According to the State of the Remote Job Marketplace report from FlexJobs, 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9% of the total U.S. workforce, now work from home at least half of the time. With hiring managers predicting that in the next 10 years, more than one third of their employees will work remotely, this number is only set to grow.
As more organizations hire remote workers to increase their talent pool, companies are trying to set themselves apart by introducing robust remote work programs and employee recognition solutions to attract remote workers and ensure that they are engaged.
So what's it like to work remotely? Having worked remotely myself for three years, I’m excited to discuss the pros and cons.
Working in pajamas at strange hours, with your only human interaction for the day being chat messages and video calls; remote working can be challenging and incredibly freeing at the same time. For me, the flexibility to take a walk to clear your mind, pick up your kids from school, and fit in doctors’ appointments makes for a healthier work-life balance.
Advantages and disadvantages of working remotely
The Owl Labs Global State of Remote Work reports that employees who work remotely at least once a month are actually 24% happier than those who never work remotely. Why might remote workers be happier than their office counterparts? As a remote worker, you are more in control of your own work life. Since you are essentially in charge of filling your own workday, you need to be more self-motivated and organized than your office-bound colleagues. Perhaps this combination of freedom and discipline is why remote workers report being happier.
Based on research and personal experience, here are some of the pros and cons of remote work:
1. Flexibility: The State of Remote Work 2018 Report from Buffer states that their survey respondents listed a flexible schedule as the biggest advantage of remote work. As a remote worker, you can decide your own work times. Of course you usually need to be available during normal working hours, but with a flexible work schedule, you can also get your work done in the evening or at weekends, if that's more convenient.
2. Energy: Working from home avoids the need to commute to and from work, often freeing up at least one hour every day. You think less about how you look and dress and more about being comfortable and productive. Being in your own space has the potential to make you feel more relaxed, saving energy and making you feel less tired at the end of the day.
3. Focus: When working remotely, many find there to be fewer distractions, enabling more productivity and increased job satisfaction.
1. Loneliness: Although you may have online meetings and calls, you miss out on spontaneous conversations and office banter. According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2018 Report, 21% of respondents found loneliness to be their biggest struggle with working remotely.
2. Getting out less: As a remote worker, you may find yourself with much more time at home, which can become dreary after a while. Sometimes it’s nice to be in a different environment, like a coworking space or coffee shop.
3. Feeling left out: When attending online meetings, you may not understand certain projects or jokes made in the office since you're missing context, which can sometimes make you feel more isolated.
How to be a happy and successful remote worker
Whether you're currently working remotely or are considering making the leap, here are 10 tips to make the most of the wonderful opportunity of working remotely:
1. Prioritize purpose in your work: When working remotely, it is even more important to derive meaning from your job since you're missing the camaraderie and personal contact that can give you purpose. No matter what your job is, whether in marketing, engineering, or technical support, there are always ways to find purpose in your work. Think about who is ultimately benefiting from your efforts. Perhaps you helped a customer solve their issue or wrote a useful article. Work is no longer the means to an end, and intrinsic motivators are more powerful today than ever before.
Employers play an important role in helping remote workers feel recognized, too. Once, when I reached the substantial goal of launching a new website, my boss called me to say how happy he was with the end result. He shared how my contribution had played a large role in its success. He said that since he knew I was not in the office, I might not pick up on all the excitement and positive comments the marketing team was getting, so he wanted to call me to tell me himself. As you can imagine, this made me feel very appreciated.
Need more inspiration? Purpose expert Zach Mercurio shares ways to discover purpose while working remotely in 3 Proven Ways to Discover Purpose When You Have a Home Business.
2. Be clear on expectations: Make sure you understand what is expected from you, and take the initiative instead of just waiting for your manager. After finishing a meeting, it's a good idea to follow up with an email and sum up what actions you'll take or provide a summary of the assignment. It's always better to err on the side of being too specific; since you're working remotely, some things may be interpreted differently than you intended. By being more specific, you can avoid miscommunication.
3. Communicate progress: Make it easy for others to see your progress on agreed-upon tasks. There are many collaboration tools that can be used for this, such as Atlassian Confluence, Trello, and Samepage. These tools make it easier for your manager and colleagues to instantly receive an update on your progress whenever they need it.
4. Have regularly scheduled online meetings: If you're working on a project with other team members, it's important to have regularly scheduled meetings. This creates opportunities to talk with team members about items that otherwise wouldn't come up.
5. Meet in person at regular intervals: Even though you can be very effective working remotely, it is important to meet the team in person every now and then. It is much easier to get to know your colleagues on a personal level when meeting face-to-face, which helps you better understand team dynamics. Whether once a month, quarter, or half-year, it's useful to have a regular cadence of visitation with your team. In this way, everyone knows what to expect, and certain activities can be planned during your visit. If remote workers are in the minority, meeting in the office is usually the best setting. If you have a fully-remote team, an offsite retreat is a great solution.
6. Have a friend in the office: When I started working remotely, I instantly formed a good relationship with a new colleague. He realized that I might be missing out on certain things since I was remote, and he took it upon himself to keep me up to date. For instance, he would let me know if there was any feedback from other departments on our work that I may have missed, and he would share company news discussed in the office that wasn't always shared formally.
If you don't already have strong relationships with coworkers, consider trying something like Quuu's weekly buddy system, which has had a significant impact on their team's productivity and happiness.
7. Take regular breaks: Since you'll likely have fewer distractions as a remote worker, you can end up sitting at your desk too long. Get up every hour, grab some fresh air, and set an alarm at the end of the day to avoid working too long. Make sure you get enough physical activity too. Read up on the different ways to avoid being too sedentary.
8. Designate a separate workspace: Preferably this is a separate room, coworking space, or favorite coffee shop. It's important to have your own space where you can work without distraction when family members or roommates come home. Separating business and personal space can also help put you in a better mindset for getting work done.
9. Combat loneliness: It's easy to feel some loneliness when working alone all day. To combat this, I like to listen to NPR radio. I have the radio on in my living room but away from my main workspace. Then, when I take a break or have my lunch, I listen to the news and discussions, which makes me feel engaged. In addition, I actively seek out social contact, not only with family members but also with other members of the community.
Think about using a coworking space and signing up for meetup.com to see if there are any interesting groups you can join. Book clubs, hiking groups, and professional groups are all great opportunities to meet people while doing the things you love. If you don’t see a group you like, you can always start your own.
10. Have a routine, but be flexible: A great perk of remote work is your flexibility. This means that if evenings or weekends work better for you, you can take advantage of that. However, it's helpful to have a routine and work at set times. That will also make it much easier for your colleagues to collaborate with you.