Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Remote Work WORKS

I recently came upon an article on about remote work or working from home by Rebecca Greenfield, The Rise and Fall of Working From Home

Having unfortunately been laid off recently from a full-time telecommute job with a company that works government contracts (thanks in part to POTUS 45's executive order sloppily implementing a federal hiring freeze back in January), I disagree with the idea that remote work is losing ground. If anything, companies that want good workers should expand work-from-home offerings, not eliminate them.

Prior to losing my most recent job, I would occasionally telecommute only as needed. As a software developer, I'd lug my work laptop home, connect to our office VPN, and have my entire workspace at my fingertips to deploy code changes, monitor automated processes, and other stuff which I either couldn't be there for physically, or where being there in person simply wasn't necessary.

Telecommuting: it's not just for tech support.
My new full-time telecommute job was game changing. I set up my own furniture, my own belongings (except for the laptop shipped to me by my employer), my own office space exactly the way I wanted. No facilities folks to wait on to fix some broken furniture, no IT guys to hook up my network access or fix my phone, everything just right, right then and there. 

I had easy access to my own food and drink. I had access to my backyard where I could easily participate in conference calls on a nice spring day, or just spend a few precious minutes to stretch and collect my thoughts. My employer didn't need to furnish an office, a cubicle, not even a closet (which I have worked in before), just a laptop, credentials, and the usual like salary and benefits.


Occasional telecommute and full telecommute are different animals. Full telecommute by its nature demands a lot more discipline than working from an office. Irrespective of the kind of work, in an ideal home office situation, the employee is free from the distractions of an office; chatty coworkers, strangers wandering around, distracting smells like a fishy lunch being microwaved down the hall or that unpleasant aroma as someone trails out of the restroom, the list goes on. More focus to the job can be provided in the comfort and solitude of a home office than in say a cubicle or open office layout.

That increased focus enabled me to be a more productive worker. Minus the distractions common to previous workplaces, I was able to respond to questions from colleagues through instant messaging and phone without a hitch. With online meetings using software like WebEx and Lync, I could actively participate in meetings with dozens of people in organized chaos. 
Lync (aka Skype for Business) provides an instant messaging client as well as the ability
to host and participate in meetings with phone and networked participants, and video chat.
The key to productivity in working from home is striving to minimize distractions, which some may find difficult, at least at first. There is the temptation to treat working from home as leisure time interspersed with bursts of work, to perhaps not pay full attention to a staff meeting and instead check snail mail or water some plants or do something else not work-related. For employees early in their careers in particular, this temptation may lead them to embrace a poor work ethic early on and turn them into the kind of worker Ms. Greenfield describes.

Employers should realize that they can get a lot more bang from their buck with dedicated remote workers. Being one of this group of individuals, I would frequently work past normal business hours, and make myself available to colleagues for consultations after or between hours without hesitation. 

Some prospective employees, myself included, would definitely consider a lower salary given the savings telecommuting offers. The ease of being able to easily flip open my work laptop and engage as needed, and simple relief of not having to get dressed for the office and drive across town, can be a powerful motivator for one who's worked a largely 9 to 5 (and more) on-site that way all their career, like I have.

Given the ubiquitous nature of broadband nowadays and the increasingly sophisticated technology available to do business virtually (especially in IT), employers should take a close look at the costs and benefits of remote work for employees and seriously consider implementing it. It can be not just a boon for the employee in terms of reduced stress and increased serenity, but a tremendous cost savings for the employer if the right mix of convenience and dedication can be struck to help an employee realize how awesome it can be to work full-time from the convenience of their own home.

Of course, not every job in every industry is well-suited to telecommute. IT however is the flagship industry for remote work given that it's all about networking, and that interacting with others over wire and fiber optic cable to add value and deliver products and services is the bread and butter of this business.