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Decision Factors for Remote Work Adoption: Advantages, Disadvantages, Driving Forces and Challenges

Department of Information Science and Technology, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), 1649-02 Lisbon, Portugal
Higher School of Economics and Business, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty 050040, Kazakhstan
Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon, 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
J. Open Innov. Technol. Mark. Complex. 2021, 7(1), 70;
Submission received: 31 December 2020 / Revised: 12 February 2021 / Accepted: 12 February 2021 / Published: 21 February 2021


Facing one of the most challenging pandemics for organizational modus operandi (COVID-19), organizations are struggling for operational and strategic support. The adoption of remote work (RW) is increasing. For economic reasons, competitive advantage, or even as a pandemic response (business continuity plan), RW is a domain worth further investigation. However, the literature lacks insight regarding RW adoption. A design science research methodology was adopted, including a systematic literature review to elicit RW advantages, disadvantages, challenges and driving forces, as well as their relation. To evaluate and demonstrate findings, 129 qualitative interviews were performed with RW professionals. In the end, 57 decision factors were elicited, and 16 relations were validated. The authors concluded that cost-reduction and flexibility to promote work–life balance is the most positive outputs, while communication and technical problems, as well as management issues, are what most concerns professionals. Moreover, positive relations are more recognized among professionals over negative ones.

1. Introduction

Organizations are in continuous evolution [1] and hire people en masse every day and everywhere in a constant search for the best workforce for necessary jobs [2]. Due to globalization, distributed work and distributed teams are unavoidable [3]. The literature points out that due to higher rates of employment compared to that of recruitment [4], big organizations struggle to allocate all their employees in physical spaces [5].
Previous research indicates the possibility of having to downsize and cut costs in order to increase flexibility and create customer-oriented solutions [6] with the goal of staying ahead of the competition. Others highlight the proposition of reducing costs for increasing economical outcomes with the aim of keeping a positive economic balance [7] or just plain and simple challenges in finding financial savings solutions [8]. To summarize, with globalization, organizational growth brings challenges such as not having enough seats for employees in physical office space.
In order to fight these challenges and become more competitive, organizations strive to find new ways of becoming more flexible [9], more rentable [10,11] and more financially profitable [12,13]. Technology has been pointed at as a pivotal enabler [14] to support massive virtual collaboration [15] that has demonstrated potential for both advancing sciences and to turn the drawbacks of virtuality into strategic advantages while also supporting rigorous scientific outcomes [16]. Therefore, organizations have begun to search for new paradigms and solutions such as remote work (RW) [17], which allows them to be geographically free [18]. Driving forces such as globalization [3], the informatization of industries [14], or government legislative support [19] have also stimulated RW adoption. Moreover, based on the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, at this time, nearly every organization must rely on remote teams to sustain business activity [20]; it is estimated that almost 60% of people are presently in RW due to the coronavirus [21,22].
Prior literature points out that RW could shape organizations’ daily work and contribute to defining the modern workplace [23]. However, more recent studies [24,25] point to RW as a complex domain, in exponential evolution, and one in which it is important to synthesize its decision factors to assist decision-makers before RW adoption.
As such, this investigation aims to explore, synthesize and elicit the following RW concept key aspects: advantages, driving forces; challenges; and disadvantages. To pursue our goal, the following research questions (RQ) were designed: RQ1: What are the advantages, disadvantages, driving forces and challenges of RW adoption? RQ2: How do the RW decision factors influence each other positively and negatively? RQ2 aims to explore the correlation between advantages/disadvantages/driving forces/challenges.
The findings of this research are expected to be useful for decision-makers who may know the main advantages/disadvantages/driving forces/challenges, and which may be first, promoted, implemented or avoided. Moreover, the outputs of the present theories on how factors influence each other may then be further explored by academics.
The document has the following structure: Section 2 presents the literature review. Section 3 describes the followed research methodology and the construction of the proposal. Section 4 details the evaluation and improvements of our proposal. Section 5 concludes the study by describing the main findings and defining future work.

2. Literature Review

Several studies exist in literature regarding RW from a variety of qualitative [12], quantitative [6] or mixed [19] investigations. Most tend to research and report findings on a single vector of analysis. For instance, advantages, disadvantages, driving forces, challenges, solutions, ethical issues, strategies, or best practices. However, none attempted to either investigate how vectors relate or influence each other nor to synthesize previous findings on a single vector. This is demonstrated in Table 1. These findings strengthen our research goal.

3. Research Methodology

The adopted research methodology was the design science research (DSR), including both a systematic literature review (SLR) to elicit the initial artifact and individual semi-structured interviews to evaluate and tune the artifact. Given the amount of literature on the topic and the lack of consensus regarding some related concepts, the SLR is a proper methodology to start the investigation [26].
The DSR was chosen since this research aims at solving practical problems by creating and evaluating IT artifacts intended to solve organizational issues [27,28]. On the other hand, SLR is useful to synthesize a considerable amount of literature. The COVID-19 pandemic urged.
Table 1. Report on the findings in the literature.
Table 1. Report on the findings in the literature.
ReferenceDecision FactorsFindings
Outlined structural and relational factors that may be associated with employee adjustment to virtual work. These include employees” work independence, the clarity of evaluation criteria, the level of interpersonal trust and organizational connectedness.
Driving forces
This empirical study reports a set of advantages (e.g., reduce employee stress resulting from commuting and balancing home and work–life, offers an additional way of intensifying work), driving forces (e.g., societal and economical forces such as competition in markets, developments in technology) and management strategies (e.g., develop and use workplace strategies and policies that align places, people, and technologies and that are able to manage change).
Best practices
The study reports a set of strategies (e.g., establishing personal social support infrastructure, personal connections) and some best practices (e.g., expose tacit activities to raise awareness, plan for a healthy work and life balance).
[19]Benefits/advantagesThe evidence presented suggests that RW is, on the whole, advantageous to employers and employees. It also suggests, while we may not be witnessing a full-bodied revolution, the detachment of work from a place is an undeniably important aspect of the changing nature of work in the twenty-first century.
The study suggests that RW is not necessarily detrimental to productivity and may have the capacity to improve it (work–life balance, effective work, and gender equity are key components of quality of working life), and therefore important for ethical organizational practice. Many of the remaining questions on remote working are about the specific circumstances that may lead to it being experienced as flexible, productive, and gender-equitable.
[29]Benefits/advantagesThe study suggests that RW has benefits for knowledge workers.
Their research differs from previous works in that they examined and found that innovation was associated with more job complexity and learning in global RW. Despite the potential for diverse perspectives in global teams to generate more innovation, this potential is often unrealized.
[30]]Benefits/advantagesThe study reports a set of benefits from the application of a specific framework. The benefits reported are “faster project conduct”, “increased project control”, “alignment and shared goals”, “stronger focus on work than politics,” and “improved work motivation”.
This study reports challenges and disadvantages for different RW types. It concludes that a higher level of work virtuality leads to a lower level of work satisfaction, mainly due to inappropriate management techniques and problems related to information and technology-mediated communication. The results also suggest that work satisfaction of higher and medium-level virtuality workers could be increased by appropriate ICT, by compensating the related costs, via improved organization of work processes and through greater time/place flexibility.
This study concludes that: managing work processes in virtual settings has lasting benefits; relational interactions take time to develop in virtual settings and embracing the technology proved to be a key success factor. Plus, it also suggests that it is important, for effective communication, to use collaborative technologies in an inclusive way.
RW adoption, but there is no novelty in the actual concept. Therefore, an SLR is an interesting and useful methodology to ground this research proposal by eliciting and synthesizing the main RW studies to date.
According to [27], the DSR consists of six activities (i.e., steps). Figure 1 presents the applied techniques and activities in each DSRM step, as well as where the SLR and the semi-structured interviews were used. Given the nature of this investigation, the demonstration and evaluation phases were joined.
In order to design and develop the artifact, we performed an SLR to find out a set of remote work advantages, disadvantages, challenges and driving forces, as well as remote work concept relations.
An SLR aims to address a problem and answer research questions [33,34] by formulating a general statement or an overarching conceptualization, commenting on, evaluating, extending, or developing theory from existing literature [35]. This research follows Kitchenhams’ Procedures for SLR [36], complemented by [37], as described in Figure 2.
We searched in major databases, such as ACM, IEEE, Springer and Google Scholar between September and October 2020. The following research string was used: (remote OR virtual) AND work. The authors have purposefully chosen to reach a broad set of articles about RW. Virtual work is a concept many times referred to in the literature as similar to RW and therefore was also included.
The documents were screened using five filters (Table 2): documents published during or after the year 2000, keywords present in the title, keywords present in the abstract, with the fourth filter being used for inclusion and exclusion criteria (Table 3). These consisted of an applied context filter manually customized by the author, exhaustively analyzing abstracts, introductions and conclusions to check if the document would fit in the research scope and address remote and virtual work concepts. Last, but not least, the fifth filter was a manual screening to exclude out of scope investigations.

3.1. Remote Work Decision Factors (RQ1)

After a thorough analysis of selected literature, to strengthen insights on RQ1, the RW decision factors were identified: advantages (Table 4), challenges (Table 5), disadvantages (Table 6), and driving forces (Table 7).

3.2. How Does RW Key Concepts Relate (RQ2)

We studied how the positive concepts (advantages and driving forces) relate to negative concepts (disadvantages and challenges). Our findings are modeled in Figure 3. Some of the listed advantages can only be achieved if some disadvantages/challenges are mitigated. For instance, a worker who feels isolated (D1) or with a lack of balance between professional and family life (D2) will not be able to increase its productivity (A1) and feel greater fulfillment with its job (A4) [12]. Plus, it will be hard to enhance teamwork performance (A8) while avoiding communication issues (D6 and C1) [31].
On the other hand, positive driving forces may incentivize RW implementation. However, this will probably be ineffective without serious consideration of associated challenges. For instance, technical competence (DF6) and a flexibility mindset (DF5) are useful, but they will not help if technological challenges (C4) [32] or infrastructure problems (D9) emerge.
When workers demonstrate more job satisfaction (A4) coupled with the enhancement of team performance (A8), it is natural to note more productivity and morale (A1), so long as communication challenges (C1) are avoided [19].
In case of being surrounded by cultural and societal (DF4) (external factors) unfavorable forces, and if the whole organization, from management to the common workers, either are not technically competent and/or do not have the necessary commitment (DF6) (internal factors) [6], then it is almost impossible to expect an increase of productivity (A1). In these cases, disadvantages may easily rise.
Since it is easier for remote workers to disengage from work (A12), it might lead to a lack of attendance (C14) [66]; for example, a worker can miss certain meetings if he does not see people “getting up “ to go to the meeting room or if he falls asleep due to being alone “at work “. We consider this human nature, but when one is at the office, these types of problems would hardly happen. Additionally, said situations could lead to another disadvantage for the worker, such as issues in the Balance of work, family and personal life (D2) [19]. The problem of falling asleep is normally due to the fact of a person not sleeping well, which is clearly a personal problem interacting with the worker’s job.
Promoting availability (A9) and remote expertise (A7) may lead to an increase in productivity (A1) while avoiding geographic location (A10) [18] issues. However, all this may crumble if companies and workers do not resist management problems (C2).
By using different backchannels, workers may face challenges in balancing between formal and informal communication and documentation (C13), which may lead to Communication problems (D6) [69]. On the other hand, this can also stimulate interaction with people from different backgrounds, which leads to more learning opportunities (A11).
A virtualization environment (C1) forces organizations to equip workers with the necessary communication tools. This increases technological dependencies (D5) [18]. Thus, organizations may choose to invest in monitoring systems to avoid a lack of control (D14).
When improperly handled, management challenges (C2) may reduce professional and social interaction between the employees (D1) or between management (D10), which reduces workers’ rights and connections to the organization (D11) and perturbs the balance between work and life (D2) [32].
Organizational and individual commitment (DF3), as well as competence (DF6), revealed that remote workers have fewer role-coordination problems (D10) [64] and can exhibit both higher job satisfaction (A4) and even greater commitment to the organization (A1) [19].
When receiving less career support than Non-remote workers (C2) and feel an impersonal environment at an organization (C7) [32], employees may experience more work–family conflicts (D2), influencing their turnover intentions, role stressors and job satisfaction (A4) [29].
It is critical for remote workers to be available to learn new competencies (DF6) and embrace flexibility (DF5) since the constant “moving around” increases the number of new people they meet (A11), leads to more learning opportunities, and increases the requirement for new social skills, bringing greater flexibility (A3) [72]. If remote workers do not use ICT effectively (C8), all the above-mentioned advantages will not be experienced [51].
Those who focus on the quality of teamwork (C5) while maintaining team cohesion make an important impact not only on performance (A8) but also on job satisfaction (A4) in remote teams [51]. Plus, organizations may be better able to respond to customers’ needs (DF9) by saving on the costs of office space (A2) [58].
Yet, mobile technologies (DF1) can have a positive impact on workers by increasing their independence (A6) [6] and flexibility (A3) [30] as well as potentiating more real-time information about their jobs (A9). However, on the other hand, it may negatively impact their work quality and relationships with others, given that workers need to adapt to new technologies and features to be learned. If these new skills are not acquired by remote workers, they can experience conflict and coordination problems (D10) due to misusage of the technology.
Therefore, workers who are not willing to change or are skeptical in terms of doing RW will ultimately lead to constraints and performance breaks (C11). Other challenges and possible disadvantages can also be catalyzed. For instance, RW employees can have problems of misunderstandings of judgment (D11) due to the virtual nature of communications, either from the voice tone or due to the signal cuts during teleconferences. If the worker is already against RW, then this type of situation can lead to the rupture of relationships between employees and even the relation between the worker and the organization itself [30].
Willing to cut costs (DF8) by reducing the number of fixed office places, organizations can better manage mobility and critical business interdependencies (DF7) since their workforce is globally distributed. This may increase both worker interaction with strangers, different places to work (A11) [5] and time for reflection (A15). By being remote workers, employee self-regulation and control may increase as a result of the enhancement in their own autonomy (A6), always having to manage their own pace, which ultimately brings productivity (A1) and happiness (A4) when they onboard for more flexibility from the beginning (DF5) [46].
The literature points that the influence of RW flexibility (DF5) for both the organization and the workers can be positive, more flexible (A3) [10] for the organization, and negative in terms of Balance of work, family and personal life problems (D2) for the employee [82].
If workers cannot properly balance their work, family and personal problems (D2) and/or deal with an increased workload (D3), it may lead to time management problems (D7) [73] influencing productivity (D13) [19].

4. Demonstration and Evaluation

Qualitative research interviews allow the researcher to ask questions on varying issues, focusing on the interviewee’s activities and practical examples of how to do things [86]. Moreover, it is possible to monitor the order in which the questions are answered, avoiding bias [87]. Particularly, they enable the interviewee to discuss the subject matter without being too attached to the formulated inquiry [88], ensuring researchers that their hypotheses or assumptions will be broadly covered by the conversation [89].
To demonstrate the proposed artifacts (Table 4, Table 5, Table 6 and Table 7 and Figure 4), 129 qualitative interviews were performed with RW professionals. The first set of interviews was held to elicit more knowledge on the RW decision factors with real-life worker perceptions and to validate advantages, disadvantages, driving forces and challenges (RQ1). The second set had the objective of validating, according to real-life experience, how each RW decision factor influences the other (RQ2).
Interviews are the most well-known method to collect data in qualitative research and can be used in all kinds of philosophy paradigms, whether positivist, interpretive or critical [90]. According to Myers [90], the interview allows gathering valuable data from people in different roles and situations. Thus, interviews can be an appropriate method to develop and evaluate an artifact. Moreover, interviews can be used to demonstrate the applicability and validity of an artifact in practice [91]. To turn the interviews more efficiently, the questionnaires were designed according to Myers’ recommendations.
The interviews were all performed remotely (given the current state of pandemic (COVID-19)), using tools such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, Jitsi Meet and Circuit for web calls, as well as WhatsApp and mobile voice calls for mobile communications. The length of the interviews ranged from 60 to 120 min. A word document transcript was created for each interview and was shared with the participants, yielding a total of 104 pages of text.
In this research, the interviews were divided into two sets. The first set with 109 interviews aimed to tune and validate the elicited list of decision factors (RQ1). The second set aimed to tune and validate the dependence model (RQ2).
Regarding the number of interviews necessary in qualitative research, Myers [90] argues that there is no specific number. It depends on the research question. We followed the recommendations by [92], who argues that twenty interviews are a significant amount for this type of research. Even if it is a convenient sampling, a mix of different participants according to gender, type of organization, culture, role, education was selected to reduce contextual bias [93]. Appendix A shows more details regarding the profile of interviewees.

4.1. Tuning RW Decision Factors (RQ1)

The 109 interviews (32 female and 77 male) were conducted between March and August 2020, while the other 20 were performed from August to September 2020. The average age of the interviewees was 31 years old, and each interview took on average one hour and twenty minutes.
To answer RQ1, interviewees were asked to validate findings from the literature. If they agreed, the interviewer would mark it with 1. When they disagreed, an explanation was provided. Figure 4 presents the count of positive (number 1) answers for each decision factor.
In Figure 4, we can see several topics with a value above the green line, meaning that the topic is confirmed by the opinion of the interviewees with a 75% (81 interviewees) validation rate. At the same time, the ones below the red line mean that less than 55% of the sample (60 interviewees) agree with the literature opinion. Values between the red and green (between 55% and 75%) lines are assumed as ambiguous and should be further investigated in the future.
Table 8 presents the top 5 of each RW decision factor for both literature and interviews. In the beginning, to promote further insights, the authors did not show the SLR list of RW decision factors. Hence, they could freely express and describe their experiences. Then, the list was presented, and interviewees were questioned again.
The authors chose to analyze the factors that were below the red line, to provide further insights on the topics that were against the literature.
According to interviewees, for C8, it is indifferent where a person is working as this challenge happens both in RW but also in the office. It always depends on the scope of the organization; for some types of work, law firms, for example, RW, is not a good fit. It also depends on the employees’ generation, as newer generations tend to be more IT-friendly.
When asking the interviewees why they did not validate C13, the most common answers were that they only use official channels; some stated that these mixtures already happen in the office where at any point in time informal communications are made; some even said that the use of official channels might be awkward in the beginning, taking time people to get used to them. If these exchanges are well defined by the organization and depending on its culture, then it will not be a problem.
For C14, the interviewees showed that attendance actually became better with RW because overall most people increased in their availability. Employees also tend to have more respect for the time slots and frames defined in order to not waste their own and their colleagues’ time. There is an understanding that RW does not stop being work only because one is not at the office; naturally, it depends on the character of the employee to have the proper responsibility to not miss appointments.
In line with the interviews, D4 was not validated because, according to the interviewees, this disadvantage will depend on workers’ own emotional management. For most employees, the stress levels did not grow in RW: actually, they did not even feel more than the in-office usual, with some even feeling less stress as a result of the reduction in lost time and patience that occurs during work commutes (the only occasion where this could happen would be in a pandemic-like state).
D7 is seen to depend on the personality and personal management of the worker. According to the interviews, time management is or should be the same as in the office, with some interviewees going as far as saying that it was the opposite; that it could be considered as an advantage given that everyone can manage their time at their own pace.
A similar impression was observed in D13 because, according to interviews, this is something that also happens in the office if there are constraints and ill intentions from colleagues. This disadvantage is easily mitigated with the existing collaborative tools available nowadays because “we are all one click away from each other”.
The last disadvantage D13 can actually be considered an advantage to workers because they have fewer distractions in RW. Since the number of hours is the same in RW or in the office, the work must be done regardless.
When talking about A8, the interviewees said that we should have improvements at a personal and individual level. However, it can also lead to communication problems. According to most of the sample, it is not an advantage and can even be considered a disadvantage because now they end up wasting more time.
Finally, we have A12, which according to interviews, is more difficult to achieve. In RW, workers are more available than they would be in the office. Having to set up their workstations in their living rooms, being close to the computer, anytime they receive a notification, it is checked regardless of the hour of the day. This may lead to problems in disentangling personal life from working life. Ultimately, there are workers who have bigger disengaging capacities and some who need to commute in order to completely turn off from work.
To provide a complete view of all findings, we decided to cross the information collected from literature with the information collected from interviews. In Table 8, one can see the top five selections in literature and interviewees. On one side, we have the opinions found in the SLR, while on the other, we have two insights brought forward from the interviews performed.
After the author compiled the data in Table 8, we can see that there is only one common advantage, besides work–life balance, between the ones found in literature and those reported by interviewees: cost reduction. The reasons pointed by interviewees are on “physical spaces (offices, hubs, etc.)”; workers “spend less money on their commute to work”; and according to some interviewees, “also on their food” expense.
For interviewees, the best advantage of RW is the work–life balance. It allows them to better “plan their own time”, and it makes it possible to “balance their personal and professional life”. For instance, aspects such as a doctor’s appointment, receiving parcels at home, or assisting older relatives, become much easier to execute in an RW environment. Some workers have also reported that the opportunity to watch their kids growing up “without neglecting your work” is the greatest advantage. Improved time management was also pointed at as a benefit. Workers exhibit many differences and have their preferences (e.g., some prefer to work in the morning, others at late hours). This may affect worker performance. In an interviewee’s words: “Since we are responsible for our own work and the way we use our time, then we can choose the best way to work and the best way to achieve the best results”.
Interviewees were also asked for disadvantages. Table 8 lists the top 5 disadvantages in the interviewees’ opinion.
While for advantages professionals and the literature agree in 3 of the top 5 (work–life balance, cost-reduction and productivity), with regards to disadvantages, there are only two commonalities. These are the lack of interaction and the balance of work, family, and personal life, which can clearly be a big part of the distractions affecting worker performance at home.
Professionals also pointed to “communication” as an important issue. In our viewpoint, it is normal that this disadvantage pops up from professionals instead of the literature since the former experience it firsthand in practice. This is very interesting to note since we are living in the digital era where the evolution of available collaborative tools is supposedly advanced to the point where we should not have any kind of communicational problems. This can happen due to several reasons as the “lack of experience with the tools”, “network and connectivity issues that can freeze webcams,” and the possibility of ”cuts in the audio”, leading to misunderstandings or, in the worst-case scenario, to no communication at all.
The increase in workload identified in the literature was not reported by the interviewees. In fact, most of the interviewees argued that they were “doing the same workload as in the office”.

4.2. Tuning RW Decision Factors Relation (RQ2)

A total of 20 (16 males and 4 females) individuals were interviewed. To be accepted as a participant, one needed to have at least 2 years of professional experience and some RW exposure. The sample ranged from 23 to 51 years in age. Both technical and management roles were included. Some participants also had children. Technological experience ranged from one year and two months to 20 years; RW experience ranged from six months to nine years. Finally, the length of the interviews ranged from 60 to 120 min.
The interviews were conducted through several collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams, Circuit, Skype or using more direct and informal forms of communications such as mobile phones to make calls and use WhatsApp. All interviews were transcribed.
Table 9 details the answers from the interviewees, and Figure 5 shows the final representation of relations in RW key decision factors based on interviewees’ opinions.
In general, interviewee opinions are aligned with literature. Therefore, a critical analysis is provided below on the 10 less consensual relations. From those 10, 9 are negative influences, and only one is a positive one. This indicates that professionals are not so convinced of the negative relations literature sets out.
Regarding (DF1-D10), participants did not reach a consensus on whether technology helps tasks and people organization. The explanation may be on how managers use technology and which technology is chosen. There are several technologies presently available for this purpose. If people are willing to change, and if managers are aware of the best technologies, this should not be an issue.
About (DF1-D11), interviewees pointed out that technology may affect the quality of communication and, therefore, may promote harsher judgments of others. It is important for managers to oversee the inclusion of new members and sustain a team spirit. Some interviewees also argue that certain soft skills become even more important depending on the channel being used (written, spoken), given that communication is made in a virtual way. Consequently, there is room for misunderstandings to arise due to, for example, voice tones being perceived in a negative way or even the way people address each other. What used to be easy to understand by looking at the speakers’ body language becomes swayed by the own opinion of the person on the receiving end.
Regarding (DF3-D10), most interviewees reported having experienced fewer conflicts than in the office, while others argued that it depends on the workers themselves. Reasons for this are based on worker mentality. Full RW is not a vacation, so it requires a sharp sense of responsibility and organization.
Looking at (DF6-D2), interviewees have mixed feelings. Collected information indicates that if there are focus and competence, one ends up doing it faster, while otherwise, it may promote a negative outcome. It was also reported that more than technical skills, the worker mindset is the central issue. While some argue that it is difficult to control external (family) factors, others argue that it is critical to have and to define a specific space where one can be, somehow, isolated.
On (DF6-D10), some interviewees argued that since people are not face-to-face, problems may always happen regardless of commitment. Others said that commitment is critical to overcoming such problems. Plus, if all workers commit, conflicts and problems of coordination will decrease. Organizations may not only assure home conditions but also on how to manage workers remotely. For instance, the inclusion of junior trainees would require different approaches.
Regarding (DF8 + A11), some participants emphasized that they did not see any negative effect between the two and that economic benefits do not affect learning opportunities. However, others argued that premiums are critical to offering compensation when expenses comparably increase against those expected with life in the office. For some participants, this is an opportunity for companies to reward their employees in an economical way. Considering that the employee enables himself to work from another country or in another time zone, then the company should give him more money at the end of the month (a common practice nowadays in big consulting businesses).
Looking at (C1-D14), opinions differ. Although we are in RW, technologies help monitor more than usual. Management can see updates on servers and the interactions in groups; this is a type of reduced monitoring, but it exists. The relation also must do with management failures because if one needs to talk to A or B, one schedule with A and B a time slot for it. The problem of not being able to reach someone gets resolved this way, using technologies for such purposes, like Microsoft Teams and Outlook. Other participants even go further and say that if someone has these challenges because the boss is bad, then they would need to apply more strict monitoring and training in management topics. For some interviewees, this is a neutral topic, depending on how things are managed, but in general, a positive one; things may not be what they seem, as a person could have just missed an update. However, on the negative side, there are present-day applications used by some employees that automate mouse movements, preventing a persons’ status from going to away mode.
About (C2-D2), people with no children or living alone argued that this usually would never be an issue but understand such a possibility in different contexts. Hence, arguments were made that this is all about different management styles from both managers and general workers. In terms of upper management, this has a negative impact since when working remotely, it is more difficult to have access to people and understand their specific situations. Regarding workers, it is very difficult to preview all possible family contexts, hence this being a huge challenge to manage. In contrast, those who can properly manage work and family can benefit from remote working.
Regarding (C5-A8), some reported that keeping team cohesion is challenging given the distance and isolation beyond daily meetings. On the other hand, others reported that the RW has a positive impact on team cohesion and performance; in a particular case, there is a mature team that reported a considerable increase in both variables.
Last, but not least, (C8-A11). Here, interviewees argued that proper knowledge of existing communication channels leads to new opportunities to interact with more people. This may be an advantage and contribute to personal fulfillment. However, some argued that the lack of knowledge on how to use such channels makes this interaction more difficult and time-consuming to explain. Therefore, teaching people how to use these tools is critical.
Ultimately, four relations (DF1 + A3)(DF5 + A3)(DF7 + A4)(DF9 + A2) are validated by both literature and professionals. To tune our model, we have used a threshold to define the relationship as valid. The relations with results above or equal to 75% were confirmed; those between 70 and 30% require more research, and those below 30% rejected. The relations were narrowed down from 30 to 16 (Figure 5).
Only one out of the 16 confirmed relations is a negative one. All the others are positive. These results may hint at the overall opinion that RW, at the moment, tends to be perceived as a more positive than negative practice.

5. Conclusions and Recommendations

Facing one of the most impacting pandemics (COVID-19) in organization modus operandi, this research aimed to enrich the theoretical and practical understanding of RW advantages, disadvantages, driving forces and challenges, as well as how they relate to each other. An SLR was performed to elicit the main RW decision factors and how they relate. Then, 129 interviews were performed with RW practitioners. The former 109 interviewees helped to narrow down the true decision factors experienced in the real world, while the other 20 interviews helped to tune how the decision factors influence each other.
When compared with prior literature, this investigation is pioneering in relating different decision factors. It enables organizations to be more aware of what to expect and how to prepare for RW. Furthermore, while current literature mostly focuses on adding new insights about each decision factor, this investigation synthesizes the main literature findings.

5.1. Conclusions

Organizations may ensure that workers have the right technology (organizational or personally owned) before adopting RW. Those who aim to increase their internal flexibility or worker mobility may look to RW as an interesting solution. Likewise, RW is a proper strategy for organizations aiming to reduce costs, as it will allow them to hire in cheaper geographies while employees save travel expenses. Finally, RW is also seen as a great way for workers to better organize their day to accomplish both work and personal affairs, which may increase worker motivation and productivity.
Nonetheless, RW also presents some management concerns. Organizations may struggle to control technology issues as often times part of what is used is not under their control (workers’ home infrastructure). This may lead to communicational issues, which may occur as a result of poor communication quality or an absence of visual contact that would allow the reading of body language. Managers also struggle to identify and tackle various types of problems as RW is not suitable for every worker; it is up to management to define and oversee the RW capabilities and performance of each worker, possibly considering a hybrid model. Additionally, given a reduction in contact, team cohesion is harder to maintain in RW. Finally, since companies do not control workers’ Internet providers or electricity infrastructure, there are risks that can compromise internal projects.
Overall, our findings point that RW promotes much more positive relations rather than negative ones. Technology has a positive influence on the work–life balance, bringing greater mobility for workers to carry out their activities whenever and wherever they need to. Likewise, flexibility also has a positive influence on the work–life balance, enabling workers to manage their own schedule more efficiently, which in turn has a positive influence on job satisfaction. Convincing workers and creating an organizational culture of RW advantages avoid resistance and increases both productivity and morale. Overall, an organizational vision focused on adding value may promote cost reduction as a result of RW adoption.

5.2. Recommendations

Based on our findings, we strongly recommend organizations:
  • to invest in ways to increase control over the technology that will be used when adopting RW. This should be done considering workers’ infrastructure and facilities issues;
  • to implement practices to promote team cohesion. For example, always keeping the video on, having regular meetings, among others;
  • to apply team management strategies to control team health and productivity;
  • to create an RW culture and sensitize workers for RW adoption;
  • to investigate the most suitable tools and methodologies to use for each organizational context;
  • to reinforce measurement tools that verify how well workers can manage and integrate their personal and work–life.

5.3. Limitations and Future Work

Regarding the limitations of this study, it was not possible to cover all RW topics given that it is a methodology involving various categories and not only computer engineering. RW has a big impact on worker relations, life, way of addressing colleagues, and work; as such, our study was limited to the topics found in the literature.
Although we can find older research documents, they may not be completely up to date. This is prone to happen due to the tremendously high pace of technological development. Moreover, the involvement of more RW practitioners would have increased the validity of the results.
Further research should be carried out on the decision factors and relations where some doubt remained. Other contingency factors (industry, culture, size, etc.), as advised by [94], must be further investigated since they may influence the results obtained in this study.
Additionally, this exact same study could be conducted in a non-pandemic context as the one lived during the year 2020 (COVID-19). As some workers are doing RW by force, not by choice, this may have influenced some answers.
Moreover, the authors advise further investigation on management and governance practices for RW (i.e., remote project management), preferably considering agile methodologies like SCRUM [95]. Plus, another research path may rely on the exploration of the usefulness of RW in small and medium enterprises and which competitive advantage it may bring to them. Finally, it could be very interesting to further explore and understand which types of jobs/roles and organizational cultures would better suit the RW model.

Author Contributions

R.P. designed and coordinated the investigation. R.F. performed the interviews. Collected data were analyzed by R.F., and I.S.B. M.M.d.S. and R.P. wrote the full document. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This work has been partially supported by Portuguese National funds through FITEC - Programa Interface, with reference CIT “INOV - INESC INOVAÇÃO - Financiamento Base”.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. Profile of Interviewees.
Table A1. Profile of Interviewees.
SubjectGenderAgeNationalityCompanyRoleYears with
RW Years of Experience
X1Masculine27PTCompany APenetration tester9Y9Y
X2Masculine26PTCompany BTech consultant2Y6M6 M
X3Masculine24PTCompany CFinancial and marketing officer2Y9M6 M
X4Feminine33BRUniversity AHead of the removal and training support
Division of the people training coordination
8Y6 M
X5Masculine24PTCompany DFull-stack developer2Y3M9 M
X6Masculine34BRUniversity ACoordinator and teacher of distance learning16Y6 M
X7Masculine23PTCompany EComputer technician2Y1M6 M
X8Masculine51PTCompany FTeam leader of development teams20Y5Y
X9Masculine27PTCompany GIT consultant5Y2M6 M
X10Feminine25PTCompany HDeveloper2Y6M6 M
X11Masculine24PTCompany IFinancial Analyst4Y1Y8M
X12Masculine27PTCompany JSalesforce developer4Y2Y
X13Masculine25PTCompany LSoftware developer4Y2Y1M
X14Masculine24PTCompany MSAP consultant3Y2M3Y2M
X15Feminine26PTCompany ACommunication manager6Y8 M
X16Masculine36BRUniversity ACoordinator and teacher of distance learning16Y6 M
X17Masculine26PTCompany NDeveloper backend5Y2M1Y8M
X18Masculine34PTCompany OTeam leader of development teams12Y1Y
X19Feminine24PTCompany ADeveloper specialist administrator3Y2Y
X20Masculine24PTCompany PDue diligence officer1Y2M6 M


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Figure 1. Diagram of the performed design science research (DSR) methodology.
Figure 1. Diagram of the performed design science research (DSR) methodology.
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Figure 2. Diagram of the performed SLR methodology for remote work (RW) decision factors.
Figure 2. Diagram of the performed SLR methodology for remote work (RW) decision factors.
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Figure 3. Model detailing how RW decision factors influence each other.
Figure 3. Model detailing how RW decision factors influence each other.
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Figure 4. RW decision factors validated based on interviewees’ feedback.
Figure 4. RW decision factors validated based on interviewees’ feedback.
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Figure 5. Tuned decision factors relation based on interviewees’ feedback.
Figure 5. Tuned decision factors relation based on interviewees’ feedback.
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Table 2. Filtration process applied during the systematic literature review (SLR) methodology.
Table 2. Filtration process applied during the systematic literature review (SLR) methodology.
DatabaseKeywordsFilter 1Filter 2Filter 3Filter 4Filter 5
ACMvirtual work67716216117386
remote work108,17195,90950157
IEEEXPLOREvirtual work20,433210956912
remote work16,61314,98852235
SpringerLinkvirtual work11,205827772724
remote work1003864993
Google Scholarvirtual work145,00051,80080680641
remote work12,40010,10017917912
Table 3. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied in the performed SLR methodology.
Table 3. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied in the performed SLR methodology.
Inclusion CriteriaExclusion Criteria
Written in English, Portuguese or SpanishDocuments and books not available electronically
Documents that address specifically remote and virtual workDocuments not relevant for research
Documents publication year after 2000Documents were duplicates or not in context
Documents publication year before 2000
Table 4. RW advantages elicited from the performed SLR.
Table 4. RW advantages elicited from the performed SLR.
A1Increased productivity and morale[3,6,10,12,19,23,29,30,32,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52]25
A2Reduced overall costs[5,6,11,12,18,19,23,29,30,31,39,43,50,53,54,55,56,57,58]19
A3Work–life balance[5,6,10,12,23,29,30,42,55,58,59,60,61,62,63]15
A4Increased job satisfaction and reduced burnout[2,4,11,19,23,31,43,44,55,58,63,64]12
A5Enhanced positive associations between perceived task significance and global workers experienced meaningfulness[2,17,29,30,39,62,63,65]8
A6Enhanced worker autonomy[6,18,19,38,42,59,61,64]8
A7Leveraged remote expertise, establish competitive advantage in a dynamic market[2,24,29,39,47,62,63]7
A8Enhanced teamwork performance[10,12,17,19,45,51]6
A9Increased availability[6,18,41,47,57,60]6
A10Solved problems without the traditional requirements associated with collocation[10,17,19,29,32,45]6
A11Stimulated interaction with people from different backgrounds, which led to more learning opportunities[2,29,30,47,65]5
A12Easier to disengage from work since work is done outside of the office[18,52,66]3
A13Workers less likely to avoid work if given the opportunity to work remotely or from home[18,38,52]3
A14Task performance equal or better than in the office[3,54]2
A15Fewer distractions and therefore we can make more efficient use of our time[5,46]2
A16Accelerated growth[57,67]2
Table 5. RW Challenges elicited from the performed SLR.
Table 5. RW Challenges elicited from the performed SLR.
C1Communication challenges[15,24,30,31,32,45,46,48,51,52,53,57,58,60,63,65,68,69,70]19
C2Management challenges[1,6,12,15,18,23,24,31,32,39,43,45,48,53,57,60,61,71]18
C3Transparency challenges[4,6,10,12,17,18,19,29,39,45,52,53,55,60,63,66,72]17
C4Technological challenges[12,13,15,18,30,31,32,46,52,58,60,65,67]13
C5Challenges in maintaining team cohesion[1,3,10,12,24,29,30,31,32,43,45,53,72]13
C6Training challenges[10,23,38,51,53,60,63,73]8
C7Impersonal environment[10,15,18,24,29,32,52,63]8
C8Convincing team members to use ICT effectively[18,38,51,53,57,58,68]7
C9Willingness of members to expend effort[4,18,39,53,63,74]6
C10Knowledge fragmentation[6,17,29,32,53,64]6
C11Performance challenges[15,23,32,44,60,75]6
C12Security challenges[7,15,18,42,46]5
C13Balance between formal and informal communication and documentation[15,18,53,64,72]5
C14Lack of attendance[43,46,53]3
Table 6. RW disadvantages elicited from the performed SLR.
Table 6. RW disadvantages elicited from the performed SLR.
D1Feeling isolated and out of touch/Lack of physical interaction problems[5,7,11,12,29,30,31,32,43,45,46,50,52,57,62,65,76,77,78]19
D2Balance of work, family and personal life problems[6,7,17,18,19,23,30,39,43,44,55,58,64,65,72,77]16
D3Increased workload[1,6,11,12,18,23,55,61,64,65,77,79]12
D4Stress load[1,6,12,19,23,29,31,44,55,64,65,80]12
D5Technology dependency problems[30,31,50,52,58,61,65,70,81,82]10
D6Communication problems[12,30,31,32,39,51,60,61,63,79]10
D7Time management problems[12,30,31,32,44,50,55,70,71]9
D8Knowledge sharing problems[6,7,31,32,42,50,64,76]8
D9Infrastructure problems[12,15,18,52,70,81,82]7
D10Conflict and coordination problems[1,31,32,39,45,50]6
D11Inclination to level harsher judgments against each other[6,45,55,64,83]5
D13Problems with time to perform tasks[64,73]2
D14Lack of monitoring[18,61]2
D15Fail to take charge and performing initializing actions[51]1
D16Precariousness problems[77]1
D17Leading complexity[18]1
Table 7. RW driving forces elicited from the performed SLR.
Table 7. RW driving forces elicited from the performed SLR.
IDDriving ForcesReferencesTotal
DF2Collaboration improvement[2,4,6,17,18,29,30,39,42,53,56,57,64,65,69,73,81,83]18
DF3Organizational and individual strategic thoughts[3,6,7,10,12,17,18,23,39,59,61,70,71,73,82]15
DF4Cultural and societal forces[3,6,7,19,29,51,56,57,65,70,71,72,81]13
DF6Technical competence and commitment[6,30,31,32,39,41,43,56,57,69,82,83]12
DF7Managing mobility and critical business interdependencies[6,18,44,51,52,56,58,69,79,81,85]11
DF8Economic benefits[6,7,18,23,38,55,67,83]8
DF9Added value[2,17,18,48,79,84]6
DF10Government support[8,19]2
Table 8. Top 5 RW decision factors from both literature and interviews.
Table 8. Top 5 RW decision factors from both literature and interviews.
Top 5 Literaturen°/%Top 5 Interviews: Before Informedn°/%Top 5 Interviews: After Informedn°/%
AdvantagesIncreased productivity and morale25 (27%)Work–life balance24 (22%)Reduced overall costs108 (99%)
Reduced overall costs19 (21%)Time management18 (17%)Work–life balance106 (97%)
Work–life balance15 (16%)Reduced overall costs16 (15%)Leverage remote expertise and establish competitive advantage104 (95%)
Job satisfaction and reduced burnout12 (13%)Fewer distractions/workers focus15 (13%)Enhance worker autonomy102 (93%)
Enhance worker autonomy8 (8%)Flexibility8 (7%)Increased productivity and morale99 (90%)
DisadvantagesFeeling isolated/lack of physical interaction19 (21%)Feeling isolated/lack of physical interaction37 (34%)Communication problems97 (88%)
Balance of work, family, and personal life problems16 (17%)Balance of work, family, and personal life problems16 (15%)Infrastructure problems93 (85%)
Increased workload12 (13%)Communication problems15 (14%)Feeling isolated/lack of physical interaction86 (78%)
Stress load12 (13%)Needed discipline13 (12%)Technology dependency problems85 (77%)
Communication problems10 (11%)Too much availability8 (7%)Precariousness problems78 (71%)
Driving ForcesTechnology20 (22%)Reduced overall costs25 (22%)Flexibility109 (100%)
Collaboration improvement18 (20%)Benefits (motivation, comfort, satisfaction, trust, etc.)22 (20%)Technology108 (99%)
Organizational and individual strategic thoughts15 (16%)Work–life balance21 (19%)Economic benefits104 (95%)
Cultural and societal forces13 (14%)Flexibility21 (19%)Managing mobility and critical business interdependencies98 (89%)
Flexibility12 (3%)Health threats (pandemic COVID-19)12 (11%)Added value96 (88%)
challengesCommunication challenges19 (21%)Needed discipline19 (17%)Communication challenges98 (89%)
Management challenges18 (20%)Communication challenges18 (16%)Management challenges96 (88%)
Transparency challenges17 (18%)Technological challenges16 (14%)Technological challenges95 (87%)
Technological challenges13 (14%)Management challenges14 (12%)Security challenges89 (81%)
Challenges in maintaining team cohesion13 (14%)Challenges in finding the best tools and methodologies for RW8 (7%)Challenges in maintaining team cohesion86 (78%)
Table 9. RW decision factors relation validation based on interviewees’ feedback.
Table 9. RW decision factors relation validation based on interviewees’ feedback.
IDRelationSLRX1X2X3X4X5X6X7X8X9X10X11X12X13X14X15X16X17X18X19X20Interviewees Answers (%)
Label: ✓—influences positively; ▪—no influence; ✕—influences negatively.
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ferreira, R.; Pereira, R.; Bianchi, I.S.; da Silva, M.M. Decision Factors for Remote Work Adoption: Advantages, Disadvantages, Driving Forces and Challenges. J. Open Innov. Technol. Mark. Complex. 2021, 7, 70.

AMA Style

Ferreira R, Pereira R, Bianchi IS, da Silva MM. Decision Factors for Remote Work Adoption: Advantages, Disadvantages, Driving Forces and Challenges. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity. 2021; 7(1):70.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ferreira, Rafael, Ruben Pereira, Isaías Scalabrin Bianchi, and Miguel Mira da Silva. 2021. "Decision Factors for Remote Work Adoption: Advantages, Disadvantages, Driving Forces and Challenges" Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity 7, no. 1: 70.

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