What It’s Really Like To Work Remotely
By Russ O’Reilly
As a technical recruiter, I find myself on the outside looking in for about 99% of my work week. It can be hard to relate with the person on the other end of the phone when the gap between their technical skills and mine is about as wide as a Mack truck. So when I started taking notice of people expressing an interest in remote/flexible work arrangements, I decided to dig in on some research so I could relate. This was something I could actually wrap my head around.
Lots of companies are moving to progressive work models that include the option for their employees to work remotely. It’s pretty easy to see why. They get to spend way less money on office space, utilities, and furniture ($11k per employee annually, as a matter of fact), while expanding their potential hiring pool to candidates outside their local area and appealing to today’s young talent looking for a “cool” workplace.
The average employee’s image of remote work conjures up ideas of sleeping in late, working on your own schedule, and not having to deal with the big three: annoying co-workers, meetings, and pants. Appealing, no?
But what’s it really like to have a flexible arrangement with your workplace? I decided to ask a handful of Corporate Brokers’ current and former remote consultants — Hamilton, Alex, Naresh, and Krunal — to see what they had to say about it.
All four agreed: having a flexible schedule is definitely preferable to a 100% in-office structure, highlighting benefits like no commute and the ability to take care of those pesky life issues that come up during the day.
“You never know when your kid will be sick or you need to be home to wait for the cable guy,” said Naresh, a java developer. Being stuck in a traditional 9–5 job can make accomplishing these necessary tasks difficult or require an employee to take a day off, reducing productivity and increasing the potential for lost wages.
But productivity isn’t usually a problem thanks to modern collaborative tools and cloud-based services that connect remote employees in ways that weren’t possible before. “These days, everyone uses Skype, Slack, email, or HipChat and it’s easy to stay in touch. With both desktop and mobile clients, the whole team is in constant contact in the office, at home, or on the road,” says site reliability engineer, Alex.
Sounds as if telework is the new Goldilocks solution for employees and employers alike, right? Well, maybe not. Our informal panel of experts also agreed there are several challenges that come along with a distributed workforce. It seems there’s no substitute for being on-site when it comes to crunch time.
“Sometimes the fastest way to resolve an issue is to walk over to your teammate’s desk and get immediate help, rather than having to wait 15 minutes for them to respond to your message,” added Krunal, a software development engineer in test (SDET).
It’s also difficult, they say, for on-screen interactions to compare with face-to-face interactions when building a cohesive work culture. Distributed teams might miss out on things like pot lucks, inside jokes, happy hours, and other activities whose value shouldn’t be overlooked in terms of developing relationships between team members. Missing out on these connections can mean missing out on a sense of peer accountability, which can hurt performance overall.
Your physical work area is also something important to consider when thinking about remote work. If you end up trying to get into “work mode” while sitting on your couch in your pajamas, you’re going to have a tough time avoiding distractions (HGTV marathons, anyone?). Hamilton, another SDET with Corporate Brokers, gave me the inside scoop on how he achieves top productivity while working from home: he has a fully dedicated work room. He starts his day normally, goes into his home office space, closes the door, and he’s able to seamlessly switch to (and stay in) “work mode”.
The jury’s out on whether or not remote work is the best thing for everyone. It mostly depends on what kind of worker you are and how your company feels about a distributed team. Either way, there are undeniable pros and cons to a teleworking structure.
What do you think? Do you like being in the office and establishing a rapport with your team in-person? Would you rather stay home and spend some QT with Fido? Is the right balance somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Russ O’Reilly is a technical recruiter at Corporate Brokers. He recruits for software development positions, typically in the world of Java. When he isn’t chatting tech with developers everywhere, you can find him playing weekly trivia (a little too seriously) and sailing the Chesapeake Bay. Say hi on LinkedIn!