I have been working remotely for over seven years. During those seven years I’ve worked for two very different companies. The differences are interesting. But not something I’m willing to share. Sorry guys.
I also read a blog that there will be less remote opportunities in the future. That is really a step backwards. And it is something that I would hate to see happen. I also have no idea why you would avoid a remote employee.
By the way, I’ve been reading blogs were working remotely will become more common. So who really knows which way it is going to go. There are a lot of predictions out there. There are statistics that support both views.
The Skills that you need
I could easily put together a list here, and I will. But it might be that you just have to ask yourself some questions. How do you work without a boss looking over your shoulder? Are you disciplined enough to work set hours, with no interruptions from home life? This may change as your home life changes. You want to be successful at your job, and only you know if you can work this way.
So here’s the list and I’m sure I’m missing some things:
- Great at communicating
- Good at estimating what you can get done in a set amount of time
- Good environment for your office / space to go to work
- Experience with IM, remote meetings, skype, and phone calls
- Easily accessible – available to mentor people as needed
- An ability to quickly understand the company and processes
- Ability to work with no one else around
- Ability to ask questions via remote tools
- Ability to craft e-mail so it isn’t misunderstood. If needed follow up with a phone call.
- Take responsibility for your work
Have a place that is quiet. There shouldn’t be a TV running. However, if you are like me music is a must. I wear headsets when I am at the office as well.
If you have children at home, have someone else take care of them. It’s just not possible to focus on a meeting if you have a child wanting your attention. In the summer for older children, it is critical that they know your work hours and respect them.
Do not try to do chores while working. In fact besides lunch – only do well, work. Think about a normal work environment you wouldn’t be doing laundry at work.
The only exception I have to the above rules is that I have dogs and cats running around. They do respect my work time – because I sit in a different place. My furry friends are smart enough to know when I’m in this room not to bother me. However, there are times when they need in or out. It takes me maybe 10 seconds to let them in or out.
It is critical that you work normal work hours. Those people that are skeptical that you are really working, can call, have a meeting, IM, and/or expect updates. So I’m not sure how that is different from normal work at the office.
Now I used to drive 45 to and from work. When I have to work overtime, I just remind myself that I’m saving 1.5 hours a day. When I think about it that way, it’s not so bad to put in extra hours.
I have to stay flexible. There are times when I am needed at the office. So it is possible for short notice. I have had to go the next day. That was the shortest notice I received.
It goes both ways
You are respectful of the hours the company would like you to work. They shouldn’t expect you to work a huge amount of overtime unless it is needed for a project. However, there is no way you can keep those hours for a an indefinite time. An average of an 80 hour week is a bad idea, and it is OK to say no.
It is up to the remote worker to know how to estimate what a job will take them to complete. If you are not going to finish on time, let your boss know as soon as possible. Also let them know why. It could be changing requirements. You may have to just buckle down and still get it done. Or if you are good at estimating, and you let the project team know how much longer it will take, your date may be extended. As usual, most likely at the end of the project, you will be working extra hours.
Designing and Development
Creating the design from home is a bit more of a challenge. I’ve recently learned and am playing with Build. That helps a lot. It helps my user base to see the design, prior to me spending hours creating it.
I am also the person doing the configurations! Cool, right? I find myself looking for the “standard” way of doing things before adding that Z table or program. That’s helped a lot.
The big challenge is of course, getting my user base to use tools like Skype.
I save money on only having one car. No car payments or insurance on a second car. I do not work in work cloths. So the wardrobe has been decreased. I do go into work at times when needed so I do keep some “work” type clothes. My drive is about 4.5 hours to work. I usually rent a car, and just use normal millage for my expense report. It doesn’t cover everything, but it is much better than having a second car. There is the non-monetary “money saved”, I am happier. So I save money on some stress related conditions I had.
The company saves money. They can pay less. The big benefit of working from home makes a lower salary acceptable. They save money on space, electricity, basically all normal logistics. They have the opportunity of looking at a wider range of applicants. They can find a “better” fit for them. If they already have the infrastructure set up for well known remote employees such as salesmen, there is no extra cost.
The company has a worker that is not distracted. There are not any people stopping by the desk just to chat. There aren’t any of those requests to do something for someone that will just take a “few seconds”.
IM, phone calls, and meetings are easily done. This is very nice if your company – like many of them – has more than one location.
My last job was outsourced to a group of people I was working with. I was exchanging ideas, helping with code reviews for them and more. My company decided it was cost effective to lay me off and expand the off-shore account. Let me tell you if you have never had that happen, it is devastating. But you have to take the good with the bad. I am overjoyed where I’m at, and it hasn’t stopped me from sharing information. It is one of my passions – to share what I know.
The risk to the company is that the employee doesn’t do their job. Hmmmm – I think that is a risk if they are on-site as well. If your employee isn’t doing their job then disciplinary action needs to take place. If you have an employee that you have to constantly make sure they are there and doing their jobs, I think that is a problem.
As I sit here typing this, I think of how perfect this is for me. I can look out the window. I can design, develop, and learn. I work with amazing people. I consider a lot of my co-workers friends. So you can build relationships from your home.
I have no idea how you find a job that will allow you to work remotely. I was incredibly lucky. I had a recruiter both times that contacted me.
I did work for a previous employer that refused to even consider remote work. I find that interesting because that just meant they didn’t trust their employees. The consultants worked remotely to save money. Very strange.
Questions, comments, do you have a remote story to share? I have some funny stories as well….. I’ll probably share. I just have to find the right tag. <smile>