The Firm-Killing Downside of Working from Home

Despite the title of this article, we want to start off by saying that we’re not diehard pro- or anti-work-from-homers. We know there are benefits to working remotely. Companies that do it can reduce their overhead, cut costs on breakroom snacks, and increase morale with employees who are excited to work in their pajamas. In fact, we’ve seen more and more surveys indicating that teams want to work from home. But just because your team wants something doesn’t mean it’s good for your business — which is why we’re an advocate for office culture. 

Yes, that’s right. Despite what Facebook and Square apparently believe, we think the cons of long-term remote work outweigh the benefits. The biggest con is the chilling effect working from home can have on company culture. It’s difficult to build your firm’s culture with an all-remote team. We’re not saying it’s impossible, but it isn’t easy like it would be in an office. And without a good company culture, your firm is as good as dead. 

We’re big believers in having solid core values and a strong company culture. We believe that a vibrant, positive culture is the key to Spotlight Branding’s identity and growth, and to your firm’s, too. You can achieve that through team-building activities (which, yes, can be done remotely) and through the mood, vibe, and energy of your office (which can’t). 

There is no “vibe” over Slack or Google chat. In order to create and maintain a culture, you have to make your employees feel something. They need to be invested. And it’s much harder to tap into those feelings from blocks, miles, or even states away. 

The quick and dirty truth is that it takes far more effort and intentionality to build culture online than it does in person. And if you’re like most of the lawyers we work with, you probably don’t have the time or inclination to go that extra mile. Unfortunately, if you continue to let your team work remotely without doubling down, your firm’s culture will start to fall apart around you. You might not even notice until it’s too late. 

The second problem with working from home is that collaboration may fall off a cliff. We love technology, but reaching out to a coworker over Zoom or Slack, even if it only takes one click, isn’t the same as poking your head into their office. For one thing, it’s missing that exciting, tangible, personal element. For another, it’s bound to happen less often. If your team is working remotely, there won’t be any more spontaneous collaboration on the way to the kitchen or the bathroom because, well, your employees won’t have to pass any colleagues to get there. 

The third problem is more of an issue for your employees than it is for you: If your company goes remote, what’s the point of having full time, U.S.-based workers? Sure, your team is great, and we love supporting domestic companies and products, but if you move to a permanent remote model you may end up overpaying for the work your team does. Instead, you could hire in a part of the country where cost of living is lower, or move your workforce overseas and save quite a bit of money. (This is the moment that, if you’re an employee, you should remember to be careful what you wish for!) 

As we said before, we’re advocates of office culture. Our team came back to work as soon as we felt safe, keeping COVID-19 precautions in place. But if you do decide to shift to a permanently remote model against our best advice, at least do it the smart way. Double down on building your culture, encourage collaboration, and consider saving some money and hiring workers who are overseas.

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Spotlight Branding

Spotlight Branding is a content marketing and branding firm for lawyers and other professionals. Our goal is to help you create an online presence that positions you as a credible expert in your field, keeps you connected with your network in order to stay top of mind and increase referrals, and to become more visible online so prospects can find you!