Remote Work: Answering Your Questions on Virtual Employment
What is remote work?
Have you ever wondered, “How can I pursue a professional career without ever leaving my house?” – If so, you are not alone. Remote work is a term defined as a work arrangement in which employees can work from home or from anywhere they choose—eliminating (or reducing) the need to commute or travel to a brick and mortar location.
Remote work can be defined as: Anything outside a traditional 9-5, in-office role.
The desire for flexibility and freedom is high but it is not for everyone and there is a lot to consider when taking that step into the virtual world of work. Some frown at the thought of no socialization, increased loneliness, and the need for structure. Others only dream of the day they get to wake up and walk the 30 seconds to their home office to start their workday without having to travel to a location and face the distractions of an office environment.
12 ways to say, “Not in the office”
When you start scrolling through job postings, you can identify positions for remote work by understanding the interchangeable terms and different types of work structures.
Here are 12 ways I’ve seen job postings for positions where the employee is not expected in the office (at least not every day 9-5):
The pros of remote work
Remote work is on the rise, due to more and more studies that find improved productivity and better work/life balance among remote workers. The increased availability and enhancement of online and on-demand collaboration platforms (i.e. Yammer, Zoom and WebEx), make it easier for people to attend meetings and conferences and work together in real-time in an environment that simulates in-person collaboration.
For the worker, remote work does provide more independence, control over time and tasks and can be a way to bridge the gap between being employed by another entity and being an independent entrepreneur with all the risks associated therein. Even if you’re a full-time employee working remotely, there are inherent benefits to not being tied to a desk from 9-5 in an office located away from your home.
Here are five reasons people are gravitating toward remote work options:
#1 Make your own schedule
In a remote work situation, workers can structure their own time. If you are a morning person, you may decide to complete all your work earlier in the day. If you are more focused at night, you can work after dinnertime. Working from home also provides more time and less stress if you have children to raise. Remote work allows parents to take care of their kids after school or when they’re sick; rather than hiring someone or taking off work to pick them up or drop them off at school and other activities. Of course, organization and time management are very important when you don’t have a set schedule or someone to report to and may be a skill some people need to develop in order to be successful in a remote position.
Remote work doesn’t mean you’re tied to your desk at home. If you’re working remotely, you can work from literally anywhere! Remote workers can bring a laptop to their kid’s sports practices, work from coffee houses and restaurants or outside on a beautiful day; accompany a partner on business trips—and so much more. Portable electronic devices make it easy to work from anywhere and at any time. Building in down time without being connected to work is another challenge for remote workers.
#3 No commute
A downside for many people who work at an office is the long commute to work. Even if the distance is not great, rush hour traffic can add time and stress to the work day. People who skip the commute find that they spend that time working productively at their jobs and have more time to spend away from work. Remote work is a great to make your once dreaded commute a distant memory.
#4 No “Busy Work”
If you are working on a project basis from home, when you are done with your project or workload, you are done! There’s no need to find something else to do to pass the time until the clock strikes 5pm. If you finish and there’s a half day left – it’s up to you what you’d like to do next as you do not have a manager watching over your shoulder or telling you how you spend your time. If you are a full-time employee, you may find that taking a walk in nature helps you to think innovatively about your role and allows you time to consider solutions to improve processes or meet company goals.
#5 More family time
In a remote work situation, nobody is keeping tabs on you. Want to take your kids to a matinee at 11:00 a.m. on a Wednesday? Go ahead, nobody will know! The best part of remote work is being able to schedule your projects around family and personal time. Depending on your role, there may be hours when you are expected to be available to meet with team members or answer questions, but there is most likely flexibility for being away from your desk for some period of time during the day.
The cons of remote work
Although remote work is on the rise and works well for many people and organizations, there are associated downsides. While the pros still outweigh the cons, here are four of the challenges and roadblocks to remote work:
#1 Isolation and lack of personal contact with colleagues
Feeling like you are not part of the company framework can be difficult to deal with when you’re at home and everyone at the office is enjoying a catered lunch. Not having someone to eat lunch with or have a quick laugh with can tap into those feelings of disconnect. What about being able to physically see people? Taking in their expressions and body language is a psychological response to personal interaction, and when you’re corresponding only through email you cannot pick up on those cues like you can in person. Encourage your team members and people you are corresponding with to meet with you virtually to establish connection.
Are remote workers being promoted as much as those in the office? The saying “out of sight, out of mind” can be true in some cases. Those who come into the office everyday are physically seen and may be more “top of mind” for managers. To combat this, schedule video meetings/lunches, send consistent emails and ecards and make sure you are being as visible as possible.
#3 Stereotypes and misconceptions
People who do not work virtually assume it’s easier than physically coming into work. I have had people say “Oh it’s so nice you get to stay home with your kids.” but have you ever tried working while kids are constantly interrupting you? It’s incredibly frustrating and challenging. Also, some remote workers have complained about not taking a lunch break because they find themselves doing laundry or cleaning the kitchen and before they know it – it’s time to get back on the computer!
Always feeling “On” and working around the clock, remote workers are faced with not being able to separate work and life. No specific hours or having your “office” always around the corner from your kitchen and bedroom makes it hard to end your day as you are constantly checking your phone or inbox. You need extreme self-control.
How do you land a remote role?
Ask your current employer if they have “flextime”. This is something that you may be able to request. Flextime is a customized and affordable work option that the employer and staff come up with by altering schedules to best utilize productivity while giving staff a great work/life balance. While you won’t be working from home every day, flextime gives you a chance to enjoy the pros and remote work and avoid some of the cons.
Start looking for remote jobs online. FlexJobs.com is a great resource for these roles and there are many sites dedicated to virtual work. LinkedIn now even has a remote filter, so set up search alert for remote jobs in your category. Also, do your due diligence and research remote workers on social media sites at the companies you want to work for to come up with a target company list.
Everything is negotiable. If you see a job you want but it’s not offered virtually, apply anyway! You’ll get noticed by showing off your value and then possibly negotiate a flexible working structure. Many current remote jobs were not supposed to be remote, but workers with the right skill sets and company fit were able to negotiate the option to work from home.
Keep lines of communication open. Professionals in certain fields of work seem to be sought out for flexible positions. Many IT and creative professionals frequently report being approached about short-term contracts or projects. For them, landing a flexible position may just be a matter of responding to job advertisements or recruiter emails. For others, networking may play a big part.
Networking is always the key to becoming more visible in the marketplace. Your network will always be the best resource for gathering information on virtual jobs and best companies who offer remote options and flex time. Reach out to former bosses, family friends, colleagues, LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends and anyone you can think of to ask what they do and how they do it.
Develop new networks by attending events and searching for people in a variety of ways, including:
- Local meet-ups
- Informational Chats
- LinkedIn Groups
Remote work challenges for HR and organizations
Having a remote workforce can save a company money on brick and mortar expenses add office resources. However, there are still roadblocks for some people who want more flex time or a chance to work remotely all the time.
Here are five common objections to remote work:
#1 Building a team
The impact of the team to gather physically and the ability to simply talk/work in real-time due to different time zones can be a huge challenge. Additionally, when teams are working collaboratively on a project, until you see the final product, the team and manager may be unable to determine if the remote worker is working on the project appropriately and if the work is meeting goals and standards. Be prepared for frequent performance check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page and to help you produce a quality final product.
#2 Lack of communication
To run an effective operation, there needs to be open lines of communication and flawless coordination of virtual team members. A lot of times, managers need to implement additional channels of communication whether it be internal collaboration tools like Yammer or fun competitions or weekly digital meetings.
One of the most difficult parts of remote work is coordinating a work time that accommodates people from all over the world. When time zone differences are a factor, culture variances and different tempos of life create significant challenges,
#4 Corporate culture
To create an atmosphere of inclusion, management needs to ensure that all practices, disciplines and tools to support remote workers are in place. When headquarters holds parties, friendly competitions or perks like tickets to sports games or museums; this can make the remote worker feel out of the loop and ignored. They want to be included in the corporate environment, even if they cannot be there physically.
#5 Employee performance
A huge challenge is difficulty in tracking performance and ensuring the remote worker’s time and efficiency are up to standards. Managers need to keep an eye out for time management and quality work output. It’s more difficult to track this virtually than when physically seeing the person in the office.
Virtual employment is definitely on the rise, so being proactive and understanding the benefits and downsides of remote work today will help you be prepared to work from home tomorrow.