountancy firms must assess the potential impacts of new working habits from both sides of the coin.

Crucially, accountants are responsible for helping clients strike a sustainable and cost-effective balance between short-term savings and long-term benefits.

So, what better way to broach this subject than an old-fashioned cost-benefit analysis of remote working versus traditional office environments?

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Remote Working

Benefits of Working Remotely

Wider Talent Pools

If a business isn’t tied to specific locations, their recruitment teams have the luxury of employing talented professionals from across the globe.
While time zones should be considered to avoid disjointed working habits, a remote workforce could be highly advantageous for sectors demanding a highly-skilled and specialised workforce.

Improved Mental Health

82% of remote workers report lower levels of stress compared to working in an office environment.
The opportunity to strike a healthier work-life balance and reduce stress by working in a comfortable space can help to ease anxiety and depression.

Reduced Commuting

Working from home removes the need for long commutes in and out of work.
Computing giant, Dell, estimates annual savings of $350 per year for employees who work remotely 33% of the time.
Not only does less commuting ease financial pressure on employees, reduce the chance of absenteeism and improve your company’s carbon footprint, but it also incentivises longer working hours as employees save on travel times.

Employee Retention

83% of workers say working for a company that provides opportunities to work remotely would make them happier in their job. Adopting remote working could go a long way to help businesses hold on to their best talent.

Costs of Working Remotely

Software Upgrades

For many businesses, updating your IT infrastructure to support remote working can be costly, time-consuming and in some cases,  impact the quality delivered to clients.
Specifically, in the accountancy sector, creating fully-compliant systems and adhering to the latest data protection laws can require entire system overhauls and extensive employee training.

Cultural Barriers

Confronting long-standing social and cultural practices across certain industries and markets is one of the biggest restraints for businesses looking to adopt remote working.
Many organisations are resistant to ‘rocking the boat’ or disrupting ‘normal’ working practices with a remote workforce.
That said, the forceful adoption of telecommuting throughout COVID-19 is likely to expose unforeseen benefits.

Hardware Expenses

Many businesses are geared towards in-office working and require an entirely new suite of laptops and mobile phones to support employees with telecommuting.
However, some forward-thinking businesses anticipated a gradual move towards remote working and have provided their teams with the tools they need to work in both the office and at home. These businesses have massively benefited from this remote technical infrastructure throughout COVID-19.

Formal Meetings vs. Casual Conversations

Managing workflow across a remote team often requires active check-ins and pre-planned video meetings to stay on top of individual responsibilities, share updates and monitor progress.
While team meetings are still important in office environments, the ability to catch up with team members through casual conversations is difficult to replicate with remote working.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Office Environments

Benefits of Working in an Office

Improved Work-Life Balance

While it’s easy to view remote working as a preferred lifestyle choice for many employees, the reality of working from home can blur the line between serious working environments and your personal life.
Working from an office and surrounding yourself with colleagues can help to achieve a healthy work-life balance where employees can identify clear divides between personal matters and work.

In-person Collaboration

Face-to-face meetings around the office and in-person brainstorming sessions with larger teams are vital to encourage creativity and innovation across your organisation.
While it’s possible to mimic these conversations through video conferencing, nothing quite compares to in-person engagement to spark game-changing initiatives.

Improved Team Morale

Providing a safe space for employees to share experiences and socialise is a fundamental component of building a vibrant company culture.
Whether it’s hosting a team ping pong championship, chatting over drinks on a Thursday evening, or hosting your very own bake-off, the office helps to nurture a highly-engaged and motivated workforce.

Costs of Office Environments

Increased Overheads

A recent report by Dell shows annual savings of $12 million thanks to reducing their number of lease agreements in the wake of remote working.
The cost of renting or owning an office space can be difficult for many organisations to justify in today’s economy.
When a client asks how to reduce fixed overhead costs, one of the first port of calls for many accountants is to review expenditure on things like shiny office spaces and in-house perks.

Reduced Productivity

77% of remote workers report increased productivity at home compared to office environments.
Despite many businesses viewing the office as a place for focused work, research shows that the distractions of working alongside colleagues can hinder productivity.
Additionally, with 37% of telecommuters identifying regular breaks as a key tool to improve productivity, working in an intense office environment where employees feel under surveillance from managers could reduce productivity.

Market Competitiveness

As agile businesses continue to find innovative solutions to embrace remote working, those who choose to stick with traditional office spaces face the challenge of either increasing their quality of service to clients or cutting costs elsewhere in the business to offer competitive rates.

Champion the Future of Work with INAA

The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 has prompted businesses across almost all sectors to rethink their operations and challenge traditional working practices.
While some businesses have been faster than others to embrace remote working, accountants will play a fundamental role in helping clients make intelligent business decisions that balance financial savings with the benefits of a highly-engaged and supported workforce.

Here at INAA, we connect firms who are committed to delivering quality professional services and sharing their expert knowledge with clients to champion progressive change.
Join today to build powerful business relationships and learn from our growing community of over 140 international members.