Mention remote working and most people conjure up this image of working from some far-flung country, from a deck chair, on a beach, with a mai tai in your left hand and a laptop on your lap. If I’m being honest, that’s the reality for some people, but in general, things tend to be a little different. So let’s talk about the pros and cons of working remotely for most people, this is based on my experience or the experience of other people I know who have worked remotely.
Before we go into that, I want to touch on the difference between remote and distributed companies. Remote companies have offices (whether it’s a main office or a few all over the place) but employees can work away from their main office, that can be from home or in another co-working space. Distributed working, on the other hand, is when a company doesn’t have any offices at all, other than maybe a PO box somewhere, and all the workers work remotely from (generally) wherever they like.
I should also say that for some companies, working from another one of their offices is considered working remotely, so definitions can change depending on company policies. A lot of companies are on a sliding scale when it comes to remote working, you either have to work from a specific office/location (which was, and probably still is, the norm in most cases) or be a complete nomad; moving around without any care for timezone or country border.
So for example, at Quadmark, our 60 people EMEA team is split up - a third is based in London, a third in Norfolk, and the rest are scattered. The London team doesn’t actually meet up that often, apart from younger team members or people working on the same projects. Even then, I’d say that we only meet 2-3 times a week, we usually work from home or one of the dozen co-working spaces we have access to. Google Hangouts/Google Meet is our main communication medium and we have a number of project management trackers and processes that keep things moving in the right direction.
1. You can live and work in some very interesting places, potentially earning a much higher salary than the average for where you are.
2. Remote working jobs tend to have more flexibility in terms of setting your priorities, hours, and tasks.
3. Depending on the kind of worker you are, you may find working solo to be way more efficient.
4. If you have friends who also work remotely or at co-working spaces, you can hangout with friends or people you like versus being forced to hangout with co-workers (P.S. I love my co-workers, so this is just an opinion).
5. Depending on your job type/work load and how efficient you are, you could knock out all your work in less time than allotted and gain time for other company or personal projects, again using your time as you see fit.
6. Depending on the job, you actually save a lot of money on expenses like travel and eating out for lunch, etc.
7. It makes planning what you want to do in your day easier. Have dinner plans in the south of the city tonight? No problem, just work from a cafe in the south for that day. Need to make a 6pm flight, but your working day ends at 6pm? Work from the airport lounge for the day.
1. Depending on who you are as a person, it can get very lonely. You miss out on a lot of office chat, quick catch-ups, and can generally end up feeling quite isolated depending on your company, job, role and team. A co-worker of mine is often unhappy about the fact that our teams don’t meet up often to work together.
2. Some people find career progression difficult when they aren’t working with people closely.
3. Collaboration is different when you work remotely. Some things, in my opinion, do work better in person.
4. Depending on who you’re working for, the company policies in place or your manager, you can have the ‘illusion of freedom’. Yes, you work remotely, but you need to work from a specific city or co-working space. If not, you need to jump through extensive hoops to get an approval to move around the way you’d expect to.
5. You can be extensively micromanaged, depending on your job or manager, as people want to make sure you’re ‘doing what we pay you for’.
6. It’s hard to switch off. If you have a job you care about, a job with a lot of pressure or just an endless amount of work to do, it can often be tempting to sign on and work late on projects when you should be on your personal time. Your company can also expect you to always be online when needed because you’re working remotely.
I love remote working. It was a top priority when I was picking a job, as I had goals I wanted to achieve - I wanted to travel, live abroad to learn a new language, and generally have more control and independence over what I do. I’m still working towards all of those, and while a lot of the cons listed are from my personal list, overall I find working remotely a real privilege and it’s one of the reasons I like working for my company.
It isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.