We all saw that awesome New Yorker article last month, satirizing the working from home employee, and either nodded an understanding nod with a dry smile or guffawed incredulously at the lunacy of at-home workers on the whole. Who, in their right mind, would let their employees loose in their home to whittle away their days wearing pajamas, color coding cookbooks, talking to their plants, and eating cheese for breakfast? How can any work get done when you have meerkats on YouTube, dinner recipes to be Googled and spring-cleaning in October?
Well, this lady, I tell ya. It took years to come to fruition, not a decision made lightly or overnight, but since my partner is based unavoidably in SoCal, so must I. We have a tight-knit, amicable workplace in NorCal that was once entirely on-site and well, rather loud. For someone who works in what my boss would call a silo, eschewing music and conversations about weekend plans and the latest pet mishap, for constant cups of tea and a standing desk made of running shoe boxes, this is a dream.
There are pros and cons, absolutely, and it is largely due to the family-oriented and understanding nature of our revered boss-man that 3 of the 7 employees now work remotely. This has come about in order to maintain a suitable work-life balance and thus, amplify productivity. It won’t work for every company, but one that is built on trust, mutual respect and an undeniable passion for the jobs people do, it can be a highly fruitful endeavor. Huge disclaimer also, it can be quite the issue for any business owner, especially in the communications space that we’re in, to wrap their head around remote workers. Kudos to our boss for being open-minded, but he wanted fair acknowledgement of the fact that he “frankly doesn’t love the situation, but permits it anyway.. Lest anyone get the idea that it’s all rose petals and daffodils.” End quote 😉
- No commute = time efficiency. I get up, put the electric kettle on for tea (for those who don’t know what this is….shame), open the computer and get to work.
- Thus, I can sleep in until 7am, because I am working by 7.30am. Sleep is good.
- No idle chatter to distract me during the day so I can focus and grind through emails and pitches.
- Any breaks that I would usually take at work are filled with throwing on laundry or quick errands, so the menial stuff in my personal life is not as overwhelming in the evenings or on the weekends, both of which are filled with sports, friends and family time – things I know my boss values and what keep me sane and coming back to work everyday.
- The sound of silence. SO important for my style of work and internal monologue, being at home alone just makes effective research and writing that much easier.
- I have expanded my network of contacts with the relocation, helping enrich my job and my personal life.
- Despite skepticism of time management, we actually don’t spend all day eating everything in the house and counting dimes. Seriously, US money all looks the same to me anyway, it would be pointless.
- One of our staffers has a wee toddler, and a baby on the way. Without being able to work remotely, she may be limited in work options as a pregnant mom, and take another few steps back in terms of equality and opportunity for women.
- Affordability. This is especially relevant with the exponential rise of cost of living in San Francisco. Working remotely has improved my financial and emotional health as I can afford to live at my means in a location that is more reasonably priced.
- Another staffer is living in a much more age-appropriate environment, giving her the ability to pursue outdoor sports and activities with similarly minded individuals, a great gift for a young professional who likely won’t get burnt out at 28 as a result of her work-life balance.
- Those who can, travel back to the office every 6-8 weeks for a week on-site, so we get some good face to face time when needed also.
- I miss my colleagues. No chitchatting but no personal interaction makes me a tad lonely, and I fear I may become a cat-lady (hold the crazy) one of these days.
- Harder to collaborate. Though I hate to admit it, it’s definitely a setback in terms of face-to-face project collabs. Skype, Google Hangouts, cell phones and Slack have all made real-time interaction that much easier and streamlined, but nothing like doing chin-ups on the office pull-up bar next to an associate knocking out pushups on the floor to get the creative juices flowing.
- Having a real office. I felt very adult. Here, my kitchen table laden with some stacked books or shoeboxes suffices as a pseudo-standup desk.
- Management. Having recently stepped into a higher management position, I would love to be physically in front of staff as a mentor, confidante and problem solver. However, aforementioned communication technology and bi-monthly office visits are picking up the slack as best as possible right now. Team, if you’re reading, I’m always here for you!
In the end, this is a changing world. Employers, and employees, have to become more flexible, diverse and understanding in this current environment. The yesteryears of decades long service are fading out, partially due to the ephemeral nature of workers and curiosity to seek further and higher than ever before. Listening to your staff, and working with them to create a symbiotic and mutually beneficial working environment, be it remotely, on-site or somewhere in-between, is imperative to the success of the modern day agency. I am wholly grateful to have a boss that, despite his qualms, is understanding of this, and ultimately it has resulted in new business opportunities and productive and grateful workers, who are willing to work longer and harder for a company that respects their time and personal lives as well as their investment in their company.