Working remotely, working from home, teleworking, telecommuting – it’s the dream job of many. According to Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), more people are doing it, but GWA admittedly finds it difficult to get real data on. But the numbers are growing. GWA estimates a little under four million workers currently telecommute full-time in the United States. Other data reveals the following statistics:
- About 22% of the self-employed population work primarily from home.
- Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 103% since 2005 and 5% in 2014.
- 7 million employees (2.5% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
- The employee population as a whole grew by 1.8% from 2013 to 2014, while the population of employees who telecommute grew 6.5%.
It’s good for you
Telecommuting has a lot of pluses – there’s less pressure on you because you don’t have to worry about the challenges of commuting – traffic, accidents, poor road conditions or public transit issues – in order to get to work on time. Working from your home office enables you to be at work on time, all the time. Telecommuting saves you money, too. You don’t have that weekly gas or fare expenditure and there’s less of a chance of being in a major accident. There’s also less vehicle upkeep to worry about. And, don’t forget that it’s better for the environment because of the reduced emissions! It’s also healthier for you. You now have time for a daily walk, which will give you energy to work better and be more productive.
It’s good for employers
In our Digital Age, many people in the high-tech sector work as individual contributors in small cubicles on-site, and perform tasks that can be performed just as well – if not better – remotely, from a home office. The upside for employers include saving on the expense of physical space, equipment, and IT support required for on-site workers. The standard recommendation is for companies to replace computer systems every 3-4 years; translate that into dozens or hundreds of employees and you have a significant yearly cost. Likewise the payroll to support and maintain these systems is no small work; reduce these two aspects alone and your company has now saved some real money.
Who works from home?
People that work remotely include those that perform software testing services, develop mobile and web software, provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing, transcribe medical reports, provide customer support and sales, set up travel arrangements, translate, document and own businesses.
I work from my home in a lovely and rural area of the Maritimes. I have worked remotely from here in five different positions over the last 17 years, mostly as a Technical Writer. Of course there is a downside – you don’t get the face-time you might get when you work on-site, it can get lonely, family responsibilities may interrupt the work day, co-worker communication can break down, and you can easily drift if you don’t stay in touch and aren’t assigned tasks that help you focus. So, it’s both a management and co-worker issue. Daily contact should become routine to keep the remote worker in sync with project goals. On-site visits, of course, help on-site and off-site workers bond and, if possible, should be scheduled at least once a month.
The perfect amount of time to work each day
As a telecommuter, you will also be tempted to work perhaps more hours than you would on-site, which may be good for the company, but not necessarily for you! You must step away from the pressure of the Victorian work-ethic to avoid fatigue. We are still driven, for the most part, by an 8-hour workday. However, in a recent article by Dr. Travis Bradberry (President of TalentSmart) called The Perfect Amount of Time to Work Each Day, he talks about a study performed by the Draugiem Group, who tracked employee work habits using an application that measured time spent on various tasks and compared that time to their productivity levels.
“In the process of measuring people’s activity, they stumbled upon a fascinating finding: the length of the workday didn’t matter much; what mattered was how people structured their day. In particular, people who were religious about taking short breaks were far more productive than those who worked longer hours.
The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. They didn’t check Facebook “real quick” or get distracted by e-mails. When they felt fatigue (again, after about an hour), they took short breaks, during which they completely separated themselves from their work. This helped them to dive back in refreshed for another productive hour of work.”
He even mentions that taking a walk is a true break from work, which can revitalize you:
“The best way to beat exhaustion and frustrating distractions is to get intentional about your workday. Real breaks are easier to take when you know they’re going to make your day more productive… (checking your e-mail and watching YouTube doesn’t recharge you the same way as taking a walk does).”
In an article by Nadine Parkington, Be Prepared for the New Employment Landscape, she describes how important it is for an employee in the Digital Age to remain relevant, as employment is moving to an “on-demand” model:
“While big business is evolving with the times, we are seeing a steady increase in start-ups and small businesses. New business models are emerging and driving an increase in on-demand employment allowing people to work when they want hours at the going rate based on demand…It opens up all sorts of new employment options for employees. Work when you want to, work when it is paying more and work across multiple roles. Jump in and try something, learn something new, move on.“
This new work style can bode well for home-based workers who have the versatility to grasp the new opportunities of the Digital Age. She offers some tips on how to meet this new work dynamic:
- Learn something new on a regular basis from free online courses
- Think about how on-demand opportunities could improve your lifestyle
- Be creative and make something instead of buying it
- Improve your productivity by implementing positive changes
Regardless of whether you work from home or on-site, in a cubicle or corner office, Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach, had it right:
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”