Employers and employees everywhere are now reconsidering remote work. No matter how you feel about it, remote work is here to stay. According to Ladders.com, 25% of all employment in North America will be remote by the end of 2022 and will increase in 2023. Here’s what it is and whether it may or might work for you.
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Definition of Remote Work
What is considered “remote work”? In this article, we’re tackling the issue as though the employer still asks you to be logged into a computer and doing work for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. We’re considering it to be active work that must be done by a human, requires a computer and strong internet connection, and doesn’t require any face-to-face contact.
Generally, remote work is the same kind of work that can be done in an office. From customer service phone calls to accounting and more, anything that requires only a phone, laptop, and a strong internet connection can usually be done remotely.
There was some debate over whether or not we should include having a flexible schedule as a factor of remote work. We decided against it because that’s not always an option for all remote employees. Some employers require that the employees be logged into a computer and work during certain hours. This means that the words “flexible schedule” might not apply to every remote worker. If you’re doing scheduled Zoom meetings from your bedroom, taking time off to take care of something personal might not be an option. Therefore we’re not including the factor of “flexible scheduling” in this article. That’s not to say that a flexible schedule could be an option. It could be but isn’t a factor we’re taking into account.
Pros of Remote Work
How much time do you spend commuting to work? And how much does that cost you financially? According to U.S. Census Bureau, Americans in one day spend on average a total of 55 minutes driving to and from work per day, and even longer if they lived in major metro areas. This is a 10% increase from 2006, which is more than 20 additional hours a year.
Public transit in America makes the average commute nearly twice as long. The 5 million Americans who use public transit have an average commute time of 47 minutes- each way. That’s almost two hours of time just going to and coming back from work without the freedom of driving, or personal space, and that’s before accounting for the weather or unforeseen circumstances. Considering that being late multiple times is grounds for termination from a job, it’s not surprising that the number of commuters using public transit keeps dropping.
Now consider if you’re trying to commute to work while handicapped in any way, such as in a wheelchair. The obstacles you face are considerable, even before the cost and time. Working from home is even more appealing than fighting through a commute.
Removing the commute for most Americans means having enough time in the day that they can do anything else. With no gas money or bus/train fare cutting into the budget, working remotely saves on cost.
Without the stream of corporate birthday cakes, company get-togethers, or the pressure of joining coworkers for a quick lunch, maintaining a healthier diet at home is easier than in the office. With the time usually eaten up by commuting, employees can now feel free to work out, prepare meals at home, or sleep in.
The flexibility of sleep alone may be a boon to night owls, according to Kelly Baron, an associate professor at the University of Utah who studies sleep health and clinically treats insomnia patients. If you’re more productive in the afternoon instead of the morning, remote work might be a better decision for you.
How much does cutting out the dress code matter? It matters so much that one-third of workers would take a pay cut to never wear office clothes again.
It’s so cliche that it’s easy to overlook, but one key point about remote work is not having to spend money on how you look. Why spend money on dry cleaning when your work can be done in sweatpants? If you don’t need to look a certain way in order to get your work done, why bother? Dressing down saves you money and time, never mind that it’s more comfortable and everyone else is doing the same thing. Remote work has shown that “dress for success” is more about the mindset than the outfit and companies are relaxing their dress codes as a result.
Besides being uncomfortable, lacking personality, and being expensive to both purchase and maintain, office attire is on its way out. Stitch Fix calls it “business comfort”, but whatever you call the new trend, being comfortable is key. With even Goldman Sachs ditching the suits, now more than ever, it’s about results and not appearance.
Consider the cost of living near or in a major city. New York City, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and Chicago are all great cities, but none of them are known to be affordable in comparison to the more rural areas. That’s the downside of being so close to all the things cities offer: food, culture, entertainment, and of course career options.
But from a purely financial view, you might be able to do just as well when working from home. The cost of living is less in a more rural town, but the paycheck coming from the city could remain the same. This would, naturally, depend on your employer.
Besides the money saved on living somewhere significantly cheaper, you could also afford better food, better healthcare, and a better living situation as a whole, for you and your family. Alternatively, if you’re already living in an area that doesn’t pay well, remote work can be your ticket to a higher paycheck.
Cons to Remote Work
Lack of Social Interaction
This is either a pro or a con depending on what kind of work you do and if you’re an extrovert or not. Introverts may love the lack of social interaction while working remotely, but extroverts tend to suffer. If your work depends on collaborating on an idea, meeting over Zoom might not have the same appeal as running into each other in the hallway. It also can feel lonely working from home, especially when you can spend the whole day not talking to anyone. If you don’t regularly find a way to socialize with people face-to-face, remote work can be extremely isolating.
You can lose out on a promotion
According to BenefitsPro, the average remote worker loses about $9,800 a year in delayed or denied promotions. Nearly 8 in 10 remote workers believe that their careers were negatively affected and 85% of remote employees expect more from their employer. It can be as easy as coworkers forgetting to include remote workers in meetings or worse. Some employees still prefer to work remotely over getting a raise. If that isn’t a deal-breaker for you, then this may not be a concern.
Managers may micromanage due to inexperience and trust issues
Office managers are taught how to keep people working and ‘keep an eye’ on things, such as when you return from lunch, and that everyone gets all of their work done. If your manager is feeling threatened by not being able to see in person, they can resort to more micromanaging tactics.
Tracking your keyboard and your mouse usage using monitoring computer systems is common. That includes but isn’t limited to: tracking your work time on your computer, logging keystrokes, and monitoring the websites and apps you use. Depending on what you do and your employer, this could extend into activating the webcam and taking screenshots of your monitor.
If you suspect your work computer is being monitored, there are ways to check. For instance, on Windows 10, you can Alt + Ctrl + Del keys, open the Task Manager, click on the Processes tab and check for a known employer’s monitoring system. It may not show up if the I.T. department has installed it to stay in stealth mode. If you suspect that it’s there and can’t tell, doublecheck any onboarding paperwork for any phrases involving monitoring or tracking software. Don’t install any programs to block monitoring systems on an employer’s computer. You will raise suspicion if you do and can be terminated. Yes, monitoring what employees do on the work computer is completely legal.
Your pay may drop
Some companies have made announcements that they wouldn’t be offering the same pay for remote workers and instead would be offering the going rate based on that person’s location. You will have to check with your workplace to see if working remotely would affect your paycheck.
Work and your personal life may blend together
Remote work will affect your home life, and vice versa. Whether it’s working at the kitchen table, adjusting where you take phone calls, or finding a separate spot to do your work, it can be difficult to keep your work life separate from your personal life. This is often decided by how much space your personal life affords. For instance, someone with the luxury of a private office at their home will have a different experience than someone stuck working at a kitchen table, who is stuck being interrupted by everyone in the house. This depends entirely on your personal situation.
Consider everything you lose when you only discuss something through email, like the person’s body language or the tone of their voice. Information can be easily lost when you aren’t in the room with the other person. This issue can occur over Zoom calls where the pressure to convey all the information at the time could keep nuances from coming to the surface.
Like any workplace, there are pros and cons to remote work. With the freedom to adjust your schedule comes the crossover of your personal life. With communication gaps comes the freedom to dress however you like and skip the commute. While it’s up to you whether you take or refuse remote work, now you’ll be ready for the possible pros and cons.
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