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Many clinical and administrative tasks can be done outside the office, but having a detailed plan is key to making remote work successful.

Fam Pract Manag. 2023;30(5):33-37

This content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial relationships.

remote work

How would your practice's leadership react if a physician or staff member said, “I'd like to start teleworking one day a week. I'll be more productive without the distractions of the office.” In this time of physician and staff shortages, it might be hard to say no. (See “Hybrid Schedules Are Key to Physician Recruitment and Retention.") There also may be plenty of reasons to say yes. Many primary care tasks, clinical and administrative, can be performed virtually,1 and allowing physicians and staff to work remotely at least part of the time could aid recruitment and retention, as well as have other benefits for your practice. In this article, we provide guidance on what to consider before making the decision, as well as practical tips for implementing telework.


  • There are many potential benefits and drawbacks that practices should consider before allowing staff to work remotely, either full-time or part-time.

  • Telework schedules must ensure proper coverage for in-office care, and it's important for all staff to know who is working remotely and when.

  • Practices should have written agreements that spell out expectations for employees working remotely, as well as what protocol will be followed if expectations are not being met.


Numerous studies have examined the positives and negatives of telework (see a summary below). Many workers believe that telework makes them more productive, in part because they can avoid the daily commute and distractions of the office.2 Employers that are more supportive of remote work have less voluntary turnover and decreased absenteeism.3 Telework allows for flexible scheduling that may improve employees' work-life balance and reduce “work-family conflict.”4 Additionally, the abrupt rise in telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic showed that it can help maintain access to care when face-to-face contact threatens the health of both patients and staff (see “Telehealth reimbursement”).

benefits drawbacks
Benefits for employee
  • Private workspace

  • Avoiding commute

  • Better work-life balance

  • Increased productivity

Drawbacks for employee
  • Work-family conflict (work interfering with family or family interfering with work)

  • Work intensification/always “at work”

  • Less career advancement/internal networking

Benefits for employer
  • Employee availability

  • Work continues during pandemic/natural disasters

  • Decreased voluntary turnover

  • Decreased absenteeism

Drawbacks for employer
  • Hardware/software costs

  • Harder to enforce professional standards (e.g., dress code when on-screen)

  • Employee attention divided (especially if childcare needs are not met)

But there are potential drawbacks. For employers, these could include technology costs and reduced ability to enforce professional standards (e.g., dress code or background when the employee is on screen). For employees, full-time remote work is associated with fewer bonuses and less career advancement5 compared with non-remote or “hybrid” work, where employees work outside the office only part of the week. There is also some evidence that working from home can increase work-family conflicts, especially if work hours and home responsibilities are not clearly defined.6

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