What I've Learned After Working Remotely for 10+ Years
Paul Lefebvre Apr 10
It's now been 10 years since I've been working remotely, full-time from my home office. And for a few years prior to that, I had worked remotely at least a few days a week.
After all this time, I obviously think working remotely is the best way to work. In fact, because I've worked remotely for so long, I think I'm officially unable to work in an actual office any more.
Here are what I consider the top reasons for working remotely and how it benefits everyone.
Employees are adults, so why not treat them like it?
I work in the tech industry as a developer and writer. Both of these tasks rely on some creative ability and oftentimes creative work does not like fixed schedules. With a flexible schedule I can switch things up to work when I am likely to be most effective. I can work in the evening when that suits my tasks. Or I can start earlier in the morning. I can pop out in the afternoon during the doldrums so I'm not wasting my time.
I get the benefit of running an errand or attending one of my kid's activities while my employer gets the benefit of me being more effective and available at non-traditional times. They also get the benefit of me having to take less time "off" because I'm essentially just shuffling my time around.
It's really all about getting stuff done. Does it really matter where you do it?
When I tell people I work from my home office, I'm often asked how I can get anything done with all the noise and distractions. Honestly I have no idea what these people are talking about. It is quiet here with just me and the cats. The rest of the family is usually at school, so there is no one else around to provide distractions. The neighborhood is also pretty quiet as most everyone else has to leave to go to their jobs (so sad). Occasionally a neighbor might mow their lawn during the day, but that is no more distracting than the constant sound of sirens and traffic that I heard every day when I worked in the city.
This does mean that you have to actually have an office at your home! Working from home does not mean you're working at the kitchen table with tons of people around. That doesn't count. I have an actual office with a door I can close. And that is much, much better than working in a large office at a cubicle (or worse) in an open-floor plan. There are not many things more distracting than that!
An office with a door is a great way to be productive. Just close the door! There are no co-workers around to "drop-in" and distract you.
A common concern you'll hear from people is "how do you communicate?" Apparently they believe the only communication that works is face-to-face communication.
Don't get me wrong, face-to-face communication is great, but I prefer it in small doses. Otherwise it ends up being a distraction. How many times have you had a co-worker "drop by" your desk to chat, interrupting you for no real good reason?
Chat services such as Slack or iMessage are commonly used even when everyone works in an office because they are effective ways for people to communicate with one another without also constantly interrupting one another. And believe me, those tools also work great for remote workers.
In addition, it's 2018 and video chat is a thing that works real well. Services such as Zoom, Google Hangouts or FaceTime all provide excellent ways to talk face-to-face with one or more people.
But I agree, sometimes it does make sense for the team to get together in person. But that's easy to do! Just schedule time off-site (or on-site) for the entire team to get together. There's nothing wrong with flying everyone to a central location for occasional group meetings. It's wonderful for morale and team building. And because these events happen infrequently, everyone has great incentive to use the time wisely.
Managers can be worried about remote workers. "How do I know they are getting any work done?", they'll ask. Well, how do they know when the worker is in the office? If you are a manager and you only monitor your workers by ensuring they are are their desk for 8+ hours a day, then you are an ineffective manager. It's easy to sit at a desk but not get anything done. Ever heard of Reddit?
Instead, be a manager! Understand what your workers are doing, have milestones and track progress on their work. This is what you need to do regardless of whether someone is in an office or working remotely.
One of the biggest benefits is by having remote workers, you can to greatly expand your pool of potential employees. Rather than being restricted to just those in your geographic area (or those willing to move to it), you can now literally choose the best person from anywhere in the world!
When employees work from home, employers save on office rent and parking. They also help the environment by limiting the amount of people driving to work. It's a lot cheaper to pay for employees' Internet service than it is to pay for renting a large office space in the city and then also having to pay for parking in a garage or parking lot.
You'll get a happier employee that produces quality work, which benefits everyone.
For a technology worker, the benefits of working remotely are tremendous for both the employee and the employer. Consider giving it a try!