Who’s a remote worker? He’s somebody who gets the work done, but you’ve never seen him, so you wonder whether he really exists.
Recently I gave a talk on remote work at DTech 2018, a technology event that took place in Vila Real, Portugal. Working in a company for which remote work is bread and butter, and being a full-remote worker myself, I wanted to give my input on why would you want to work remotely, why remote work is a good idea in general, when it doesn’t function properly, and how to organize your company to make distributed teams efficient.
The event I mentioned was organized by a collaborative effort of 3 companies under the name SetSkillBuild. SetSkillBuild was established with a noble goal of giving students of tech-related fields a set of skills necessary to make them valuable for tech companies. Finishing my studies a couple of years ago I think it’s a great idea and I fully support it, as during my studies a lot of our time has been wasted on subjects that were not nearly relevant to what I was going to do in the future.
Although around 50% of employees are already familiar with remote work , there are still the other 50% who work in companies that don’t allow them to do that. Further on, in these working 50%, there are lots who do it wrong. Managing a distributed team is not easy. There are lots of challenges. A company needs to have proper processes in place to make remote workers good team players. That’s why it’s crucial to understand what good and bad things remote work brings to the table and how to manage them.
If you’re an employee and want to know what remote work can offer you and what you need to look out for (eg. in financial or social terms) then please read on. If you want to know how to organize remote work in your company to fully harvest its benefits stay tuned for part 2! It will be more science-based and will contain tips on how to manage remote and on-site workers in your company and what things to look out for.
So let’s get on with it! What are the advantages of working remotely?
This is the first and the most important one. If I start my work at
8am, what do you think is the time I wake up? Well,
if I’ll say
7:50am then it won’t be an exaggeration. What are
you going to do in the morning? You wake up, make yourself a coffee, it may be that you even put your pants on :) and you’re all set! No need to shave.
No need to put your make up on. Remote work SAVES TIME. Forget about commuting! No more crowded trams and late buses in winter!
Commute to work takes, I would say, around 40 mins one way on average. Multiply that by 2 and you have almost an hour and a half of time you can use
for more productive things. Assuming you sleep for 7 hours a day, that makes it around 9% of your day. That’s a lot!
You can make many great things happen during that time.
Apart from that, there are small things, which are also very helpful in managing your time. You want to make laundry? No problem, just take a 5 minute break and start the washing machine. You need to make dinner? Nothing easier, just take a 5-minute break and put your food in the oven. Need to receive a package? Always order it to your house, because you’ll always be there during work hours. There are many small things like that, which you really start to appreciate over time.
If you come from a small town like me and are looking for work, then you need to make a choice: either to pick a company that normally would be a second-choice for you, but it’s the only one that hires people with your expertise in your neighbourhood, or you leave your friends, family and move out to a bigger city to work at someplace better. With remote work, you don’t have that problem. You can pick-and-choose - you can employ yourself at a company from the opposite side of your country, or even, you can work for somebody from the opposite side of the Earth! (if the law allows it of course). Here I’ll make a smooth transition to my next point:
One of the things you can do with remote work is this: you can live in a country with small living costs and work for a company in a country, which has a better standard of living. Probably it pays better. You have to know English to do that of course, but if you’re reading this then I guess it’s not a problem. The other obstacle here is that there are not that many such opportunities and you need to spend a little bit more time to find a job offer like that. My personal experience is that around half of the companies on linkedin.com that reach out to me allow full-remote work and around half of these have interesting offers financially. Then you have to filter these by your own personal criteria to decide whether it’s something you’re looking for (is the project interesting, etc.). In the end there’s not that much choice, but given enough time you will find something for yourself.
The other thing is, that when working remotely, the employer doesn’t need to bear the costs of managing an office space for you. A desk, AC in the office, free sandwiches etc. are all additional expenditures that an employer has to cover. When working remotely you are your own office manager, so it’s more profitable for an employer to have you work remotely. This may influence your pay for the better.
This is very individual of course, but the trend that I noticed is that most people are more performant when working from home. This applies to me, people I’ve reached out to and to other 91% of participants of a study made by TinyPulse .
If you’re at your desk in an office and you’re trying to solve a difficult problem you think to yourself “Oh god! I need to grab a coffee and I’ll come back to this!”. So you go into your office kitchen, make yourself a coffee, meet your coworker there and she starts telling you a story about her dog. And you love dogs so you gladly share your own experiences. After 10 minutes, you come back to your desk and it turns out you already forgot half the stuff about which you were thinking. Is this good for your social life? Yes. Is it good for your problem solving skills? I don’t think so.
Fewer distractions is the catalyst for performance.
Working in the office means that a lot of things needed for you to work are handled for you, like internet connection. If you want to organize your own space then it’s necessary for you to handle some things on your own, which normally you wouldn’t care about. Stable internet connection is not a big problem nowadays unless you live in a smaller city or a village, but still, it’s something that you need to consider. The last thing you want is being the only one having connection issues in a team call with your client present. If your internet provider has problems then you are the one that needs to handle this and figure out how to overcome this. You will be held accountable by your company for your ability to communicate efficiently.
Apart from that, there’s ensuring you have a proper ergonomy of your workplace. Trust me, if you work for 8 hours for 5 days a week from a couch your back (and other parts of your body) will not like you. So making sure you have the proper equipment to perform in a healthy and efficient way is a must. This means that you will have to accept some expenses.
The good thing is, that if you’re the one taking care of your office space then you can organize it in any way you wish. You can make yourself a standing desk or even a treadmill desk.
When you add some smaller equipment (mouse, keyboard) to the costs above then you end up with around 350 EUR of costs total to properly setup your work environment (not counting bills like electricity).
Ok, guys, I’m not going to lie to you - when working remotely you’re gonna do a lot less talking than when working from an office. Of course, you still communicate a lot with your team, you have informal conversations, but there’s not that many of them anymore no matter how hard you try. There’s a lot of chit-chatting done when you meet during coffee breaks. So please please, if you decide to work remotely - make yourself go out after work to keep yourself sane. Staying in your house for 8 hours just to watch Netflix later in the same place can be quite… melancholic.
The following is an experience that I and my friends share when working remotely. When in an office you sit in your project room and see the team around you, who are focused and productive, it puts a certain pressure on you to do the same. When working remotely at home you need to replace that with an artificial source of pressure that will constantly remind you that you should be productive. It’s easy to fall into a trap of watching youtube videos. One of the things that work for me is having a clock or a timer displayed which reminds me of the passing time. The other one is the Pomodoro technique, which forces you to take a break every 25 minutes.
That’s it for the disadvantages!
When making a choice whether or not to work remotely first consider how much experience in the field you have. If you’re just starting out then I believe it’s not a good idea to work remotely full-time. There are advantages in working in an office when you’re just starting out. You can have informal conversations about technologies with your more experienced peers. You can also observe how they work first hand.
Now if you do make a choice to work remotely, my tip for you is to build your network. It’s important to know people around you who are doing the same thing as you. Go to conferences, meetups, workshops and try to make acquaintances with people. They are an invaluable source of knowledge about what’s happening around you and also it’s nice to have someone close to talk to about what you’re currently doing. You can also try linkedin.com and look for people in your neighbourhood who are working in the same technology.
So that’s it! I presented the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely and I think you should have a brief idea already whether it’s something for you or not. In short, I believe remote work is greatly beneficial in terms of productivity and time efficiency, but it lacks in exposure to social interactions.
Soon I’ll be releasing part 2 of this post, which will be dedicated more to employers than employees. It will be more science-based and will contain tips on how to manage remote and on-site workers in your company and what things to look out for. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading and please share your experiences with remote work in the comments below! I will be glad to hear other peoples’ opinions on this subject!
Thanks to Michał Januszkiewicz for helping me write this post
 OWLLabs - State of remote Work 2017 https://www.owllabs.com/state-of-remote-work
 TinyPulse - What Leaders Need To Know About Remote Workers 2016 https://www.tinypulse.com/what-leaders-need-to-know-about-remote-workers-report