The Pros and Cons of Working Remotely
Working 9 to 5
When I worked in a “9 to 5” job as a legal services attorney, I used to stop at the gym on my way back from morning court dates. No one really knew at what time I was finished in court, and I always got my work done, staying late if necessary. So I never got in trouble for my liberties. And while I felt a little guilty about pushing the boundaries of my workday, overall I was happier. I could both keep my job and do other things that were important to me.
What made me less happy was that I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted with my family, who lived in a different state. With just two or three weeks’ vacation, I did not have much flexibility. I would travel for short weekends, never feeling like I had enough time to spend with the people I loved.
The Pleasures of Flex Time and Working Remotely
Now that I am a business owner working from home, my flexible hours are a given. I make my own schedule (which includes 9:30am yoga classes). I can travel whenever I want, to anywhere I want, as long as there’s a phone and internet connection. Sure I work every day, but at least I get some changes of scenery.
It would be hard for me to adjust now to a job that required me to be in an office for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. A remote job, however, I could handle. Especially if it came with flex time and “unlimited vacation,” perks which many companies are starting to offer.
I’m not alone in my sentiments. It turns out remote workers are happier and more productive, and feel more valued than non-remote employees. And a Harvard Business Review article cited a survey conducted by Fractl which found that “after health insurance, employees place the highest value on benefits … such as flexible hours, more paid vacation time, and work-from-home options. Not surprisingly, parents are the demographic most enthusiastic about flexible hours and work-life balance. They value these perks even more than health insurance when considering potential job offers!
Remote Working Trends
FlexJobs reports that 3.9 million U.S. employees work from home at least half of the time, more than double the number from 13 years ago. Interestingly, older workers (over 35) are more likely to telecommute than younger ones. Oh yes, I remember that up until age 35, I found it natural to go to an office and stay there all day!
I must admit this data on rising remote work surprised me. I had recently heard about big companies like Yahoo, IBM, and Bank of America going in the opposite direction. They have called thousands of remote employees back into the office – resulting in widespread layoffs. The idea was that remote workers were not able to collaborate and participate in company culture to the extent these companies needed. There were also some situations where employees took inappropriate advantage of their right to work from home.
As with anything in life, balance – and communication – are key. Some companies, like Buffer and Basecamp, function well with fully remote teams. They have robust systems in place to ensure collaboration and communication. Other organizations do better having their employees in person, but allowing flexibility when, for instance, an employee’s child has a doctor’s appointment. And some positions at the same company can be better suited to remote work than others. I’m hearing from some clients that they have been working remotely in their current positions, but to advance to higher levels they need to be physically in the office. That makes sense to me.
The benefits to employees of working remotely are clear, and so are the down-sides – like weaker relationships with colleagues, and the pull to procrastinate. Different personalities are suited to different levels of freedom.
Benefits for Companies
For companies, there are cost-saving benefits to leveraging remote workers. People who previously had to fly from across the globe for meetings, now can attend remotely with the same result. Software platforms (Zoom, Dropbox, GoogleDocs, Slack, etc.) make collaboration easy across continents, and new companies are springing up to take advantage of remote working trends. Remote workers’ productivity is also less affected by things like snow days (better for the company, perhaps, but maybe not as great for the worker who wants to go make snow people with the kids).
One company, Kolabtree, predicts that by 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do think companies need to take care of their employees well and do whatever they can to keep workers happy. If given the right flexibility, even I would consider becoming an employee again!
Are you considering working remotely and want help tailoring your resume or LinkedIn profile for the position? Contact us. We’ll be happy to help you focus your career documents for the job you want.