When you hear “remote work” do you think of “dream job” and the ability to work outside of the office (dare I say on the beach)? Remote work has become a popular option among today’s workforce. Many companies allow the ability to work from home when necessary while others hire for full-time remote positions. Telecommuting has grown significantly in the past few years. From 2005 to 2011, the number of employees who worked from home at least a few days a week grew by 60 percent, by one estimate.*
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE SOMEWHAT UGLY
Sure, it is fairly easy to point out some of the benefits of telecommuting. Many who do work from home are quick to describe the sheer joy that comes from being able to work in pajamas all day. What’s better than that, honestly? Consider these other benefits and drawbacks to remote work.
The Good: Flexibility
When it comes to work environments, remote employees have unique preferences. Some prefer quiet spaces while others feed off the hustle and bustle of those around them. Employers who are able to accommodate have access to fantastic global talent. This flexibility contributes to a happier workforce overall and, in turn, improves productivity.
Another added benefit is a better work/life balance as employees can spend more time with their families, on their health, and on personal hobbies. In 2014, ConnectSolutions surveyed 353 telecommuters and found that 35 percent of those polled were getting more exercise and 42 percent were eating healthier – simply because they worked from home. Fifty-one percent of those polled said they were also able to spend more time with their families.
The Bad: Flexibility
Wait… flexibility can also be bad? Though telecommuting can contribute to healthier work environments, there are some disadvantages worth considering. Employees in different time zones can cause logistic problems. For example, organizing meetings can be more difficult as organizers must consider individual employee schedules. And when you are already home, you can easily lose track of time and spend more hours working.
The Good: Less Traffic, Less Road Rage, and a (Much) Shorter Commute
What more is there to say, honestly?
The Bad: Isolation and Little Change In Environment
There is great value in seeing co-workers face-to-face and those interactions help make each employee feel like a part of the team. Isolation can become a real disadvantage when you work from home and miss out on team lunches, the occasional prank, and office banter. One can only talk to their pets so much.
Having an office at home means it can be easier to get into cruise-control mode when working on a project. It does not take much to let the hours pass by before you realize it is time for a break. Some office distractions can be beneficial. Without those, remote workers may find it harder to separate work time from personal time.
TOOLS AND TRICKS OF THE TRADE
With some of these pros and cons in mind, how are employees able to stay productive and connected? There is a tremendous amount of tools available for companies who have remote employees. Chat clients like HipChat and Slack connect employees and provide a way for them to still participate in office banter, which help remote employees feel better connected. Video conferencing platforms like Skype, Hangouts, Join.me, Sqwiggle, and GoToMeeting can easily host meetings and allow for quick discussions about projects – boosting collaboration. These are especially useful when simple chat rooms are not enough. And, in order to ensure that teams are on the same track, project management tools like Asana, Pivotal Tracker, and Jira can be critical. Teams can effectively monitor progress and stay informed on action items for projects.
Remote workers can also stay focused by considering the following tips:
Communication is key. Employees who work from home may need to be a little more intentional in communicating what tasks they are completing each day. This also applies to contributing to normal office banter – especially if some of that banter occurs in a company-wide chat room.
Establish An Agenda For The Day
Setting up an agenda or list of action items for the day can help employees stay focused as well as keep others in the loop. Daily standup meetings, an aspect of Agile development, let each employee share work, progress, and roadblocks. This is where those project management tools become incredibly helpful.
Allow Room For Breaks
Breaks can help separate the day into more, manageable chunks and stepping away from a project can help refocus the mind. Plus, taking a quick walk stretches out your legs and back after sitting in a chair for so many hours. That is a benefit to your overall health.
IN THE END
Yes, some logistics need to be considered when a company allows telecommuting. However, remote work can contribute to a happier and healthier workforce. And, with the help of video conferencing and chat clients, employees should not feel isolated from the rest of the team.
Does remote work sound like the dream job? What are some of the challenges and benefits you’ve seen with working from home? Let us know in the comments!
*Source: Inc Magazine & The Telework Research Network