Making your way into the office can seem like a bit of a waste of time some days. It's easy to daydream about working from the sofa while we're pushed up against a stranger on the daily commute.
These days, it's becoming more of a reality. At some point, we’ll have to stop talking about the ‘rise' of remote work, but not yet - it’s being adopted by more and more companies around the world each day.
In collaboration with AngelList, Timetastic favourites Buffer recently released their 2020 State of Remote Work report, containing the results of a survey of over 3500 remote workers. There’s some pretty interesting insights, and we thought it’d be a good opportunity to answer some of the most common questions you might have about remote work if you’re considering doing it yourself.
Common questions about remote work
Can you work remotely part-time?
This could be the way in to remote working for many people. While some managers might be reluctant to allow a worker to go fully remote straight away, they might be much more comfortable with a smaller portion of their working week being away from the office.
Part-time remote work can also be a really effective compromise for workers, too. It can satisfy a few different needs at the same time; you can experience some productive solitude and deep concentration away from the distractions of a busy office, but also have the chance to spend time with your colleagues and stave off loneliness and isolation. Despite some face-to-face meetings being a total waste of time, many of them work much better in person.
Around 60% of Buffer's survey respondents work remotely part-time - anywhere from one to four days a week.
Where can you work from remotely?
An interesting statistic from Buffer’s survey is about working locations. 80% of respondents say they primarily work from home. The remainder work from cowering spaces, libraries, coffee shops and elsewhere.
It’s hard to find a completely perfect location for remote work. I find that I can work around 2 hours a day in a coffee shop - but the combination of noise, movement, and having to keep buying food & drink is enough to make me restless after a while. (To be clear, I support the café owners - they can’t have folks taking up space all day without paying their way.)
And there’s also the risk of having your stuff nicked when you use the bathroom. You can always entrust a nice stranger with guard duty, but what are they really gonna do if some hoodlum grabs your laptop and runs? If company kit was stolen while you left it out of sight, you probably wouldn’t get much sympathy from your employer.
Libraries can be pretty good, too - you can usually stay longer, but supplies of plug sockets and reliable wifi can be questionable.
Co-working spaces can be ideal (I’m writing this from one now) if your employer is willing to cover the cost of membership. The lack of cultural cohesion can be an issue, though - everyone has different expectations of what’s appropriate in a shared space. Are phone calls okay? Are conversations acceptable when they happen right next to you?
If someone leaves their sound on for Skype notifications and all you can hear is 'ping… ping… ping ping', it can drive you barmy. These things are fine to bring up when you’re next to the same people every day, but when it’s a rotating cast of new tenants every week it can become an uncomfortable hassle.
Can you work remotely while travelling?
Maybe. The main problem here is that travelling is really strenuous, especially if you’ve not booked everything ahead of time. There’s an awful lot of mental energy that goes in to making multiple decisions each day about moving around, accommodation, work, food and socialising. And then there’s the culture shock and language barriers to deal with. After a few weeks, it can wear you down, and it’s unlikely you’ll be up for 8 hours of productivity amongst that.
You can use resources like Nomad List and Croissant to identify suitable places to stay and work, but the lack of opportunity for deep blocks of concentration will be limited unless you settle in to a really good base.
There are alternatives if you want to really get out into the world without giving up your job. You could try out a workation - this is "a vacation that allows you to work remotely while integrating elements of leisure that let you unwind, relax and be more productive.”
This involves temporarily working remotely, from a desirable destination. So you’d put in a full shift during the day, but on evenings and weekends you’d be free to walk the beaches of Bora-Bora. If you can work out the finances (maybe book a long-term rental rather than a luxury hotel room) it could be a really nice experience.
What are the downsides of remote working?
There are, of course, some disadvantages.
This superb post about the downsides of remote work is worth a read. It illustrates the potential for getting into downward spirals of unhealthy habits, isolation, loneliness, depression, and the lack of a clear divide between work and non-work time. These are all real issues that might come as a bit of a shock to someone embracing 100% remote work for the first time.
Essentially, remote work brings a new set of challenges that you might not have encountered before. But they can be overcome, as long as you endeavour to find out what works best for you.
So what do you think? Worth a try? Remote work is something not many people regret; 97% of respondents to Buffer's survey say they’d like to work remotely in some capacity for the rest of their career, and would recommend it to others.
Like a third of the companies in Buffer’s survey, Timetastic is 100% remote, and it certainly works for us. Maybe you should give it a go too. Just make sure you get the work done.