Remote Work Web Development

You can do entire types of work remotely. More types than you might suspect.

This is the first of a post series, talking about which jobs/job types are best (and worst) suited for remote work. I’m writing it for two explicit audiences:

  1. Those who’d like ammo in case someone asks, “Well if telecommuting’s so great, how come only programmers do it?”
  2. Those who hear about Remote Work and think, “There’s no way you could do X Job remotely.”

If you think remote work is only good for contracted programmers, this post should prove enlightening. I’ve met many different people who work remotely, in a variety of roles…all the way up to CEO!

Maybe I’ll address the “remote CEO” question later. For now though, let’s dig into our definitions. In order to determine if a work type is indeed suitable for Remote Work, we’ll need criteria. Factors which, if they all add up, mean the job is not location-based. Here are those factors.

The Criteria for Remote Work Suitability

After some research and pondering, I devised these criteria for our use. They cover critical work functions, interactions, and goals. They are also broad enough that they apply to most work types without special circumstances (e.g., medical, rural industry).

  1. Primary Role—Where is it most effective?
  2. Job Location vs. Customer Location
  3. Do the daily duties require physical interaction?
  4. Which communication methods are commonly used?
  5. What is the ideal communication method for this job?
  6. What output does the job generate, and where does it go?

I’ve dissected 6 common work types using these criteria, and found all of them are suitable for remote work. In fact, none require a physical office at all!

I hope at least one of these surprises you. I’m using standard industry names for easy understanding.

Working Remotely from Anywhere

Work Type 1: Web Development

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Wherever the developer is most productive.
  2. LOCATION — Customer location can be “anywhere.” Job location is therefore location-independent.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — No. Email, calls, and chat work fine. Especially when dealing with code.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Email, GitHub, chat, etc.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — This depends on the client for whom the developer works. Any of the methods from #4 may then work.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Code for apps & websites. This is posted to a server, tested, and released.

From what we can see. nothing about this role requires presence in an office. No surprise that this is one of the largest telecommuting-friendly work roles today.

Work Type 2: Management

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Directing the workloads of others. You can do it in-office or through other methods, depending on scale & business standards.
  2. LOCATION — “Customers” are split between actual business customers & employees. Either or both can be local or remote.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Requires interaction, yes. Physical interaction? Again, depends on scale & business structure. But no, physical interaction is not required.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Phone, email, collaborative editing, yelling across the office, text…all sorts. In fact, some communications were arguably invented for Management to talk with you more!
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — For management, ideal communication is trackable, fast/real-time, and clear. Email & phone win out.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — A manager’s output is measured in employee productivity & customer satisfaction.

Should Management stick to the office? They can. Do they have to? No.

Work Type 3: Creative Work

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — The same as a developer…wherever they are most productive.
  2. LOCATION — Customers are usually an employer or client. Job can be wherever they are, or wherever the creative is.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Daily duties involve focused work: writing copy, designing graphics, etc. They require focus…the opposite of interaction!
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — See Management’s #4.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — I asked a designer friend of mine how he prefers to communicate. He prefers two methods:
    • Email (for as much detail as needed), and
    • Video calls (for getting a good sense of what someone wants).
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Output is creative content. This normally goes into a website, ad, or marketing campaign.

Like web developers, nothing in creative work requires an office. In fact, many find offices stifling. Too much noise, not enough focus time.

Work Type 4: Sales

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Salespeople sell. Thus they are most effective where the customer is most receptive. That could be in a store, on a website, or over a phone.
  2. LOCATION — See #1.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Some sales processes do require personal interaction…negotiating deals, for instance. But this is changing as more people shop online.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Salespeople rely on techniques & rapport. In the past they built both with speaking & learning about customer needs. Such skills are still useful…and even better, you can use many of the same techniques online.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — So much business occurs online that I’d say the ideal sales communication method is now the written word. That means email, webpages, chat, texting.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — You can measure sales output in customer purchases, reviews, repeat sales, & so on. Doing sales remotely actually makes all of these easier to track.

Sales is very audience-specific. Depending on yours, your salespeople could do very well telecommuting.

Work Type 5: Information Technology/IT

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — IT is a broad term, but I’ll go with a general goal of “maintaining IT systems within the business.” This is most effective from a place where the IT professional can access said systems efficiently.
  2. LOCATION — Customer is the employer or client (they’re the ones paying for the technology!). Location could be where the system is, if remote access is not possible. Bust that’s becoming a tiny minority. Remote access is commonplace.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — Duties require interaction with the system more frequently than with people. Some IT pros prefer not interacting with people at all!
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS — Like web developers, IT pros use almost every communication method out there.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — Based off my own IT friends, I’d say online chat has become the ideal method. Slack, Skype/Teams, etc. It’s real-time, easy to follow, and keeps logs.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Output is a fully-functional IT system. Done right, you’re just doing regular checks & maintenance in between upgrades.

We’ve all breathed a sigh of relief when “the IT guys” show up to fix our problem. Nowadays though, they don’t have to physically go anywhere.

Work Type 6: Customer Service

  1. PRIMARY ROLE — Since Customer Service must address customer issues, they are most effective when dealing with the customers where THEY (the customers) want to be.
  2. LOCATION — Customers can be anywhere. Customer Service jobs must at least have the capability to help them anywhere.
  3. DUTIES REQUIRE PHYSICAL INTERACTION — A definite no. Case in point: Amazon’s Help Center. These CS reps are worldwide, and yet they do a pretty good job of addressing Amazon customers’ issues.
  4. COMMUNICATION METHODS – Customer Service is traditionally done through phone. However, I can’t recall the last time I called one. Instead, I go to a company’s website, and either send them an email, or fire up a chat window.
  5. IDEAL COMMUNICATION — Like IT, chat shines here. Chat works on any device, real-time, with no yelling or trying to figure out what the customer mumbled.
  6. OUTPUT & WHERE — Output is measured in number of satisfied issues & post-CS survey results. All made & recorded online.

Remote Work has given Customer Service a boost. A job search on Indeed showed me that the majority of CS jobs listed said the job was remote.

6 Major Work Types are all Remote Work-friendly. Is Yours?

These are just six types of work. You could also illustrate good Remote Work choices by industry (I’ll do that in a future post). Regardless, we can clearly see that major roles are easily “Remote-Enabled.”

Next time I’ll list some work types NOT suited for Remote Work. At least…not yet.

Is your job among the types listed above? If so, are you working remotely? Why/Why not? Please comment or email me your thoughts.

“If I can’t see you working, how do I know you’re working?”

You’ve heard this mantra from business executives before. It always comes up when employees talk about telecommuting.

Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? But some execs just won’t budge.

In this post we’ll explain why they don’t. It’s not the reason you might think…and it’s definitely not the reason they give!

What are Execs Really Afraid of With Telecommuting?

This statement, meant to sound like a reasonable rejection of a telecommuter’s working outside the office, actually illustrates a fear. A fear the exec has…a fear which is central to Remote Work objections. A fear that stands in the way of its adoption.

However, it’s not a fear of laziness. That’s what you might think when you hear it. But the exec isn’t worried telecommuters will just slack off and not do any work. (Few white-collar execs assume so little of their employees.)

No, no. This is a deeper fear. A personal one.

The Question of Control…and Losing It

The fear execs have when it comes to Remote Work is actually fear of loss of control.

The belief is that Remote Workers are outside of Management’s reach, and thus the exec cannot direct them. Cannot control their actions. The result? They (the exec) no longer controls that worker’s productivity.

Scared Executive

Of course that’s not true. Remote Workers still need direction for a bunch of job aspects:

  • Overarching business strategy
  • Project oversight
  • Inter-department communication
  • Customer service
  • R & D
  • Marketing objectives
  • Snags in the day-to-day processes

Et cetera.

I think we can safely say that fear of loss of control is unfounded. It has no rational basis (as if most fears ever do!).

But if there’s no rational basis, why does the fear of “I’m losing control” arise at all?

For the answer, think in terms of business models. A business executive is likely older (I’m generalizing)—in their 50s, 60s, etc. Throughout their career they knew only one business model:

  1. You Go To Work
  2. You Do Your Work
  3. You Go Home

They’ve lived within that model, that paradigm their entire professional life.

Enter Remote Work. A business model which moves emphasis away from physically going to a job site. Yet the work still gets done.

To the exec’s mind, this is unnerving. Incompatible. Their emotions activate and start yelling.

“New model! Uncertain! I can’t use the same mindset I always have. Am I obsolete? No! REJECT!”

…and that’s where the fear comes from. Loss of control, not just over their employees, but over their entire business mindset. Remote Work is perceived as a threat.

In a sense I understand the fear. We’re all only human. But even though I understand, I must still point out a major problem. It’s not just a problem for workers wanting to telecommute either…it’s also a problem for all the businesses whose execs are afraid of Remote Work.

This fear expresses itself as a rejection of Remote Work altogether. The exec can’t see themselves in the Remote Work paradigm, which jeopardizes their own position. So they try to stop it. Try to keep their time-worn mindset relevant (and keep their job).

Here’s the problem. Remote Work isn’t going away.

In fact, it’s still growing. According to the Flexjobs report, “2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce,” telecommuting grew by 115% from 2005 to 2015.

If a business’ execs continue to reject it? It’s the business equivalent of paddling into a tidal wave. The BUSINESS is what’s going away, not Remote Work.

Feel the Fear…and Embrace Remote Work Anyway

The cold truth for all executives is: The market values productivity over brand names. It doesn’t care about your fears. It doesn’t care about your business model, no matter how long it’s been around. It only cares about the value you provide your customers.

Here’s a quick example. Let’s say your business and a competitor each have a similar product. Your business refuses to allow Remote Work. But your competitor embraces it.

You pass the traditional operating costs (salary, benefits, R&D, misc. Op-Ex) on to customers via the product’s price. Typical model. Like they used to.

The competitor, having lowered their Op-Ex by granting telecommuting to its workers, is able to lower its total expenses. Let’s say they reduced their office space, and moved most of their IT services to cloud platforms. This allowed them to reduce expenses by 10% – which they use to lower their prices.

Their product is now 10% cheaper than yours. The product is just as good, just as high-value…just more affordable.

Guess which product the market buys.
Guess what happens to your business.

Remote Work Fear

But…I don’t have a good reason not to enable Remote Work, but maybe I can come up with one…

Message to Business Executives: Remote Work is Here to Help. Don’t Be Scared.

Sorry, but your, “if I can’t see them, they’re not working” mindset is directly harmful to the bottom line. Time to change. The world is not waiting.

What can you, the worker, do to make this clear to Management? Show them this post. After you do, please leave a comment on the results. I always like hearing stories from fellow Remote Workers.

Traffic Jam

Remote Work doesn’t just benefit you, the worker. Or you, the manager (from the greater productivity your workers gain). It also benefits something you both use every day.

Your environment.

How? By not contributing to environment-damaging conditions—when commuting.

Think about this. In any given major city or large metro area, what happens every workday? The Commute. Lots of people in cars, subway trains, and buses. Millions of bodies clogging up transportation routes at two (sometimes 3) times of the day.

Every vehicle filling the air with smog, heat, and soot.

Let’s see how Remote Work and commuting work together. You’ll see pretty quickly that even a small amount of Remote Work has a notable effect on the local environment…benefiting everyone who lives there.

Commuting Exposes You (and Everyone Else) to More Pollution Than Ever

According to StatisticsBrain, over 128 million people commute every day in the U.S. The majority (75%) drive their own car, going between 1-10 miles one-way. The average commute is about 25 minutes.

(Speaking as someone in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can confidently say…we commute on average FAR longer than 25 minutes. It’s taken me 45 minutes to go 3 miles, more than once!)

Commuter Train

That’s definitely not a BART train. There’s way too much space open.
Photo by Adelin Preda on Unsplash

Now, let’s broaden our perspective a little. What ELSE happens as a result of all those vehicles moving back and forth?

  • Air pollution.
  • Lots of fuel/energy use.
  • Each person loses time in traffic/delays.
  • Stress.

All serious problems. More so now than ever before.

In July 2017, just days before I wrote this, Duke University published a study on in-car pollution levels for commuters. They found that commuting drivers breathed in twice as many pollutants as sensors checking the air from the sides of the road. The kind of pollutants that not only make you cough, but can contribute to heart disease and cancer.

The study measured air in Atlanta traffic. But I’ll bet it’s just as bad, if not worse, over here on Silicon Valley’s clogged highways.

How Remote Work Saves the Planet! (Or at least improves your health.)

Just by commuting, you’re causing environmental damage, wasting time, and actually hurting yourself. 5 days a week, (nearly) 52 weeks a year, every year.

“Yeah, it’s not good for the planet. But what can we do?”

Simple. We can work remotely.

Imagine that same big city/metro area, with a large number of local businesses switching to Remote Work strategies. It wouldn’t affect ALL jobs (can’t telecommute to a construction site…yet). But even a 10% drop in people commuting could yield incredible improvements.

  • Better/lighter/faster traffic (I’m sure you’d appreciate that!)
  • Hours regained every week
  • Higher productivity from said regained time
  • Reduced air pollution
  • Lower stress levels
  • Happier workforce
  • Lower fuel/energy costs
  • More flexible business hours
  • Improved health for everyone!

Let’s gather some statistics to back these up. Here in the Bay Area we have a “Bike to Work” Day in May. They list the environmental benefits of such on this page:
Environmental Benefits – Bike to Work Day

According to their statistics, a mid-size car generates 1.3 tons of CO2 commuting 5 days a week for 1 year. Now, according to BayAreaCensus.gov, we had 2,674,000 people driving to work in 2010. I will round up to 3,000,000 for present day.

3 Million Cars x 1.3 Tons of CO2 = 3.9 million tons of CO2 dumped in the air. Every year. Just in one metro area. Multiply that by over 10 metro areas…yeah. That’s BAD for everybody.

If 10% of those workers telecommuted, it would stop 390,000 tons of CO2 from billowing up into the air.
Air you and I breathe each day.

Plus, you have time saved. Not just for telecommuters not driving to/from work, but for everyone else too. 10% of 3 million cars is 300,000 cars. What would happen to the people still commuting if we removed that many cars from daily traffic?

300,000 cars removed gives us 2,700,000 cars still commuting in the Bay Area. This Texas A&M study says that 148,000 person-hours are lost in traffic congestion for the San Francisco-Oakland area. A 10% reduction gives us 14,800 person-hours back. Divide that by 2,700,000 and you get…
32 seconds.

Okay, so a 32-second time savings on your commute isn’t much. But that’s with only 10% of commuters shifting to Remote Work. Imagine if we went to 20%. Or 50%.

You’re looking at huge pollution reductions, as well as more & more time saved for people who still commute.

Sounds like a good way to help prevent more heart disease and stress, doesn’t it? It sure does to me.

I have to say, that’s pretty smooth traffic for the Golden Gate!
Photo by Freddie Collins on Unsplash

Remote Work Helps Worker Productivity, Traffic, AND the Environment

The tremendous rush of commuting contributes to pollution and stress, every day. Helping keep the air clean and stress low is easily doable. All it takes is the decision to use a Remote Work approach.

If you use this “environmental benefit” argument to request Remote Work, please comment on the experience! I’d love to hear how well it works (and if not, what does!).

Telecommuting from Coffee Shop

Right now businesses enjoy productivity like never before. We can choose all manner of methods & processes for efficiency and manpower: contracting, offshoring, gig work, full-timers, etc.

But there’s one productivity method still under-used. It can grant a business—almost ANY business—huge strides forward in productivity, time savings, even cost savings. Yet many businesses don’t trust it. Or dismiss its advantages.

It’s called Remote Work, or Telecommuting. It’s why I’ve created this blog. I want to see many more businesses realize the productivity advantages of Remote Work. And help them integrate Remote Work into their everyday operations.

On this site you’ll find explorations of Remote Work’s value in the real world. Guides on building Remote Work into a business. Directions on how jobs you may not think would work remotely, actually can (and should).

My name is Chris Williams. I’m working—remotely—toward a whole new era of business. Join me! You might just find the next “Big Thing” for your business, right here.

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