Working Remotely: A Blessing or a Curse? [Expert Roundup]Written by Mindaugas on September 25, 2019
The topic of working remotely has become increasingly relevant in the current labor market. A number of studies have been conducted in order to shed some light on working remotely and its effects on workplace productivity.
Are we romanticizing the fact that a home office will bring us added benefits? Not needing to put on pants in the morning before settling down in your “office” may allure some people. But I digress.
How are real people embracing telecommuting? Do the benefits of a remote work lifestyle transcend different industries? I have inquired a few remote workers about the benefits they enjoy as well as the challenges they face while working from home. Some great responses to a heated topic will be found bellow.
Continue reading and see if your preconceived notions about telecommuting match reality.
George Mouratidis, Digital nomad and travel writer
I have been working as a remote content writer for the past three years. My experience includes full time and freelance positions, so I’d love to talk about both.
Awesome perks of working remotely:
- Bye bye alarm! You get to sleep as much as you want (if you don’t work on a full time position). Even in that case, you can get up 30 minutes before work starts because your office is in the next room
- Better work/life balance: you don’t have to deal with office politics or being overworked. Lack of commute works wonders on one’s mental health.
- Nothing’s stopping you from becoming a digital nomad.
- Productivity is higher because there are no distractions and you can focus on what needs to be done at all times
- Companies like Stasher for which I currently work full time have a super remote-friendly policy. Their trust is a further incentive to be even more productive and exceed expectations
- Missing office banter and inside jokes
- Not working from public places every once in a while can really make you anti-social
- The real distractions come from family members and pets that might not realize you are working and need your attention right now!
Kristen Youngs, Co-Founder of Coaching No Code Apps
I’m the co-founder of Coaching No Code Apps, a platform for teaching non-technical entrepreneurs and startups how to build apps without coding. I work completely remotely while traveling full time and also run a blog on the side.
The biggest benefit of working remotely is the flexibility it provides, and that applies to many different aspects of both work and life. In the past, when I was a traditional 9-5 employee, my work hours, work space, and work habits were all predetermined. I had to work within whatever boundaries my employer had set.
Working remotely, however, allows me to mold those things to better suit my needs. I can now take breaks when my productivity starts to wane, switch work locations if I need a boost of creativity, or work in a way that feels most productive to me. Sometimes, that means working from home in the morning and working from a cafe in the afternoon. Other times, it might mean leaving the house all day because I know I’ll get distracted otherwise. To put it simply, my life is vastly more flexible now, and that lifts a big weight off my shoulders.
That being said, working remotely comes with its challenges, too. The biggest thing to combat are distractions. When you work from your living room, for example, you might be tempted to turn on the TV for “just one show” (that turns into 5). You might be tempted to get up and go to the kitchen more, or turn a quick break into a 3 hour nap. There are distractions all around you when working remotely, and it takes self-control to stay on task when no one’s watching over your shoulder.
Even so, as long as you can ignore the distractions, working remotely does wonders for productivity, simply because you have the option of molding your work setting and situation to best suit yourself.
Sierra Marling, Public relations professional
Sometimes you find yourself feeling distant from the everyday occurrences of your clients and can no longer relate to what their small talk.
It’s a lonely feeling sometimes realizing that you have chosen your individual freedom to work from wherever you please with a (usually) flexible schedule and given up the office parties, morning chats with coworkers, and feeling of fellowship that comes from working at a company. That’s why you have to make your own community, so to speak.
Freelancing networking groups exist on Facebook and LinkedIn, and it’s easier than ever to reach out to people doing the same work as you on Twitter. I advise anyone who works remotely to take advantage of those networking opportunities to strengthen your work and your life because we’re working in an industry of greats.
James Nuttal, Content and outreach specialist at Africa Travel
Feeling unproductive can often be a drawback when working from home because your distractions are more infinite. This can sometimes lead to a sense of guilt, but what remote workers often forget is that they do not have anyone to talk to like they would in an office; they don’t need to answer questions from colleagues the same, they don’t get the office chat, they don’t have to walk across the corridor to visit the toilet or pop out for lunch.
However, when you work from home, you still need a certain amount of distraction so you can get away from your work in order to come back to it, focused and settled. Although the distractions may be greater when working from home, I often find I’ve done even more when working from home.This is probably largely down to the fact that you can work on your own terms and, to some extent, your own schedule.
I often find that I’m working past my contracted hours because you don’t have to commute; therefore, you’re not watching the clock in the run up to 5 pm, to make sure you catch your train or beat the rush hour traffic. As a result, you aren’t looking at the clock, so it can be 5:30 pm before you even know it and you’re still working.
This is fantastic in terms of output, although it can be difficult to switch off once the working day is over. Because you don’t have that process of shutting down, putting your coat on and walking out of the office, it’s important to disassociate your work environment and your home.Home offices are ideal to create this feeling, or at least sit up to the kitchen table instead of working from your bed, all day.
Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza, Brand editor at House Method
I’m most productive working from home when my house is in order. When the dishes aren’t calling and the laundry is done and the dog has been walked, I can settle in and work. It certainly helps to have a home office where I can shut the door and eliminate distractions like these.
It’s very easy to be “always on” when you work from home, so I keep regular business hours so that work life doesn’t unnecessarily bleed into my home life. I’m more effective in my domestic life because of this.
I love a home or remote working environment because it allows me flexibility to go to the gym on my lunch hour, pop out for a few hours to a coffee shops when I need a change of scenery, or even go away for trips more often, because my work is as mobile as I am.
Maia Nolan-Partnow, Content consultant at Wintergreen
After a cross-country move a couple of years ago, I spent about six months telecommuting from Milwaukee to Anchorage, Alaska. As a social person, I found that joining a co-working space helped me feel more connected to my office thousands of miles away. I liked the feeling of being in an office with colleagues, even if it wasn’t my company and coworkers.
Time zones were my biggest challenge, since the three-hour time difference meant I only overlapped with my coworkers for part of the day, and we had to make sure any meetings fit into that shared window. What’s interesting is that since going into business for myself, I find working at home alone and the time difference to be net positives.
Being in my own space helps me feel more focused on a business that hinges solely on my effort and performance. And I love having most of my clients in a time zone that’s three hours behind. I can get in several solid hours of uninterrupted work in the morning before they’re in the office, and have answers and work product waiting in their inboxes when they arrive in the office. And when issues come up toward the end of the workday, I’m already through dinnertime and kids’ bedtime, so it’s not hard for me to hop back online and get work done.
Joshua Belland, SEO consultant
Working from home as a digital marketer definitely has its benefits. You have the freedom to make your own hours, very low overhead, little to no commuting and you can make any coffee shop or cafe your office for the day.
While working remotely has all of those wonderful perks, challenges certainly come with the territory as well. Creativity, in many ways, is ignited through collaboration with others. There are times when I just wish I had someone like-minded to bounce ideas off of. Have you ever tried brainstorming with yourself (if you try this, I recommend not doing it in a public venue).
The other challenge is staying disciplined enough to hold yourself accountable. It is easier said than done, and if you struggle with your daily routine, find a friend to be your accountability partner. It will help you tremendously if both of you take it seriously.
Leslie Handmaker, Senior digital marketing strategist at Paycor
I’m a remote employee working in Denver, USA for the HR software company,Paycor which is headquartered in Cincinnati, USA.
Overall the experience of working remotely has been quite positive. I stay in touch with my team via email, instant messaging, and phone calls. Once every 6-8 weeks I’ll travel to the office in Cincinnati which helps keep the personal connections with my team strong.
Because I work remotely, from home, I’m in an environment that is more comfortable for me than sitting in an office. This translates to more productivity and I’m much more willing to work longer hours because I am more comfortable. It also eliminates challenges such as having to fight traffic to and from work.
As for downsides, I’ve only encountered one, and that comes into play with meetings I join remotely via conference lines. It can often be tough to interject comments into the discussion via phone. Also, I don’t have the ability to read the room and see body language which can give me insights into what’s not being said.
Aaron Evans, Technical solutions architect at One Shore
I work remotely while building our home (a yurt!) in the Montana backcountry. I love it. There are challenges to working remotely — some of mine may be unique — but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
As a technical solutions architect, I’m constantly in meetings with enterprise clients so I rely on my internet connection — which isn’t always reliable. When I apologize and explain about my remote location, it can lead to great personal conversations.
Because I live far from a major city, travel is also challenging, but it’s worth the expense to stay connected with clients and the home office. Booking several trips at a time in the same region makes the most of my travel but is exhausting.
I love the flexibility that working from home allows. I can pop in between meetings and say hi to my family and see my wife and children homeschooling — they work from home too. I often use the excuse to grab a snack too. But, I can also use that flexibility to get some quick exercise or take a walk in the woods. I should do that more.
Social interaction is a challenge when working remotely, but I’m a hermit by nature, and I’m constantly communicating so the physical isolation and closeness suits me.
I’ve worked from home while living in the city, and many of the day to day challenges are the some. I’ve also worked while traveling abroad, and around the USA in an RV. Travel brings a whole new set of challenges but it’s another great benefit of working remotely.
Elene Cafasso, Executive coach at Enerpace Inc.
Working at home can actually make you MORE productive! I work with so many clients who are interrupted all day long by folks stopping by or the phone ringing off the hook. I actually coached a Director of Strategic Planning who went to a floor under construction so he could THINK!
When working at home, we need to be more proactive about forming and maintaining relationships. Add an extra 5 minutes to phone calls to catch up. Let more personality come through in emails. Have virtual water cooler conversations.
All of the productivity and time management techniques you use in the office work just as well when working from home. However, I’m a bit of a contrarian on avoiding distractions. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to take 5 minutes to throw in a load of laundry that can be running while you go back to work. Or to take a longer lunch break to run some errands and make up the time earlier in the morning or late in the day.
We need to realize that we are all accessible 24X7 now thanks to technology. There are really very few jobs that must be done in a traditional 9-5 configuration. The reality is we have work to get done and the how/when/where we do it shouldn’t be an issue as long as it gets done right, on-time and on budget!
Ken Fortney, Owner of Startup Scaffold
I have worked remotely as a coach and author in the entrepreneurship realm, including servicing business clients in The Entrepreneur Source network.
The challenges I face while working from home are –
- It is often difficult to set work aside when it is literally a couple feet away.
- Day planning is more intense. If my wife and I (who both work remotely) do not properly plan the day with the kids and with clients, there will be more distractions or unexpected work demands.
- I can take my work anywhere. I have done a solid few hours’ work in bed, in my car, at a restaurant, and even at the top of a mountain in Yosemite National Park!
- Office politics is less relevant. The quality of my work carries more weight, even if I lack tenure.
- Company meetings are fewer and better planned. In a remote network setup, managers, employees, contractors, and clients tend to read emails and follow directions more closely.
- I see more of my family.
- My gas and car insurance bill is lower for lack of commuting.
Do you feel more productive working remotely?
Absolutely. One good hour of remote work is better quality than 3 hours of in-office work.
Alan Guin, CEO and Managing Director of The Guinn Consultancy Group Inc.
Working from home has proven to me to be an exceptional way to get my work done while collecting a significant paycheck.
I’m the Managing Director of a Consultancy, and working independently–or as an independent member of a team–defines my job. Being able to work from home minimizes my cost, increases the profit I can achieve, helps me maximize profitability, and offers me a strong sense of independence in where I work, when I work, and how much time I allocate to a specific project or product. If one is able to understand the technical aspects and limitations of working from home, he or she should find immense benefit.
What are those limitations?
Well, first off, you’re not directly where you can have face to face meetings with decision makers. If you need to speak with a team member, you have to accede to the target accepting your call on the telephone, and not hiding behind voicemail. And hide behind voicemail, they may. After I call someone 3 times and get the same voicemail, I assume they are avoiding my call, and I approach the communication in some other way. Email. Text. Facetime. Send an Uber driver with a note. Find them on Facebook and act like you didn’t stalk them down like a lion on an impala.
Another limitation is getting a team together and keeping them focused if they are not all in the room. George or Sally assume since you’re not there, you are either wearing your pajamas…or worse still, not…and here they are, dressed business casual and ready to do business. That puts the onus of directing any negotiations directly on you. Or getting a Fed Ex Delivery Person to wake them up!
There are some pitfalls which must be avoided. I have had clients share with me that they couldn’t work from home because they need the social interaction that comes with having a job and seeing other people every day. I found the office with its plethora of gamesmanship, political pandering, and what I always referred to as “required ambients”–issues such as the office lady whose daughter is selling Girl Scout Cookies, and you “just have to buy one box…it’ll mean so much to Jeannie…” Or the member of Staff who serves as the titular “collector of funds for Good Samaritans Day.” You know – they are those people without whom we couldn’t be thoughtful or caring or be able to express sympathy or pain without their constant requests for money, “for the fund.”
It all falls on the individual. Working from home is a new job method and how quickly it grows and expands or how quickly it dissipates into a “once tried, but never again” type of idea will depend mostly on the actions of the players who participate.