Must keep a close eye on those remote workers...

You just know they’re goofing off, don’t you? Those remote workers on your team. They’re not working…you can feel it.

The deadline for the next blog post is in 3 hours. You haven’t heard anything from them in the past 2. If only you could prove their laziness. You could force them back into the office. Or fire them, and replace them with someone who stays in the office who doesn’t goof off!

So you call up one of your remote workers. Out of the blue. You’re going to get them back on task, or add fuel to your righteous firing fury.

“Hello? Oh, hi Boss. Yeah, I’m working on it now. Have been for the past 2 hours. Almost done. No, just a few minutes more. I’ll message you when it’s ready.”

 

Oh. So they were working on the blog post that whole time. You not only misjudged their efforts…you disrupted their workflow with the out-of-the-blue call. The blog post you get back may not have the same quality as the one you’d get if you hadn’t broken their concentration.

This sort of scenario plays out way too often. It’s 2018, and yet, some managers cannot let go of the old office paradigm. “If I can’t see you, you’re not working!”

Of course, this is so far from the truth it’s almost insulting. A manager cannot see someone homed in another office…do they make the same assumption about their lack of productivity? (Sometimes they do, believe it or not.)

Remote workers take that a step further. Even though they build software, create good content, and keep huge parts of the world economy working…they garner much more managerial venom than they deserve.

So what’s the solution? That’s what we’ll go through today.

Managers & Employees Have Different Perspectives

Here’s a portrayal of a sadly-typical exchange between Managers and Employees Working Remotely. It shows how one small change in perspective can have disastrous consequences.

  • Manager – I must keep the team on deadline. Checks in with Employee. Demands an update.
  • Employee – Stops working at each check-in. Breaks their workflow. Gets nervous. Over time, they become paranoid about their job.
  • Manager – ‘Invites’ employee back into office. “You’ll be more productive here.”
  • Employee – Sees this ‘invitation’ as magnifying the problem. More interruptions, more surveillance! Has to go into the office, but is now more nervous than ever. Work suffers.
  • Manager – Terminates unproductive employee. Sees the whole thing as justifying their negative view of remote work.
  • Employee – Finds a new job working remotely again. Enjoys the focus & freedom. Work quality soars.

See what just happened? The manager, due to their preconceived notions, essentially sabotaged their own employee. They lost out on all the productive work that employee could have done, without the manager breathing down their neck.

The employee doesn’t understand why their manager targeted them. They likely never will. No one will speak to the manager about this chain of events. The cycle will repeat, until either:

A. The company ceases allowing remote workers. In which case the manager will focus all their interruptions within the office, lowering OVERALL productivity.
OR
B. The manager realizes their disruptive behavior & changes it.

Focus During Remote Work

Two of these people are building new software to do amazing things. The third just got an email from his manager, who wants to talk. Guess who’s who.
Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash

The Importance of Focus (and Letting Workers Employ It)

What’s one of the most important things to an employee…no matter where they do their work? FOCUS.
Using long chunks of time to eliminate distractions, focus on the work in front of you, and knock it out.

Without this Focus Time, you’ll never do your best work. Distractions break concentration, pull you out of the flow, and then your work suffers.

I looked up articles on “eliminating distractions for remote workers.” Every single one stressed having a chunk of Focus Time:
Remote work: 9 tips for eliminating distractions and getting things done – GitLab (#3, “Book out your ‘focus time'”)
11 Ways to Eliminate Distractions While Working from Home – TechRepublic (#2, “Break up your work”)
8 Remote Workers Explain How They Avoid Distractions – Remote.co (#6, “Set a Timer”)

Now, if you’re a manager, you can easily understand why remote workers deserve Focus Time. Set the guidelines and the deadlines, and let them deliver the goods. Hey, while they’re focused, you can focus on clearing your own task list too! Everybody wins, right?

But you still have that shred of paranoia. You can’t SEE them. How do you trust what you can’t see?

We have a question before us…How do you make sure remote workers stay on-task, without disrupting their Focus Time and hurting their work quality?

Luckily, I have a solution that should work for you. Manager and remote worker alike.

Use Software to Monitor Remote Workers, and to Check In With Them (Sparingly)

This is a two-part solution. One part is monitoring remote workers (to indeed verify that they ARE working). The other part is a good check-in strategy to stay up-to-date and stick to deadlines.

The first part: Monitoring. This involves keeping silent, unobtrusive tabs on the activity & output coming from a remote worker’s computer. (Or tablet; I’m not picky.)

I recommend taking a two-part approach to monitoring. First, institute a project management platform, and have everyone track their activity therein. Doing this not only verifies time worked on projects, but gives everyone a reference for co-workers’ progress.

Many project management platforms exist; I like Asana and Trello myself. They don’t track time on their own, but you can install an add-on like EverHour to do that.

Second, use subtle software tools to sample activity data from all employees’ computers. I’m talking about software like Screenshot Monitor here. This tool takes screenshots of your employees’ screen, so you can see what they’re doing. That’s not the only monitoring option though; here are ten more from PCMag.

Most importantly…neither part of this approach gets in a remote worker’s way.

A Work-Encouraging Check-In Strategy

Now for the second part of my solution. Monitoring activity & output is a big help. But what about communication? Those regular check-ins every manager likes to do, just to see how you’re doing.

You may want to haul remote workers into a daily (virtual) meeting for check-in. Don’t do that. Meetings, even remote ones, take up time better used for Focus Time.

Instead, do one-on-one check-ins twice to three times per week. Keep to a per-person time limit, but don’t try to squeeze everyone into 5 minutes each. Some people may need more time.

(I’ll cover more on communication intervals vs. quality in a future post.)

This check-in method is easy to schedule, eliminating the nervousness of out-of-the-blue calls. Scheduling them at the same time each week eliminates the sense of disruption. Finally, it’s one-on-one; you’ll have direct communication each time.

Check-In with Manager

Oh, five minutes to my check-in.
Photo by Jessica Arends on Unsplash.

Any communication method will work for such a remote check-ins. I like this order of methods, from best to worst:

  • Slack (or Teams, Google Hangouts, etc.)
  • Slack/Email Combination
  • Email/Phone Combination
  • Email Only
  • Phone Only

If you’re instituting a project management platform, schedule a recurring task for each check-in. Everyone gets a reminder beforehand. Nobody’s surprised. Everyone can gear up for the check-in, go through whatever needs going through, and get back to distraction-free Focus Time!

Don’t Let Paranoia Drive Your Remote Workers Away

My last post on communication “burstiness” plays into the check-in side of this monitoring solution. If you take a moment to read it, I’m sure you’ll see how it helps.

Managers! I’m sorry to tell you this, but your “If I can’t see them they’re not working” paradigm died years ago. Remote workers DO stick to their work. They’re turning in some fantastic work, in fact.

If you’re unsure of their progress at any given point, that’s a problem you must solve. The answer is NOT to force people back into the office. They’re actually more likely to get distracted that way!

Instead, use a little software and scheduling to keep lines of communication open. I’m 100% certain you’ll find those remote workers will stay in contact, keep up good productivity, and remain excellent workers for years.

Do you manage remote workers now? How do you keep an eye on their work?

Communicating Remotely

A recent study recommends remote teams communicate in “bursts,” not constantly throughout the workday.

The website behavioralscientist.org, a site discussing human psychology, published the following article on May 29:

“Bursty” Communication Can Help Remote Teams Thrive – Behavioral Scientist

I find the fact that a psychology website brings up Remote Work very important. Adoption of Remote Work is more a question of psychology than anything else.

The tech IS available, and has been for years. Implementation only takes days. But before that you need the company to accept the notion of Remote Work (what many call ‘buy-in’). After implementation, you need work habits to change, adapting around the new Remote Work option.

These are both a matter of human beliefs, attitudes, and habits – all aspects of human psychology.

So let’s examine what the BehavioralScientist.org article has to say.

Study Done on Remote Team Productivity when Using 2 Communication Methods

The article discusses a study which tested remote teams’ communication strategies. Specifically, they measured two different communication methods:

  1. Standard communication: Communication occurred constantly, in small exchanges, all throughout the day. Lag time often occurred between initial requests and responses.
  2. “Burstiness”: Communication “bursts” – rapid exchange of messages within a short time period – occurred sporadically during the workday. Then people went back to their work until the next “burst.”

The result? The teams using “burstiness” were more productive, more coherent, and had higher-quality work at the end of the day. Findings included this statistical result: “A one standard deviation increase in burstiness lead to a 24 percent performance increase.”

24% improvement is pretty darn significant for a controlled trial!

What This Means: Nonstop Conversation Trickle Disrupts Work. Communication Bursts Allow Focused Work.

I’ve seen this reflected in my own telecommuting. As you’re working, you begin to run into snags. I need this file from Sharon…are we debuting the new trial version on Thursday or Monday…

You ask the co-worker about the snag. But co-workers, wrapped up in their own work, don’t answer right away. What do you do? You either a) keep bugging them, or b) wait (causing what I call ‘Question Buildup’).

Within a normal office environment, you could go ask them & get back to work. But that creates another type of disruption. You go to Sharon’s desk, ask her a question, and get an answer. Then someone else asks Sharon a question & gets an answer. Then someone else…

How much work can Sharon accomplish like this? None!

A constant trickle of quick conversations, facilitated by an easy-to-access office environment, just RUINS productivity. But without those questions answered, you get Question Buildup, and your work can’t progress. It creates a bad Catch 22.

“Bursty” communication periods can solve this problem, according to the study.

Here’s how I envision using “burstiness” during the workday. (Forgive the crudely-basic infographic; I am not a designer.)

Burstiness for Remote Teams

“Burstiness” and its role in the remote team’s workday.

  1. All team members proceed with their work.
  2. Questions begin to build up among them.
  3. One or more persons calls for a Burst session.
  4. Everyone stops their work & converses with the team.
  5. Questions are answered, issues resolved, direction obtained. Could take as little as 5 minutes.
  6. Team members go back to work.
  7. Repeat cycle if necessary.

Communicating in Bursts Lets Remote Workers Do Their Work, AND Stay Productive. Try It!

Take a minute and read the BehavioralScientist.org article. It’s an excellent study, and a short read.

We glean a strong two-part point about remote work from the study results:

  • Communication is key for ALL teams, but especially remote teams. Doing so productively translates to big productivity gains.
  • Remote Work is more a matter of psychology than procedure. If the psychological acceptance isn’t there, someone will sabotage the whole effort.

How do you handle communication when working remotely?

Remote Work Productivity

How Task Overlap Wastes Productivity, and How One Simple List Can Stop It

“Everyone does a little bit of everything here.” It’s a common saying in startups, and some small businesses. Harmless, right?

No. If you have remote workers, you need to stamp that practice out.

It will hurt your company’s productivity and cost you valuable time. I’ll elucidate how in this post.

Productivity Drain Warning: Task Overlap

Let’s illustrate an example here. We have a business where everyone works remotely. One worker, Bob, can do a certain task. I’ll use “populating SEO metadata on webpages” in this case.

SEO population is not Bob’s primary job. But he can do it. Now, another worker, Sarah, does SEO population as part of her regular weekly tasks.

However, not everyone in the company knows this.

Jeff, Sarah’s manager, does know about Sarah’s SEO population duty. Bob does not. Bob’s manager Anna doesn’t either.

Problem: Anna receives a task request for SEO population. Her mind, of course, goes to Bob. She asks Bob to do it.

Because Bob doesn’t know Sarah can populate SEO (and regularly does), he goes ahead & does it. It takes him 15 minutes because he’s not accustomed to doing it regularly. Two days later, Sarah does her regular SEO population for all clients. It only takes her 5 minutes per task. Along the way, she sees that one population was already done. Curious, she takes 3 minutes and finds out Bob did it.

Bob has wasted his effort and 15 minutes of time. Sarah has wasted 3. This is what I mean by Task Overlap.

Frustrated Remote Worker

I wasted HOW long doing that??

Be Specific on Who Does What, to Avoid Task Overlap

If people do many things/skills, and are not expressly aware of everyone else’s duties, then they can overlap with others. Causing wasted productivity each time. Only a little time, as we saw above. But that can add up fast.

Imagine if you could get 1 extra hour of productivity, per person, per month. That’s a big chunk of useful time.

Regular thorough communication can help avoid Task Overlap to a large degree. But it’s not as effective as specifying everyone’s duties.

How to ID Remote Workers’ Specialties

Here’s a way to solve the Task Overlap issue. You only need a little time, documentation, and a shared workspace (e.g. a wiki, Asana, etc.).

  1. Survey every remote worker. Ask them to list their specialties and their regular duties.
  2. Document all of these in 1 big list. Separate by type and person. I’ve worked up an example in the below image:

    Remote Work Duties & Specialties List

    Duties and Specialties for Bob & Sarah. At-a-glance Task Overlap prevention.

  3. Publish the list somewhere ALL workers, remote or otherwise, have access to.
  4. Require all workers to view & bookmark the list.
    • Everyone can refer to this whenever they receive a new task.
  5. Update the list quarterly. You can just re-run the previous process to check in with everyone.
  6. When you do update the list, send an email reminder around so everyone knows to check it again.

Let’s go back to our earlier example. Anna receives a request for SEO metadata population. She checks the list. Sees that Bob has SEO population listed as a Specialty…but Sarah has SEO Population under Duties.

Anna forwards the request to Jeff, who adds it to Sarah’s regular weekly task list. Time? Maybe 3 minutes. Productive time wasted? Zero.

Clarity on Who Does What Saves Time AND Productivity

Don’t get me wrong…it’s good to have multi-skilled people on your team! Especially in a remote work environment. That way another person can step in to help if someone’s out sick, or on vacation.

You just don’t want to mis-target their efforts, over and over.

In a Remote Work environment, people sometimes feel they’re the “only one who can do this.” One simple list can explain otherwise, AND let them focus on what they do best.

Does your company document people’s duties/specialties?

Paying Remote Workers in Crypto

More avenues than ever exist to pay remote employees & contractors. Should you add cryptocurrencies to the list?

That’s what this post will discuss. We all saw the meteoric rise of Bitcoin in late 2017, blowing past everyone’s expectations in a sudden rush to the $20,000 mark. It’s now dropped back down around $10,000 and waffles every day.

Personally, I think of Bitcoin itself as a bubble. But it served a valued purpose—moving the blockchain (its core) from a small Web-only curiosity, to a globally-recognized technology. Thousands of blockchain-development companies now exist, seeking to capitalize on the tech everywhere from identity to security to business operations.

Including, of course, payments using cryptocurrencies. Which any business can do already, in one of several available currencies. If you prepare a little bit.

ethereum photo

Photo by stockcatalog

Prerequisites for Using Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies (or “Cryptos” as I’ll reference them in this post) are still in early stages. It is possible to use them for remote worker payments. But some preparatory steps are required.

Any business wanting to use cryptos as a payment method must have staff (or a consultant) who knows the crypto space. They must have:

  • Technical acumen (for knowing/learning the process)
  • Forward-thinking mindset (to see the value in using crypto)
  • Familiarity with current payment options (so you’re not bleeding money on every transaction!)

To assist, here are some resources which will help you familiarize:
What is Cryptocurrency: Everything You Need To Know [Ultimate Guide] – BlockGeeks.com
Reddit – Cryptocurrency
What is the best way for a beginner to learn about the cryptocurrency market? – Quora

When to Use Crypto for Payments

Cryptocurrency as a payment method is viable. It actually has been for a few years, but recent interest compels a more serious look. If your business finds itself in the following circumstances, maybe it’s time to consider a crypto payment:

  1. Other payment methods are not available.
  2. Fees for invoices (or an invoicing software) are too high
  3. Your payroll system doesn’t handle international payments well, or it’s slow.
  4. Overdependence on one payment option, like PayPal.
  5. Workers request it. Yes, this does happen! Witness Ethlance.com, a freelance jobs website like Upwork…only it pays workers in the Ethereum crypto.

Sounds intriguing, right? But even if you’re interested in doing this, it may not make sense for your particular business (or industry). In such cases, we should take a moment & determine if you should embark down the cryptocurrency road.

Should You Pay Remote Workers in Cryptocurrency? How to Tell

The old rule goes, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. It still applies to cryptos. Let’s say your business wants to explore using cryptocurrencies. Which businesses would benefit from doing so?

Yours would, if the business meets these criteria:

  • Some of your remote employees are international. Or they might live in high-tax states (e.g. California), where you’re based in a low-tax state.
  • Your remote workers are tech-savvy. For instance, software engineers. This makes them more likely to know the crypto space. They might even hold some cryptocurrencies already.
  • You can handle volatility. Cryptos change value like other currencies…but they do so a little more ‘vigorously.’ At least for now.
  • Your business is flexible enough to switch from one cryptocurrency to another. This is important; it means you can switch to a crypto which works better for your industry. The technology for this is still developing.
  • You have in-house talent capable of managing crypto for you NOW. You’ll have to poll workers to find this out. More than likely if someone knows the technology, it’s due to personal testing. They may not want to share that knowledge publicly (people have ridiculed cryptos in the past).

Finally, one caveat. Do not hire someone just to manage cryptocurrency payments! Unless you plan to switch the entire business over to crypto payments, it should not have full-time focus.

Think of it this way. Your bookkeeper doesn’t spend all day, every day, paying staff. They’re also managing the books, collecting from customers, handling tax preparation, etc. The most efficiency method of adopting cryptocurrency is to fold it into the existing payroll structure as much as possible.

crypto photo

Time for payroll!

How to Select a Cryptocurrency & Pay Remote Workers With It

So you’ve determined that you want to add a cryptocurrency to your employee payment options. Which one? And how do you work it into payroll?

Here’s how. There’s a few steps…but most of these are the same steps you’d take to add any other payment method.

  • If you haven’t yet, survey your remote workers. Do they want the option to receive payments in cryptocurrency? If so, which crypto would they prefer?
  • Choose a crypto based on feedback. I recommend starting with only one. You can add more later if desired.
    • See the next section for recommendations on cryptos to use.
  • Set up accounts to buy the crypto. This is where you need the crypto-familiar employees or an expert consultant. Lifehacker.com did a piece on how to buy cryptocurrency which can help guide you. So can a recent Bankrate.com guide, “How to Responsibly Invest in Bitcoin.”
    • Coinbase is the most popular method of buying cryptocurrency. I recommend starting here, as they take pains to make it easy for everyone. But you have many other options. Search for “Buy [Your Chosen Cryptocurrency]” for more help.
  • Familiarize Accounting with the buying process. At least two people should know how to exchange regular currency (referred to as ‘fiat’ in the crypto space) into the desired crypto.
  • Set up an interval to buy & hold the crypto. One hallmark of cryptocurrency is its fast transfer speeds. It’s easy to buy all the crypto you’d need for a while, and just leave it in your wallet (the storage medium for crypto, like a bank account) for when you need to pay out.
    • I recommend a 1-month interval to start.
  • Pay out to each worker on your normal payment schedule. Like initiating transfers to remote workers’ account numbers, you would initiate crypto transfer to your remote worker’s crypto wallet.
    • Do a live comparison of the crypto’s CURRENT value to your regular currency first. Use a site like CryptoCompare; it will always tell you what 1 of any listed crypto is worth in US Dollars. That way you’re not overpaying unintentionally.
    • Each remote worker must provide you their wallet’s “public key” to do this. Treat these like a bank account number.
  • Record the amounts in existing books. You can use the crypto’s Currency Code instead of marking them in dollars. (Some examples of Currency Codes included below.) If you want to record the corresponding US Dollar amount alongside it, go ahead. This may help you come tax time.

Six Cryptocurrency Choices

When you ask your remote workers, you may hear a bunch of names you don’t recognize. “What’s an Ethereum?” you may wonder.

Let me offer a few explanations beforehand. Many cryptos are popular now…mostly because they can make people money. But for business, you’d want to concentrate on value and fair cost. With that in mind, here are few cryptocurrencies I think are either good for business use, or ones you should avoid:

  1. Bitcoin (BTC) – It’s big, it’s well-known…and it’s crazy volatile. Not recommended.
  2. Monero (XMR) – This is a privacy-focused crypto. It’s good, and better priced than Bitcoin. But as of early 2018, cybercriminals are flooding into Monero use. They like receiving ransomware payments in it. Which may cause volatile price swings and/or unwanted attention. Not recommended (at least for now).
  3. Litecoin (LTC) – The “silver” to Bitcoin’s gold. It’s a longtime crypto, and stable enough to use.
  4. Ethereum (ETH) – A versatile crypto, with many subprojects. Usable.
  5. Ripple (XRP) – Made for international banking, so it’s quite usable. For now, very cheap too.
  6. Industry-specific crypto – Many industries already have one or more cryptocurrencies specializing in their needs. For example, we have Atlant (Real Estate), Ambrosus (Food & Medicine), Stellar (Banking), and many more. Just search for “crypto [Your Industry]”.

I recommend: Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Industry-Specific. In that order.

Why?

  • Stability. Each is stable enough in terms of pricing.

    litecoin photo

    Photo by btckeychain

  • Purpose. Each has a defined purpose and a team backing it.
  • Familiarity. These are recognized by other crypto-friendly businesses.
  • Lower Cost. Even the most expensive of these, Ethereum, isn’t nearly as expensive as Bitcoin. As of this post’s publication, 1 ETH is worth $861.93.

Cryptocurrency Payments are Here. Will You Put Them on Payroll?

While I am familiar with the crypto space, I am NOT a Cryptocurrency expert. Please do some research before making your crypto selection.

Disclosure: I hold some of the following cryptos – Ripple (XRP), Stellar (XLM), Ambrosus (AMB), and the Basic Attention Token (BAT). If a business wanted to pay me in cryptocurrency for my labor? I would accept payment in Stellar, Litecoin, or Ripple.

I agree with those who’ve said that cryptocurrencies are at the tail end of the “Wild West” stage. I’m writing this post now because I see a lot of value in blockchain technology in general (of which cryptocurrencies are a big part). I also want to give fellow remote workers a resource to which they can point, if they want to accept crypto.

Remote Workers, would you accept payments in cryptocurrencies? Which ones? Sound off!

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!).

Productive Worker at Home

But I have a different perspective on 1…

Let me share a great article on telecommuting with you today.
Why Working from Home is the Holy Grail of Productivity Hacks – BestLife (Alex Daniel)

Overall, it’s a great article. Well written, and does a good job of illustrating the 10 most-commonly-cited productivity boosts you get from working remotely. I’ve already shared it on Reddit, and sent it to some managerial friends.

However, I have one minor issue to raise.

(Okay, two. Alex recommends two days a week telecommuting. I recommend all five, depending on the industry. But, that’s me. Okay, onward!)

The Issue – One Productivity Boost Can Go Even Further

The author talks about 10 different ways telecommuting improves productivity. Regaining commute time as work-time, controlling things like noise level and workflow pace, killing meetings, and so on.

(Sheesh, the TIME we spend stuck in meetings…how many of us have screamed in our heads, “We could have done all that in 3 emails!”)

office meeting photo

“So, we’re all going to remember everything on these posters tomorrow, right?”
Photo by Hollywood_PR

It’s with meetings that I have to raise my minor issue.

The author quotes David Niu of TINYPulse about when it’s a good time to have a face-to-face meeting: the Ideation phase of a project. When you’re figuring out the project’s objective, goals, and planning out steps.

I have to partially disagree here. As sourced, David’s quote talks about the value of face-to-face to “rapidly exchange ideas and read each others’ reactions to feedback.”

Essentially, he’s talking about nonverbal cues. Body language, eye movements…the opinions we give without speaking of them.

Thing is, you don’t necessarily need face-to-face to read verbal cues. Instead, you need:

  1. A video medium
  2. Familiarity with co-workers

If you’ve worked with anyone for a while, you’ve picked up on their typical nonverbal cues. (We don’t have a lot of nonverbal variance from person to person…nobody looks you in the eye when they’re nervous.)

Once you know how to tell when your co-worker likes/dislikes an idea, all you need is a way to track that.

Remote-Work Solution? Group video chats.

video chat photo

Everyone sees everyone. Nonverbal cues come with the discussion.

Dozens of software apps do this already. Skype, Skype for Business, HipChat, Workplace, Slack, etc. All you need are the devices you’re already using, decent bandwidth, and time.

Wait, wait. I can already hear the objection in your brain. “But you can’t see the whole person! It’s not face-to-face, so you can’t be sure!”

A very quick realization for you: You don’t see the whole person when face-to-face anyway. They’re sitting down at a table, leaning forward, partially blocked by a computer or tablet. Unless everyone’s standing up and spread out 10 feet from one another – which would be a little weird anyway – you’re pretty much concentrating on their face and hands.

What does a video chat display? Their face and hands.

It’s a minor quibble. but it does illustrate that sometimes, you can still do those “must be done in person” workday elements remotely.

Alex, great job. Hope to see much more of the same!

I don’t see a Comments section on BestLife, so…what are your thoughts?

IBM and Remote Work

IBM has decided to cancel its remote worker policy.
Extraordinarily bad idea. I’ll illustrate why.

IBM, remote-work pioneer, is calling thousands of employees back to the office – Quartz.com

IBM’s Current State: Unwell

Let’s frame the entire discussion right now. IBM as a company is not doing well. They’ve had 20 straight quarters of revenue decline, right up to Q1 2017 (which ended right as they made this announcement).

IBM stock tumbles as year-over-year revenue declines for 20th consecutive quarter – CNBC

Now, I like the Watson project. I almost can’t overstate its value to medical professionals and research teams. But even with Watson and cloud sales improving, IBM can’t pull themselves out of a LONG slump.

I find this very telling, in regards to their remote work termination.

The Reasons Given: Lofty and Shaky

Sources cited in the Quartz article talk about innovation and productivity gains. About IBM needing to be faster, more ‘agile.’

ibm photo

Used to use one of these…ahh, days gone by.
Photo by byzantiumbooks

“What IBM should value most, says John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University who specializes in HR strategy, are better ideas. ‘It turns out the value of innovation is so strong that it trumps any productivity gain,’ he says, pointing to companies like Apple and Facebook that make around $2 million per employee (IBM makes about $200,000 for each employee). ‘[Remote work] was a great strategy for the 90s and the 80s, but not for 2015.’ He thinks that working together in person is one key to innovation.”

The comparison Professor Sullivan uses is, quite frankly, laughable. IBM already has to collaborate with ‘remote’ locations–its multiple worldwide offices! The marketing department alone has 6 offices across the U.S. ‘Working together in person’ is not possible.

(It’s also notable that the quote came from 2015…IBM had to go back 2 years to find it, apparently.)

Other sources appear to rail against remote work…Yahoo’s similar cancellation, Reddit’s demand that all employees relocate to San Francisco. The fact that Yahoo and Reddit both experienced severe trouble (and Yahoo’s ultimate collapse) are not mentioned.

The QZ.com author, Ms. Kessler, tries to show a bright side to the move. (The article itself is good; I always like seeing great writing.) But an upbeat article won’t make the truth go away.

Who made this ridiculous decision?

The Decision’s Sponsor: IBM’s New CMO

Michelle Peluso is IBM’s Chief Marketing Officer. She came on board in September of 2016. From the available information, it appears she set out to destroy IBM’s remote work policy from Day 1.

“In a video message, Peluso, formerly the CEO of fashion startup Gilt, explained the ‘only one recipe I know for success.’ Its ingredients included great people, the right tools, a mission, analysis of results, and one more thing: ‘really creative and inspiring locations.'”

Wait a minute. The only recipe she knows for success…from a fashion company? IBM is about as far from fashion as you can get. It’s not reasonable to presume the tactics used in a fashion company will work in a technology giant like IBM.

Another thing to point out…she’s the IBM Chief MARKETING Officer.

That’s not an HR position…she shouldn’t have anything to do with hiring & firing. She has no technical experience either. Yet she’s the one making a company-wide decision affecting thousands of technology workers?

This makes no sense at all! What’s the real reason behind IBM’s move?

Using Remote Work as a Scapegoat for Cost-Cutting

When we think about it,it’s pretty easy to see what’s really going on here. It’s all a cost-cutting effort.

  1. Declare an end to the remote work policy.
  2. Assign remote workers to a physical office. The office could be in a totally different city from your home. For example, say you work out of a Boston suburb. Your job is now assigned to the Austin office…and you have to show up.
  3. IBM has now created a circumstance where remote workers quit, since they can’t reach the office. If you don’t want to move? You’re fired.
  4. Profit?

The thing is, they’ve already done layoffs. Thousands of them, just in the past 12 months. It didn’t help their costs. This move won’t either…and in fact may do structural damage to the company.

What Happens to IBM Next?

Maybe some of the talent lost wasn’t so good. If so, a simple layoff would suffice. But a move like this sends a powerful message…a very, very bad one. To the world at large, and to the remaining IBM employees.

The remaining talent…the skilled engineers, good programmers, and so on…now know they can get dumped too. Nobody is safe from Peluso’s “improvements.” What will the skilled workers do in response? If I were any of them, I’d run for the exit as fast as possible!

Thousands of companies will happily slurp up IBM’s talent. Not only do they gain highly-skilled workers, they cause IBM damage. In trying to bolster its own innovation, IBM has sent a shockwave through its own halls.

In terms of short-term effect, here’s what I predict. Any IBM department which must reabsorb formerly-remote workers into their on-site workflows, will slow down. Workflows must change, space must be made, relationships built or rebuilt. The day-to-day of people moving about will drag down productivity.

Of course, this causes the opposite of what Peluso claims she wants. Unless she was only after destroying the remote work policy…in which case, anything that happens afterward is not her problem.

Could IBM Reverse the Remote Work Decision?

Is such a decision reversible? Yes, and that’s the best move. Reinstitute the remote worker policy. Do it companywide, right away.

But, even if they did so tomorrow, the damage is done. It would help them in the long run. But they’ve already burned their most important bridge…the one to their talent.

Even if invited back, some of the remote workers cut by this move will not return. (Nor should they; IBM has declared they don’t trust or want you.) That means IBM has to spend more time/money training new people…wasting all the time/money they already spent on the departing workers.

IBM now has to re-home thousands of workers, paying power costs, growing the needed office space, and raising pollution in every city affected.

crowd photo

“This is my office.” “No, this is my office.” “It’s my office too!”
Photo by markhillary

The sad thing is, IBM once enjoyed incredible boosts from their remote work policy. Not just in productivity, but in ACTUAL cost savings. The article even mentions this!

“And by 2009, when remote work was still, for most, a novelty, 40% of IBM’s 386,000 global employees already worked at home (the company noted that it had reduced its office space by 78 million square feet and saved about $100 million in the US annually as a result).”

Hundreds of millions in savings. Now destroyed, rendered moot.

A Bad Move by a Troubled Company

I give credit to the Captain Capitalism blog for pointing out the Quartz article. The man is brusque, but he knows his economics. Take heed.

My final word: IBM has destroyed a remote work policy that brought them provable gains, because a fashion exec says it’ll save the entire company. The IBM decision-makers are either voluntarily ignorant, or they think they’re above the market.

20 straight quarters of declining revenue says they are wrong.

What do you think?

Home Office Upstairs

I know what you’re thinking. How do MANAGERS benefit when their workers aren’t in the office?

We know a few benefits the workers themselves get from it. But managers? Part of their job is making sure those workers do their job. If I can’t call someone into my office, or go drop by their desk…how do I know they’re actually working?

(Believe it or not, that sort of perspective actually creates a benefit for remote workers. I’ll explain shortly.)

The answer is, it’s easy to know. Plus, you as a manager can derive as much value from remote work as your employees. Let’s find out what kind of value, shall we?

I’ll start with the immediate benefits for employees. Bear with me; there’s a method to my madness.

Immediate Benefits to Working Remotely for Employees

1. Remote Work Ends the “Someone’s Watching Me” Atmosphere

empty office photo

“Bob, you seen Alice?” “Working remotely Sir.” “What about Leslie?” “Remote.” “Joe?”
Photo by Iain Farrell

Do you do your best work when someone’s watching?

You’re sitting at your desk, typing away…and you feel it. The weighty sensation behind your head. That tickle on your neck. The invisible pressure of eyes. You turn your head, and sure enough, there’s your boss. Staring at you like some tenth-story gargoyle.

Distracting, isn’t it? Of course it is. No one performs their best under scrutiny. Yet when we’re working, we want to do good work. So “someone’s watching me” becomes a lingering sandbag. Flattening our productivity at random.

Not in the office? No chance of someone staring at you. No distraction.

2. Improved Co-Worker Communication

When working remotely, how do you check with a co-worker on their progress? Maybe you need some input on the new customer’s sales report. Frank will have that…but you can’t get up & walk over to Frank’s desk. You’re at home, and so is he. (For purposes of this post, I’m assuming you don’t live together.)

You’ll need to check in with Frank, and other co-workers, frequently. For remote workers, there’s plenty of ways to do that. Most are even faster than walking between cubicle rows.

In pretty much all remote-work situations, I advocate teams use project management software like Trello or Asana. Or chat apps like Slack. These platforms provide easy-to-use communications methods. Checking in with Frank only takes a short Slack message, a comment on Asana, an email, a phone call…take your pick.

More importantly, the inability to walk across an office makes each & every worker aware of the need to communicate. How’s that a benefit? The awareness actually leads to BETTER communication.

Since you have to check with co-workers, you’ll work out ways to do this quickly & clearly. Whatever gets you the needed information fast, so you (and Frank) can get back to work. Now you have new communication habits, short and frequent.

3. No More Commute.

Yes, this one’s obvious. But it’s definitely a benefit, for work as well as life.

Gaining back hours spent in commute results in longer/better-quality sleep. How many of you are badly sleep-deprived? It wrecks your productivity…not to mention quality of life.

You also have more time available for work (and for life). How’s that anything but a benefit?

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Hold on managers. Don’t reach for the heart meds just yet. While these might sound like one-sided benefits, they’re not. In fact they benefit you too…in important ways.

I’ll demonstrate by clarifying another aspect of the very same benefits.

Immediate Benefits to Working Remotely for Managers

1. Focus Shifts to Work Progress

Since the “someone’s watching me” atmosphere isn’t possible anymore, what’s left? The work. For you and for them. Nothing gets in the way of (or distracts from) accomplishing the work.

You can still check in on employees easily. Use the same communications tools they use. Most have a “Presence” status indicator. It’s usually a colored dot indicating when they’re Available, Busy, in a Call or Meeting, etc. One glance and you confirm Frank is hard at work.

If you don’t see his status, well, there’s always the phone.

2. More Efficient Workflow (For You!)

With employee communication improving among each other, you’ll notice a curious, but appreciable absence from your workday.

What happens to all those times you’re working, and someone stops by to ask YOU a question? Something their co-worker knows already, or they could find out in a few minutes?

They stop happening.

Think about that. Dozens, maybe hundreds of micro-disruptions during your daily workflow…gone! (Or at least massively cut down.) You could gain hours of productive time back, without doing a thing.

3. Can’t/Don’t Want to Go in Today? Don’t!

I’ll tell you a not-well-kept secret. Managers can telecommute too.

You’re just as reachable as employees, using the same tools to get the work done. (I’ll review a bunch of those tools on the blog soon, don’t worry.) You also can focus on your work, and enjoy the same productivity boost.

Maybe you need to take your son to the doctor? No reason to head to the office, then back home to get him, and then over to the doctor’s. You’re just wasting time driving back and forth…time you could spend working.

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unhappy office photo

Photo by simon.carr

By the way, these are just 3 IMMEDIATE benefits to working remotely. More do exist, both in short- and long-term. I’ll go into detail on all of them in future posts.

For now…what’s one question you have regarding remote work? Please ask it in the comments. I want this blog to answer as many of your questions as possible.