AMU Emergency Management Public Safety

Work from Home Advantages and Disadvantages

Work from Home Advantages and Disadvantages

A news article from CNBC indicates that many of the largest companies are examining not returning workers to their offices, but instead allowing workers to work from home permanently. There are advantages to both the employee and employer, but also disadvantages. We will examine the advantages and disadvantages and discuss how this remote working could change the emergency management and emergency services.

Work from Home Needs

Offices of the past contained pile of paperwork and filing cabinets to store all of the records of the business. However, in the past 20 years, the electronic record has become the norm. You can sign for a home mortgage electronically and the manual for my car is now a PDF file. Gone are the days of large binders and rooms full of filing cabinet. However, due to this change to all electronic records, we need faster computers and since we are working on the computer, many prefer to have multiple screens. One of largest issues are the need for a printer and scanner for the 5% of records that do not arrive or leave in electronic format. The other need is the connectivity through routers and internet service.

Advantages to the Employee and Employer

The biggest advantage to the employee is the savings on the commute. This can be in a dollar figure related to gas and car repairs. It can also be in a bigger way the time savings. When the workday is complete, you are already home. You no longer have to leave earlier than needed to anticipate the traffic jam from an accident. Depending on the job tasks, you are able to intermingle any home need with your work schedule. You can do the laundry and dishes as you work, no more need to sit at home on the weekend to await the washing machine to finish

The advantages to the employer are present as well. One of the largest expenses of most companies that have an office environment are the cost of the real estate to have and operate the office. In many cities, this can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The next advantage to the employer is the ability to hire the best workers on the planet versus being limited to a geographic area or needing to have the employee move to the area of the company office. Many talented individuals have a desire to enjoy a balanced life that involves a certain area in which to live. If you enjoy the warmth and sunshine of Arizona, you are likely not to take a job in New York City. If the company is only office based, they could lose out on this talent.

Disadvantages to the Employee and Employer

The employee must have a place to work. While some people are fortunate to have a dedicated office space, many may not have a home designed for at home working. Fortunately, the costs of transformation are often not expensive. I converted the formal living room in my house to an office for only $2000. This included doors and closing off an opening in a wall. Another disadvantage is that the employer may not cover the operating expenses, such as Wi-Fi and the electronics needed to work from home to include a printer, scanner, copier, and phone. While this may seem like a lot, the fact the employee doesn’t have to pay for parking, tolls, gas, and other operating expenses to travel to work, the costs may offset each other. Additionally, as employers compete for top talent, many may elect to have an electronics allowance like a clothing allowance of the past.

The disadvantage to the employer is the lack of getting to know their employees and the lack of the impromptu conversations that often lead to the best ideas. If your entire management team is remote, this will not allow for the management technique of Management by Walking Around, which ensure management is connected to the line employees. This is very important as the happiness and connectedness of employees is heavily tied to the success of the company.

Changes that could occur in EM and Emergency Services

The biggest change in EM and ES is the ability to have talent from anywhere in the world working for your organization. While the majority of the workers in EM and ES are shift workers that can not telework, the area that helps ensure the success of the organization is all of the backend logistics and project management that gives the responders the programs and tools to be the best providers for the community. No longer do you need an administrative chief from your own organization, you can hire a retired chief or 2 from another area that can fulfil the position that many in your organization would not desire. Possibly the biggest advantage is the ability to increase the amount of work flexibility for administrative personnel. One of the biggest issues that organization in ES suffer from is attracting the best talent to the 40-hour positions. When compared to the 24/48 schedule, the work/life balance is destroyed, which deters many from taking these positions. Remote working and the ability to flex the schedule can be a big incentive to attracting the top talent.

If we examine what opportunities are opened to us as a result of this pandemic changes, we can continue to ensure that we have the top talent in our organizations, which is what provides the best customer service.


Dr. Randall Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. From a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.

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