The idea of working remotely (working from home, telecommuting, etc) isn’t new. People have been working remotely for years. These highly coveted, and fairy-tale jobs are considered the oasis of employment for many people. The beautiful dreams of a 15 second commute from your comfy bed to the desk in your extra bedroom are all too enticing.
Many employers scoff at the idea of their employees working from the comfort of their home, and some businesses have even banned remote work altogether. After all, how much work actually gets done when someone “works” from home? I imagine many business owners picture their employees sitting in their underwear on the couch, sipping on a nice cool beverage, while dozing off between emails.
The shift that is occurring
There’s something happening in workplaces all over the world. More and more businesses are embracing the idea of remote work. Books have been written about it, and it’s become a hot-topic in business. This could be due to the fact that there are a number of proven benefits for employers, and employees. Here are just a handful:
- Happier and Healthier Employees — With little to no commute, there is no added stress of a long drive to work. Working remotely also gives you the option to cook and prepare your meals from home, rather than going out to lunch at Panda Express every day with your co-workers. It’s reported that 73% of people who work from home eat healthier, and had 25% less stress.
- Boosts in productivity — In a 2013 study by Stanford University and Beijing University it was found that individuals who worked from home had a 13% performance increase, and took fewer breaks and sick-days.
- Saves a company money by not renting an office space — It’s been reported that by allowing employees to work remotely, the company actually benefits. According to a Reuters report, “Through telecommuting, the company has cut 2.7 million square feet of office space at $29 a square foot, for about $78 million in cost savings a year including utilities, housekeeping, mail service and document shredding.”
It’s not always rainbows and butterflies
When I tell people that I work remotely, I hear things like, “Oh, that must be nice!”, or “Wow, you’re lucky!”
Yes it is nice, and yes, I do feel lucky. But, as the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side.”
It’s easy to think that working remotely would fix all of your problems, and you’d be so much happier and fulfilled, yadda-yadda-yadda. In reality, working from home presents it’s own potential problems for both the company, and employee. These are a few challenges that I have found while working remotely:
- No more chats around the water cooler — When you work remotely you typically are working alone. This can be especially difficult for individuals that find themselves to lean towards the social butterfly spectrum of human interaction. Although you have the ability to shoot-the-breeze with your co-workers over Skype or some other form of communication, it’s not the same as being there with them in person.
- More distractio-oh look a squirrel! — Working remotely can be challenging if you don’t have a place in your house that you can remove yourself from distractions. This is especially true if you have a family. It’s very important to have a room, with a desk, and a door. I’ve personally found it beneficial to rent an inexpensive office away from my house, that I can work from when extreme focus is needed.
- Added Communication Barrier — What do you do when you work in an office and you’re facing a tight deadline, need a quick answer, or need clarification about something? You walk 10 feet to your co-workers desk and have a quick chat. Being actual human interaction, it leaves little room for misunderstanding. Working remotely removes that quick face-to-face time. Many remote offices communicate through Skype or some other IM client, which can add some difficulty to getting answers quickly, and understanding them correctly.
In the end, it will come down to what’s best for your company. For many businesses remote work has been the best thing since sliced bread, but for others the risks have outweighed any potential benefits.
If you’re an employee, and you’d like to work remotely, but fear that you couldn’t convince your employer to agree to it, then I recommend reading Remote: Office Not Required. Write out the benefits, specific to your job, and potential risks. Present it to the powers that be, and let them consider all the facts. It might take some time, and could be a bit of an uphill battle. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If you’re a business owner or team leader, don’t be afraid to give remote work a shot. I’d also recommend that you read Remote: Office Not Required. Even allowing your team to work from home one day a week has its benefits.
Always rethink, improve, apply, and repeat.