Are You Cut Out For Remote Work?
Remote work, working from home, telecommuting… the number of companies who are offering a flexible work environment or 100% remote jobs is increasing as technology enables employees to, literally, work from anywhere.
According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce study by Global Workplace Analytics and Flexjobs, over the past 10 years telecommuting has grown by 115%, which is nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce. 40% more employers offered remote working options last year than they did in 2010.
The study also found that “professional, scientific, and technical services” industries have the highest volume of telecommuters of any other industries in the US.
While telecommuting is seen by many as the future of the workforce, with coworking spaces popping up across the globe to accommodate this new type of “rootless” professional, not everyone naturally thrives at first when given this kind of flexibility and freedom. Here are the pros and cons of having a non-traditional workplace, along with the most important things you should do to set yourself up for success if you’re given the chance to work remotely.
Flexibility: This is by far the biggest advantage to working remotely. Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey found that 75% of millennials desire more “flexibility” in their careers and the opportunity to work remotely. They tied working remotely to greater job satisfaction and increased productivity. This is more than double the figure of millennials who actually currently work remotely, sending a strong signal to employers that the younger, upwardly mobile workforce want non-traditional office environments and the freedom to choose where they work.
Independence: Regardless of your job title or seniority level, the ability to control your own hours (for the most part), work habits, and time management strategies gives you a sense of autonomy and independence that feels almost as if you are your own boss at times, which can be empowering and motivating.
No commute: “I really miss sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours every day” said NO. ONE. EVER.
You’re in charge of your day: Need to pick up someone from the airport or take your child to the doctor? Life’s emergencies and obligations are often much more difficult (and stressful … and guilt-inducing) to coordinate when you work a 9-5 in a traditional office where your absence can be closely tracked and even frowned upon, even if your performance doesn’t suffer because of it. Working remotely tends to be results-driven, with employers prioritizing the work you produce rather than counting the time you might spend doing it. As long as you’re meeting your deadlines for deliverables, staying connected via email and company messaging systems, and showing up prepared for all of your meetings, how you manage your time is for the most part up to you.
Less distractions?: While this may seem counterintuitive, sometimes working from home can provide you with less distractions than an office. There’s a lot of chitter chatter that goes on throughout the day in an office setting, during which not much work is getting done. Remote work eliminates the “water cooler” factor, which can save you valuable time and energy to focus on your tasks.
It’s environmentally friendly: The 2017 Global Analytics Workplace study on telecommuting also says the environmental impact of telecommuting saves the US $1.5 billion per year, and, due to fewer people commuting in to the office every day, decreases the overall carbon footprint of each individual.
Can be isolating: Why have coworking spaces touting themselves as “communities” and “shared” spaces become so popular for remote workers? It’s simple. Working remotely can be lonely and isolating for some. You may get to the point where you crave not just socializing with people, but professional interactions, so you’ll need to find ways to get involved, seek out face-to-face contacts, and build a network of professional connections.
Distractions: This isn’t too much of an issue if you go to a coworking space, but working from home requires real focus and the will-power not to get tempted by family or household distractions. If you have too many frequent interruptions throughout the day – five minutes here, ten minutes there – the time loss can really add up and make it more difficult for you to concentrate on work.
Finding a good place to work: If you don’t live in a very large space, you’ll have to be smart about where you decide to work. Ideally, you want to stay out of your bedroom or communal places like the living room or kitchen/dining area. But, this often means an extra room is dedicated to an office. While this may not be an issue for everyone, it can cause a bit of disruption in your household when you lose a certain amount of living space that needs to be converted into an office.
Less networking: One of the benefits of a coworking space for remote workers is the opportunity to keep networking and stay engaged professionally and socially. Working exclusively from a home office can make you feel disconnected from your peers or colleagues and a little removed from what’s going on in your field.
You feel “out of the loop”: Company messaging systems, along with regular video conferences and emails, can definitely keep you connected to your colleagues, but working remotely still feels at times like you’re just “out of the loop” and not in tune with all the dynamics going on at your company, especially if you’re one of just a few people who work from home while the rest of your colleagues work together in an office.
Extroverts need an outlet: Much of one’s initial success at working remotely depends on personality. If you’re an extrovert who thrives on and requires interactions with other people to stay energized, focused, and motivated, working remotely may be a difficult adjustment at first.
More sedentary: It’s not news that sitting for long periods of time is bad for our health, but a recent study just found that being sedentary (like sitting at a desk for most of the day) can even affect brain function and memory. If your “commute” to work entails a short walk from your bed to your desk, where you’ll sit most of the day, you’ll need to make an extra effort to be physically active and get out of your house.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE IT WORK
- Decide where you’ll work: Are you going to work from home full time? Or go to a coworking space for most or part of the week? Do you like to work an afternoon or two at a coffee shop or the library? Decide on a routine and stick to it each week to avoid feeling disorganized and like you don’t know where to go each morning.
- Dedicated work space: Once you know where you’re most productive, create a comfortable space for working. If it’s in your home, ideally you’ll want to set up an office away from where you sleep or where other people might be coming in and out (like the living room or kitchen). An unused bedroom or basement is ideal. Whatever you have available, you’ll want to create a space that is as separate from your living quarters as possible.
- Technology: Make sure you don’t have any problems with your WiFi and that you have all of the tools you need, just as if you were in an actual office. This includes a printer, scanner, extra monitors, earphones or a headset, and any video conferencing tools you need. Set up an area – however large or small – in your home that is dedicated solely to work. This will help with focus and keep you from getting distracted or feeling disorganized.
- Family support: If you have young children who might be home while you work (or any other family members for that matter), make sure they know what your unavailable hours are and that just because you’re physically in the house, it doesn’t mean that you are available at any time. Set realistic boundaries for your work schedule and communicate them very clearly to everyone in your household.
- A place for your pets: If you’re in an important video conference or phone call, you don’t want your dog barking up a storm in the background. Not exactly professional. Take care to make sure your pets won’t interfere in any way.
- A sign for your door: Have a sign ready to tape on your front door during those important meetings where you absolutely can’t be disturbed or distracted. It’s the physical equivalent of turning your cell phone ringer off.
- Get dressed: If you work from home, you may be tempted to wear “comfy” clothes (aka pajamas) all the time. After all, if you’re not video chatting with anyone, what’s the point? Well, the point is, working in sweatpants can send your brain subtle signals that it’s not time to work. You need to make a special effort at home to create a professional environment and to be in “work mode”, and that includes the clothes you have on.