First in an occasional series.
I am one of the lucky ones. The commute to my office is less than a minute, usually in slippers with a cup of home-brewed coffee in my hand. I work for a Fortune 500 company from my home office in Philadelphia, and have since 2010.
There's never been a time when teams and managers were more distributed. A 2018 study showed that 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half the week.
But … working from home is not for everyone. It’s good to take a balanced approach and look at the pros and the cons.
The Three Biggest Pros
- Geographical Freedom. You have the opportunity to live where you want to or need to, and still have a job you love. This was especially true for me when my husband and I decided to move from San Francisco to the Philadelphia suburbs in 2010 so that our children could grow up close to their grandparents. I influenced the most senior leaders in my company to allow me to work from the other side of the country as an experiment for the company’s marketing department.
- Work/Life Fluidity. When you no longer have to clock in and out of an office building from 9-5 and no longer have a commute, a benefit is being able to fit life into the cracks of your workday. Or for some, fit work into the cracks of your life. With no commute and a three-hour time difference, I am able to spend more time with my kids in the morning before work starts—including putting them on the school bus, taking them to their doctors’ appointments, or even volunteering at school.
- Lower Cost of Living. You could save up to $4,600 per year by eliminating commuting costs, needing less formal business attire, and reducing food costs. The flexibility could also enable you to move to an area of the country or world where living costs are much lower. Moving from San Francisco to Philadelphia allowed us to more easily afford a house with a yard(!) in a great public school district.
The Three Biggest ‘Watch Outs’
- Extra Effort. I am a big believer that remote working is, in fact, work. It frustrates me when the media depicts work from homers as slacking off in pajamas. Be prepared to expend extra effort to ensure the remoteness feels seamless. The end goal is to have the same strong business results and team culture you would’ve had if you and your team were co-located. It takes very deliberate actions and planning to do this. My recipe for virtual work success is 1) expectation setting; 2) technology tools; and 3) virtual work skills training.
- Slowed Career Growth. While remote work is on the rise, many corporate cultures have not fully caught up to the trend yet. There is still a paradigm that should be challenged often that senior roles are required to be located at headquarters. When I first went remote, I was told I would never get promoted unless I moved back to the Bay Area. While it took me longer than some of my peers, I was able to overcome that hurdle and be promoted by honing my virtual work skills to enable strong business results and strong relationships.
- FOMO (AKA, Fear of Missing Out). Even the strongest of introverts can experience feelings of isolation when they consistently miss office events like happy hours and holiday parties. Look for creative ways to include remote team members. I’ve held baby showers and a white elephant party in a video-enabled conference room and have used FaceTime to attend events outside of the office.
Check out my Virtual Work Insider website for more virtual work tips, like how to ask your manager to work from home and how to improve your virtual team’s results.