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The Highs (and Lows) of Working Remotely

Posted by West McDonald on Mar 28, 2017 8:36:14 AM

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There was a time, not that long ago, when going to work literally meant “going” to work.  Times have changed and more and more companies are offering their employees the ability to work remotely or out of a home office.  

Although working out of a home office is becoming more and more common there is still a lot of grey area around the benefits and downfalls of remote work.  As I have been working out of a home office for 12 years or so I thought I would put together some of the lessons I have learned.  If you are looking to offer or seek out remote work opportunities, read on!

The Highs:

There are a host of benefits to working remotely that most people don’t know about and they can have a positive impact for both the company and the employee.  Here are 4 of my favorite:

Flex Hours:  A physical office generally has to have set hours because you have to lock and unlock the doors.  Working from a home office doesn’t have the same restriction.  There are many days when I start work at 4:30am and finish early to pick the kids up from school.  There are other days where I start at 10:00am and continue working until 7pm. This flexibility allows me to better balance my work and personal life with no negative impact on getting work done!  For more benefits of flex hours, check out this article from Harvard University.

More Time: The worst job I can remember involved 3 hours of total “commuting” 5 days a week.  I had to be up really early and usually didn’t get home until after everybody had already had dinner. But since I’ve been working remotely, I’ve used those hours to have more time for actual work! That’s an extra 15 hours every single week, 60 hours a month, to get more done.  And according to Psychology Today there are a number of negative psychological pressures that commuting can lead to. It’s hard to get stressed just walking down the hall! :)

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Increased Productivity: According to The Washington Post, interruptions in a traditional office can cost you up to 6 hours a day in productivity!  All of those little distractions can really add up.  Ever had somebody “pop over to ask a quick question” and looked back at your clock to see 20 minutes disappear?  Have you yourself stopped by a coworker’s desk on the way back from the kitchen just to say hello?  These small things can really add up and quietly eat away at productivity.  I personally find far fewer things to distract me when in the home office and my productivity is always high!

Live Where You Like: My office looks out onto the waters of Lake Erie.  I start every day watching the sunrise and love seeing the water lapping at the beach.  Where I live now is a bit out of the way and  it would be nearly impossible to “commute” every day to an office job.  I have friends who work remotely and live in entirely different countries!  The bottom line is that remote work, thanks to technology and modern communication methods, allows you to live wherever the heck your feet will take you.  For some inspiration, check out this GQ article on some incredible places to work remotely down under!

The Lows:

Of course working remotely does come with some potential downsides and these should be considered before you pack up your desk and call yourself a Remotee.  Here are 5 considerations to weigh carefully:

Doesn’t Work For Everybody:  I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve spoken with that HATED working out of a home office.  There are those that really enjoy and benefit from the daily interaction of being in the office.  Also, there are some jobs that require physical presence in order to get work done.  An up and down the street copier dealer with a territory that surrounds their office location is probably better suited to work in the office.

Misconceptions:  Just to set the record straight: I DO NOT work in my pajamas with a constant five o’clock shadow.  At least not every day :)  Working “remotely” leads to a lot of misconceptions by people about how you spend your day.  I can’t tell you the number of times people have made jabs about me only working 2 hours a day or being a slacker when they discover I work remotely.   For a great list of misconceptions about remote work check out this great blog by Suzanne Zupello at Trello.  

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No “Water Cooler Time”:  Although cited as a huge productivity killer in some studies, the time at the water cooler has also been shown to have some huge benefits.  Let’s face it: Humans are a social animal and we really do need face to face time with other people.  Here’s a great blog on the benefits of water cooler talk by, you guessed it, a company that sells water coolers!  

Cultural Divide:  There is a very real danger of becoming disconnected with the people you work with when working remotely.  Of course this doesn’t have to be the case.  At Print Audit we overcome this by having daily virtual “morning huddles.” We connect through a video conferencing application and share our “good thing from yesterday” as well as our top priorities for the coming day.  We also have weekly team meetings every Friday to celebrate successes during the week.  Because such a large part of our workforce works in home offices across Canada and the USA we have learned that being remote doesn’t have to mean being isolated.

Tendency to work longer days:  I am guilty of this one for a number of reasons.  I really, really love what I get to do for a living so most times it never feels like I’m working. Add to that that I’m an early riser and find that I can get a lot of things done (like writing this blog) from the hours of 4:30am to 9am. Technically my day could end by 1pm when I start that early, but of course it never does. No matter how early I start I find lots of things to keep me busy until well after 5pm.  Here is an article by Fast Company that talks about the tendency of many remote workers to put in a lot of extra hours.

No matter how you feel about working remotely, it’s here to stay.  Personally I have found that the benefits far, FAR outweigh any annoyances or downsides.  I work for a company that delivers world class “Remote Monitoring and Management” toolsets for the office equipment industry, so working remotely really ties in nicely with what we do for a living.

Now it’s your turn! Do you have some advice for those looking to start a remote work practice? Do you think that working in the office is far better?  Have you recently started working remotely and have questions or concerns?  Leave your comments and be part of the “remote” conversation!

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Topics: Business Tips, office, print audit, print management, tips, productivity

West McDonald

Written by West McDonald

West McDonald is Vice President of Business Development for Print Audit.

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