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3 Downsides of Working Remotely You May Overlook

Doing your job from home permanently can come with costs, surveys find

A women is working from home while talking to people on a video conference

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En español | While many older adults appreciate the flexibility that working from home offers, remote work could be costing them valuable career opportunities.

According to new Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveys of both employers and remote workers, 42 percent of supervisors say they sometimes forget about their remote employees when they are assigning tasks. Being overlooked for opportunities for professional development within their company is one concern older adults often raise when discussing how age discrimination could affect their careers. The SHRM surveys suggest that working remotely could exacerbate that problem.

Many employers switched their workforce to full remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as vaccinations have become more widely available, employers are rethinking how they might balance their goals to bring more employees back into the office with their workers’ desire for continued flexibility and hybrid work.

"With COVID-19 forcing a leap to remote work in many sectors of our economy, and organizations struggling to determine the best workforce strategies postpandemic, there's one fact that can't be ignored — remote work is not ideal for everyone,” says Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM's president and chief executive officer. “Remote work can offer benefits, but employers need to take a closer look at whether remote and on-site workers have the same opportunities and whether managers have the tools they need to be effective leaders."

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Here are three findings from the surveys that suggest that, in some ways, working from home could be harmful to career opportunities.

1. Fewer opportunities for professional development, advancement. 

Many supervisors who responded to the survey said they sometimes forget about their remote staff, and remote workers voiced concern about that. Thirty-four percent of remote workers said working from home permanently would reduce the number of career opportunities available, and 29 percent said they would have fewer opportunities to grow on the job.

2. Out-of-pocket expenses for a home office.

Among the remote workers who were surveyed, 61 percent said they used their own money to pay for the equipment or furniture to set up their home offices. More than half (51 percent) said they spent from $100-$499. While much of those costs are for getting started, expenses such as high-speed internet and printing supplies can add up over time.

3. Limited chances for networking.

Building relationships with your colleagues is perhaps the most vital component to sustaining career opportunities. But the chances to develop such connections can suffer if you only interact with coworkers through Zoom meetings. More than half of the remote workers surveyed said that working from home permanently would hurt their networking opportunities (59 percent) and cause their work relationships to suffer (55 percent).

SHRM's findings were produced through a combination of four recent surveys. A sample of 817 supervisors was surveyed online July 16-19; a sample of 1,004 workers was surveyed online during the same period. To look more specifically at people who work from home, a sample of 1,500 women who work remotely was surveyed online June 16-18 and a sample of 1,363 men was surveyed online June 18-21.

Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers, and the federal government for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology, and lifestyle news.

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