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With significant advances in video calls and file-sharing over the past few years, working remotely is becoming more and more of a reality reserved not just for freelancers—with the press of a few buttons, you can chat face-to-face with a coworker on the other side of the world or work in real-time on a document hosted online.
What Is Remote Work?
Remote work is a work arrangement whereby employees aren’t required to travel to a centralized office—instead, remote workers may work from anywhere with an internet connection.
Some remote companies allow for a flexible schedule, while others expect the employee to be at their computer during standard work hours. Many offices have a part-time remote-work arrangement, in which employees come into the office on set days and are free to work remotely the rest of the time. Remote work is also called telecommuting, teleworking, or working from home.
What Are the Advantages of Working Remotely?
Working remotely has a number of advantages:
- Save time on your commute. Many on-site employees spend up to two hours a day traveling to and from work, elongating the feel of their workday without getting paid for their time on the road. With remote work, your commute shrinks to the amount of time it takes you to step into your home office or get to the café down the street. This no-commute commute gives you more control over your time.
- Access to more jobs. Potential employees often select jobs based on their proximity to the location. Working remotely means that you can apply for jobs in other states or even other countries (as long as you can handle the time-zone difference) without having to relocate or endure long commutes.
- Control of your work environment. When working remotely, you are in full control of where you work (provided that it has a Wi-Fi connection). Whether you choose to set up your computer in your home office, your favorite coffee shop, or a designated coworking space, you have the freedom to work in a space that feels comfortable to you. You may even want to try out the “digital nomad” life, in which you travel the world while doing your remote work.
- Save money. When your job is remote, you can save money on transportation (gas, bus fare, and train tickets), and you can live anywhere rather than being required to live close enough to work—where rent may be higher. In addition, your employer saves money, too, by not having to pay for an office space or cubicle to house employees. This leaves more money freed up for bonuses, company events, and benefits.
What Are the Disadvantages of Working Remotely?
While it can be a great option for many people, remote working comes with its own set of unique challenges:
- It’s harder to communicate. One of the biggest perks of working in a physical office space is being able to go over to a coworker’s desk to ask questions or get clarification on a project—but when working remotely, it’s a lot harder to communicate with your coworkers, because you have to make more of an effort with phone calls, messaging, or video conferencing. When you first start working from home, you may need to brush up on your communication skills. Try to stay in close contact with your team members and keep an open line of communication; routine check-ins with video chat help to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
- There can be more distractions. Effective time management can be much more challenging if you’re not in a physical work environment, because there are tons of different distractions and background noise for remote employees—from Facebook to family members. You can try a project management system, like the Pomodoro technique, to help you stay free from distraction and stick to your own schedule.
- There’s no clear line between work and home. It may seem counterintuitive, but remote work can make it difficult to establish a healthy work-life balance. When you leave a physical office setting at the end of the day, your brain gets the automatic signal that you’re no longer working, so it’s much easier to focus on your personal life. But when you work at home, it’s easy to start feeling like you’re always at work—and you may start to notice yourself replying to emails or thinking about work projects long into the evening. Keep a consistent schedule, with clear starting and ending times to your workday.
- It’s tough to develop relationships with coworkers. When in a traditional office environment, not all of your day is spent hunched over the computer; there’s plenty of opportunities to chat with other office employees and take breaks, whether that’s going to lunch or talking over the water cooler. When you’re doing a work-from-home job, there are fewer obvious opportunities to get in a little social interaction, which can start to make you feel isolated. Make time with coworkers—through video conferences, phone calls, or a chat program—to talk about things that aren’t directly related to work.
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