Now that we are comfortably on the other side of the pandemic, many professionals have been asked to return to the office. However, others have been lucky enough to retain their work flexibility and are only back in the office periodically, usually for team meetings and team building events.
Although working from a designated office certainly has its positives, such as more efficient collaboration and relationship building, working remotely can open the door to a dream lifestyle with many benefits that will be discussed below.
You may be asking yourself, “How can I get the perfect remote job and what remote position is a good fit for me?” We’ll be exploring how to work remotely in this article.
THE BASICS OF REMOTE WORK: THE GOOD AND THE UGLY
There’s a good chance that you had the opportunity to work remotely throughout the pandemic, so you probably already understand the many benefits of working remotely. However, due to the pandemic lockdowns, you likely were not able to fully realize many of the key benefits that remote has to offer. Some of these include:
- Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: This is the biggest positive for most remote workers. Working remotely often means you can work from anywhere you have reliable internet. With this locational flexibility, remote workers typically also have a bit more flexibility in their work schedule. Going to the gym or running errands during the day is much more possible for someone who doesn’t have to be in a designated office from nine to five. This can lead to a better work-life balance.
- World Traveling: As a result of the above, remote workers can travel. This is personally my favorite benefit of remote working—being a “digital nomad” and exploring new places from month-to-month. And with improving global internet coverage (see Starlink), it is now possible to work nearly anywhere.
- Productivity: Although many office managers may disagree with this one, working remotely allows employees to spend less time commuting and preparing for a workday at the office, and more time actually working. Some stats on this are highlighted in our article here. And spending less time in traffic has been linked to increased happiness, not to mention helps save a lot of money.
- Employer Benefits: Having a remote workforce can help employers save office and overhead costs (up to $11,000 per employee) while also providing access to a global talent pool. This is an especially important advantage to local or regional employers who do not otherwise have the brand or footprint to hire and attract talent outside of their regions.
Working remotely does have its downsides, many of which are related to the benefits listed above. Remote work is certainly not for everyone, so keep the following in mind as you decide whether permanent remote work is right for you:
- Work-Life Balance: With diligence and the proper safeguards in place, remote work can lead to a healthier lifestyle. However, for some demanding jobs, remote work can bleed completely into one’s personal life. As the work schedule becomes more flexible, it can be difficult to set necessary boundaries between work and personal life.
- Isolation and Poor Team Formation: Working remotely can push some into a bad state of social isolation. In fact, 81% of young adult professionals working remotely expressed concerns about loneliness (theHRDIRECTOR). Going to the office is the basis of many professionals’ social lives outside of family. Team lunches, water cooler talk, and after-work happy hour leads to strong human relationships and more cohesive and cross-functional teams.
- Productivity: A common complaint from more traditional employers like Goldman Sachs is that remote working hurts collaboration, counteracts strong culture, and demotes productivity. It is easy to see the argument for this, as some remote workers undoubtedly abuse their remote freedoms with long afternoon naps, an extra beer or two at lunch, and distractions in the home from kids/spouses/roommates. Offering a hybrid model and stipends for coworking memberships are good ways for employers to keep remote workers aligned with their teams and focused on their work.
Is it a fit for me?
The answer to whether remote work is a good fit for you depends on several things, including your personal and professional goals, personality type, and your values. Some professionals today know that they will never work in a designated office again and others hope to never again leave the office.
Before making the decision to work remotely, it is important to be realistic and honest with yourself about what working remotely looks like for you. Some questions you should ask yourself:
- Does my profession require or have clear benefits from being in the office? Would working remotely hurt my career progression?
- Do I struggle with discipline and need a set office time and environment to stay focused
- Do I struggle with discipline and need a set office time and environment to create a clear work-life balance?
- Am I built to work effectively on a remote team with minimal face-to-face interaction?
- Would I miss the office talk and relationships that are developed from regular trips to the office? Would working remotely negatively influence my social life? Can this be resolved through some other arrangement, such as a coworking membership?
- Why am I most excited to work remotely? Make a list of reasons with tangible examples/actions for each. Ask yourself whether it’s realistic your life will change in the manner you hope if you were to pick up a remote position. Traveling can be a great reason to work remotely, but only if you actually make the effort and travel. It is amazing the number of people who begin a remote position and are extremely disappointed after a few months because they are not taking full advantage of the many benefits of remote work.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN REMOTE POSITIONS
If you have decided that working remotely is good for you, you may now be wondering what you should be looking for in a good remote position. Again, this will depend on your individual circumstances. Below are a few key considerations.
Not all companies are able to build a strong company culture amongst a remote workforce. As you begin the interviewing process, check online employee reviews and carefully ask interviewers about the company culture. There’s nothing wrong with explicitly asking interviewers about how the company fosters strong relationships, career development, team building, and culture development across its distributed teams.
Many businesses will hire remotely to cut workforce costs. Some remote positions may offer limited benefits outside of compensation and standard employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Check if the position comes with other benefits, such as coworking, home office, gym, or travel stipends. Some businesses may try to hire remote team members as contractors, in which case there will not be benefits.
Location Requirements and Schedule
Many companies today have mandatory office days, even for their “remote employees”. And even if an employer does not currently have an in-person office policy, many may be moving in this direction or will in the future. It is important to understand how a company’s views on remote working may change over time. For an employer who is hiring remotely but has a preference to hire in a certain region close to a central office, it is often best to make sure you are close enough to this office to make occasional visits. Otherwise, your path to promotion may become more difficult as others on the team are able to build strong rapport throughout their periodic (or sporadic) visits to the office.
Some companies also have regulatory restrictions on where employees can work from. For instance, some working in financial or accounting services may not be able to work remotely from certain countries. Knowing this before accepting a new remote job can be important for global digital nomads.
Other employers have strict rules for when all remote workers must be online. These requirements can severely limit the benefits of coworking. Make sure you clearly understand the employer’s expectations regarding location and schedule requirements.
SKILLS NEEDED FOR WORKING REMOTELY
As previously discussed, working remotely is not for everyone. To effectively work remotely, you must have a few essential skills:
Working remotely can be a large adjustment for those who are used to being in an office environment. Each company will have its own policies and norms for its remote workforce, however, most remote positions require a strong ability to succinctly communicate asynchronously through tools like Slack, email, and Google Docs.
Time Management and a Self-Starter Attitude
Most remote positions have more autonomy than positions in an office. This requires strong time-management skills and a self-starter mentality to make things happen and speak up when you are prepared for additional responsibilities.
Remote teams are more likely to be made up of individuals across multiple time zones and ethnicities. They are also typically agile (and technologically focused), and entrepreneurial. This results in a need for remote workers to be very adaptable to the needs and transformations of the team and the broader business. This may mean taking calls at odd hours or taking on responsibilities that were not listed in the job description.
FINDING A REMOTE JOB
If you remain confident that remote work is the best option for you, there are a few things you can do today to land the perfect job.
Firstly, once you know what you are and are not looking for, put this all in writing. This will be helpful to reference as you go through the process of finding a job that fits you. Revisit and update this list often.
Secondly, spend adequate time updating your resume and professional profiles (i.e. LinkedIn) to highlight your skills, experiences, and achievements that demonstrate your ability to work independently and communicate effectively in a virtual environment. These may include your proficiencies in communication, time management, and self-discipline, as well as your prior experience working remotely.
Thirdly, search for opportunities that fit. It can be helpful to make a list of your top dream jobs and dream employers, then check online and within your internal network to see if there are any related opportunities. Be patient as you browse job boards, LinkedIn, and other professional resources, but also be willing to apply for some positions that may be a bit out of your comfort zone. There’s little harm in applying for a position you feel unqualified for, and it’s amazing the things you can learn about yourself and the employer during the interview process—you may surprise yourself with how your position criteria transform after a few interviews.
Lastly, be well-prepared for remote job interviews. In addition to the typical steps to prepare for a job interview, you will want to make sure you have a setup and space to ensure a smooth virtual interview. For video interviews, this means a strong internet connection, a clear video camera, high-quality audio/microphone (a headset can be a good idea and be careful of rooms with lots of echo), and a professional and well-lit space. The importance of making yourself appear as professional as possible (as defined by the profession for which you are applying) on video calls should not be underestimated.
With the continued shortage of workers and an increasingly digitized world, now is a great time to find your dream remote job. Now go out and get that dream remote job! And in the process, don’t lose sight of why you wanted it in the first place.
“Remote work gives you the freedom to choose where you work, when you work, and how you work. It’s the ultimate flexibility.” – Natalie Sisson, author of “The Suitcase Entrepreneur”