With the current concerns about Coronovirus, everyone seems to be talking about the challenges which home working presents, for both workers and managers. Various articles are giving some great advice about how to get round problems; I thought I’d focus more on the advantages that remote working provides.
You’re in control
The most immediately obvious benefit for anyone working remotely is that they have full control over how much contact they have with their team. Yes, teams need to be able to work together, but it’s very normal for a big chunk of time to be spent individually focusing on a task. Even given the growth of pair programming and mob coding, not everyone is a developer and not every developer pairs all the time (or even at all). In an office environment, you will probably have half a dozen people within arm’s reach of you who could be visited at any moment by any number of people wanting to have a discussion. As office workers, we’ve had to develop the ability to ‘turn off’ these nearby conversations but often we are still working in a distracted state, or worse, we end up being pulled into a conversation we really didn’t need to be involved with.
The remote working experience is refreshingly absent of such distractions. It might take a while to tune your Slack or MS Teams alerts so you only see things that are relevant, but most get to a good situation pretty quickly. When you want to focus on something, you can do so without interruptions.
Everyone is available
It might seem surprising, but when everyone is working remotely, people don’t tend to wander away from their desks to have conversations. If you need to contact someone and the are working, they’ll be able to at least ping you a reply saying they’re in the middle of something – you’ll rarely be left hanging.
This is my personal favourite thing about working remotely. Wasting maybe two hours a day driving to and from the office, paying for parking and fuel – who wants to do that? Have an extra hour in bed, get an early start on your day, go for a run, have breakfast with friends – you know, live your life!
You can also pat yourself on the back for not contributing to daily traffic problems and harmful emission levels.
Work / life balance
There are few people more dedicated to their work than I am – I love what I do, I’m lucky. But even I want to be available for my family when they need me, not stuck miles away in an office that I can’t really leave unless I plan to finish for the day. If my son needs to be off school for a day, I don’t want the headache of having to find someone else to look after him – I want to be there. That’s not always possible when there are deadlines and no provision for remote working.
A level field
When working remotely isn’t the norm, people who do spend time out of the office can find themselves at a disadvantage. How often are apologies made for remote workers not being able to see a whiteboard during a meeting? If everyone is remote, these issues are already solved. In fact, because it has to work well, it does. Who doesn’t enjoy playing with the wide and ever growing range of collaboration tools?
There are advantages for businesses as well as the workforce. With remote workers, there isn’t the need for large dedicated office space. Scaling down on office spaces can literally save millions. When there is a need for everyone to be in the same place, there are plenty of shared spaces that can be used, which encourages an entire industry.
There’s something about inviting your work colleagues into your own space (even virtually) rather than meeting in a space which isn’t personal to anyone, which humanises the experience. When it’s normal for someone’s spouse to wander into view of the webcam to bring a coffee in the middle of a meeting, it extends the level of familiarity with each other beyond who we are at work – people see the person they’re talking to as a wife, a parent, an artist, a musician, as so much more than ‘just a Project Manager’.
In general, people feel safer at home. Dealing with conflict is something we all have to get used to but working in your own safe space can help keep perspective. Professional conflict should be kept professional, which is made easier when you’re sat in your own home.
Change of scenery
Working remotely means you could conceivably work from pretty much anywhere in the world. Where do you want to be today? A coffee shop? A different city? A different country?
The future of working?
In the UK, the new high speed train system is meant to bring an extra million people daily into London. Is this really a good idea? Is it going to improve anyone’s life? If humanity is going to find a way to work without putting the planet at risk, moving people on a daily basis is probably not it. The technology to work remotely is already here – we should embrace it and take advantage of it. It’s a better way of living and working for people and businesses alike.