We often hear about freelancers working from Starbucks, self-employed people doing their job from home and world travelers lying on the hot sand somewhere in the Bahamas with “Sex on the Beach” in one hand and netbook in other. Does it really work like this? Does remote work have more pros or cons? Read about our thoughts about that topic, because we work remotely and we are really proud of this! 🙂
At the start of the article, I would like to show you a video from 37signals (now Basecamp – info at https://37signals.com/), which promotes their new book “Remote, Office Not Required” (available at https://37signals.com/remote/, if you are thinking about switching to remote work – you should read it), but also shows some profiles of the company’s staff working remotely.
Slice of history
In the case of our company decision to work remotely was taken quite by accident, preceded by the sequence of unpredictable events 🙂 Since we won a voucher from Bialystok Science and Technology Park in the “Mój pomysł, mój biznes 2012” competition organized by Kurier Poranny, we waited impatiently for the completion of construction and opening the park, so we can monetize our win for rent office space on which finally we could work.
We worked initially in the basement of one of our homes, sitting by a folded up table tennis table. It was funny, but we had a place where we could focus on our work and do it without any distraction. Completion of the construction was delayed constantly in time (Science Park is still not opened 🙁 ). We were sick of meeting with our customers outside of the “office” (for obvious reasons 🙂 ), so we decided to convert the 3-room apartment on our mini command center. One of the rooms was a typical working space with 4 desks and big whiteboard, while the other was a meeting place and all sorts of debates and brainstorming. Our work jumped to the highest level of performance. There were days where we spent in the office 30 consecutive hour or more… pure pleasure ! 🙂
One day, my fiancee received a job offer she can not refuse. It was a quick decision. We need to move. Theoretically, after all, all I need for work is electricity and Internet access. So, in SICC, we decided to work remotely. Many of our clients were from Warsaw, so I had closer to meetings with them. Customers from the Podlaskie district dealt with Pawel, who continous to work within our office in Bialystok.
I made a small working area in our apartment. Me and my fioncee had to abandon the meals at the same table for that 🙂
Pros and cons of working remotely
Let’s start from advantages:
1. FLEXIBILITY & HAPPINESS
Let’s tell the truth. 40-hour week does not work anymore (specifically in the case of our business). It’s 21st century. Remote work gives the freedom and flexibility to work when you feel the most productive and willing to work. If you are a parent, you are able to take your kids to and from school, go for walk if weather is fine and work later when their are sleeping or watching cartoons in TV. If you don’t want to work or you feel unproductive, you always could do something else (go to swimming pool, gym, meet with friend) to get rid of that mood. Nothing would have changed, if at that time you were in the office for whole 8 hours. This time can be considered as wasted. At least you or your family will not be in any way felt neglected. Remember – family first! 🙂 This also applies to your potencial employees. Happy and satisfied in private life employee is a good value to whole company.
2. TIME & MONEY SAVER
You could cut yours or your employees travel costs and time. You don’t have to pay for more office space, costs of power, heat and supplies. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Remote workers also save their money on ther wardrobe! 🙂 Tracksuits and t-shirts are enough. And what kind of comfort work that is 🙂
3. AWAY FROM INTERRUPTIONS
If you prefer peace and quiet or your project could take benefits from that, remote work is a great solution for you. Of course, sometimes allowing staff to work from the office and take part in team meetings can increase productivity. But not everyday of work need to look like this. Take advantage of that and try to find a balance between peace and quiet and benefits from office meetings.
4. BOOST PRODUCTIVITY AND CREATIVITY
It’s in some way connected with 1st advantage about flexibility & happiness. Employees who works remotely usually reports that they are more productive and creative than when they have been working at the office. It’s probably an effect of self control of working hours what provides a great opportunity for night-owls and early birds. Everyone could do their job when they feel most productive and that causing a great performance and creativity boost. When we are resting, when we are tired without forcing yourself to work at the moment, our work performed at a later time is more efficient and more accurate. Typically, when employees are sick do not come to work. It’s not a problem for remote workers, because if only it is not a 40 dagree fever, they can do their job directly from their bed with a hot liquid or mulled wine next to them 🙂
5. WORK WITH THE BEST
The remote working and a remote office means you can recruit whoever best suits your company’s needs no matter where they live. You don’t need to look for people leaving in your local market or those looking to move there. You could work with the best and brightest people who would never consider to move to the city you run a business. Sometimes also it’s a problem to find someone with a specific set of skills in a certain location. It’s easier when you work remotely.
Ok.. let’s look at disadvantages of that situation:
1. WORK/LIFE BALANCE CHALLANGE
“You made dinner? Why not you cleaned up the apartment? Were you out shopping? You were all day at home!” – these were some of the questions and objections, which at the start of my remotely work were often adressed to me by my lovely fiancee 🙂 Sometimes when I was in flow state (you can read about flow here: http://www.wearesicc.com/flow-state-of-mind/) I could even forget about pre-brewed tea or coffee. At the beginning of working remotely it’s hard to manage your time and decide when you take the time to do some of household duties not bringing down the tasks on the job.Your home is your office and vide versa. It’s hard to find the balance. Some of remote workers often do not work enough. Some of them simply is overworked. As I mentioned earlier – family first (and remember that!) – it is necessary to proper time management so as to have it on both: the “pleasure” in the form of all kinds of household and family duties at the same time enought to succesfully carry out job / company tasks.
It is hard but not impossible. You need to get rid of procrastination or any other excuses that are making your time unproductive. You can find some of tips & tricks helping with that in the summary of this post.
2. NO WORKPLACE SOCIAL LIFE
It is not the same to interact with clients or co-workers virtually as directly in the office. Getting lunch together, banter in the office or even daily project meetings are very important to build a team spirit around a project or company. Remote workers are often isolated. It is a reason that so many of them work in public places like coffee shops.
We prefer to come into office (or meet whole staff) at least a few days a month. It is easier to brainstorming or simply discussing ideas in real life than via network (phone, skype, hangouts would never change that). Instant and direct feedback is really important and could really boost up a projects creation.
3. DISTRACTIONS & ROUTINE
Remote workers have constant access to time-wasting things such as: websites, social networks and personal stuff. This can be destructive to productivity. Personally, I like to break away from work to watch some interesting videos posted in my Facebook feed by people who I know or follow. This works for me reassuringly and increases my creativity after this short break. Gives me a fresh look to problem which I couldn’t solve before. Work/life balance is also important in that case. If you have small children around, thay may demand your attention. It is always a personal decision to do a job or to waste time. Of course if your baby is crying, nothing is more important than that. Time spended on Facebook, Youtube or another website is just a matter of our own decisions.
Some remote workers can struggle with the lack of routine, coused mostly by lack of a schedule, finding it difficult to feel motivated or work efficiently.
Take a look at software which we recommend in the summary of this article also.
4. PHYSICAL FITNESS
It is difficult to maintain physical fitness staying most of the day at home. It is important to have some interests outside “the office”. I was playing basketball 4 times a week and practicing in the gym at least 3 times a week when I was fully physically functional and fit. After I partially tore cruciate liagement during snowboarding, I need to cut off that intensive physical activity. Now I do home excercises and occasionally I go to the swimming pool. I can’t also wait until 21st March, when the entire SICC crew and more than a 20 friends, we are going to Alpe d’Huez snowboarding.
Here you can find interesting home workouts that don’t rely on equipment: http://izismile.com/2014/01/30/great_home_workouts_that_dont_rely_on_equipment_98_pics.html.
It is important to stay fit and fresh, healthy and happy worker is a good worker, remember that!
5. DIFFICULTIES WITH MANAGING STAFF
All of the above points are affecting this one. From the employer point of view it is extremally hard to manage your crew. All is based on trust and task completion. There are many of software that could help with that such as: Trello, Basecamp or another team project management tools.
“Done is better than perfect.”. We often struggle with people who want to make their tasks / projects the best that they could. But nothing is more important that task completion. We can’t judge something that is not done. So if someone told me that he is working on that from 2 weeks and I don’t see any results of that – it is my decision to believe to my worker (maybe it is a really hard functionality or something) or to start thinking that something is still pulling him from work. Trust and honesty are the most important things on the line of that cooperation.
A common mistake made by employers is hourly rate determined with remote worker. In my personal opinion, it is better to determine a total cost of work, even if it is hard to describe and count. If the worker knew that a total cost is the result of his work and he is appreciating a free time – he would do that task the fastest he could to go with family shopping or something.
Working remotely in numbers
Remote work is a good chance for small and medium companies who work is based on the latest technologies. It requires a very good self-motivation and proper management of time and priorities.
If the above-mentioned disadvantages do not outweigh for you the possible benefits of working remotely – you should try it out in your work / job.
Tips & tricks we are using in SICC
1. We use Trello (http://trello.com/) to manage our projects and duties.
2. We have installed Be Limiteless extension (http://belimitless.co/) in our browsers to increase our productivity, motivation and better manage our time spending online.
3. We use Skype to everyday talks.
4. We trust each other and we are focused on completing the tasks rather than wasting our time building something that is not required.
5. We try to not wasting our time on stupid things / websites / projects. It is not always working 😉
6. We meet with whole team at least one time a month. It’s not necessary to meet in the office, it could be a party also!
7. We stay away from routine. If any of the projects tiring anyone, we are trying to switch between the projects and avoid unproductive work.
8. We participate in many conferences, meetups and professional meetings in order to avoid isolation and alienation 🙂
9. We try to be “social” as possible!
10. We love sport and recreation. We go: snowboarding, to the gym, swimming pool, running and other as often as we can.
If you are working remotely or looking for remote worker(s), also check the website: http://weworkremotely.com/.
Feel free to leave us some yours tips & tricks to keep you motivated during working from home or any of your thoughts about working remotely down here in the comments.