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 chronically 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.

Who This Blog is Meant For

I’ll start off by saying: This blog is not targeted to remote workers.

Don’t get me wrong; you’re all very welcome! But my target audience is slightly different.

On this blog, I want to speak with the people who hire workers of all stripes. Business owners. Managers & VPs. Startup Founders. Government Department Heads (yes, even government can gain from remote work!).

Those types of people. Welcome.

Why? Because this blog is about how remote work benefits YOU.

Remote Work (or telecommuting; I’ll use them interchangeably) has clear benefits to many workers out there…millions, by my estimate. But it also has great benefits for your workday, your hiring, and your success.

As such, the blog will spend time talking about the philosophy behind working remotely. The intricacies of production while telecommuting. And of course, tactics to build remote work into just about any business out there. New or old. Modern or traditional.

Why Should You Read about Remote Work?

Because you’re after productivity.

productivity photo

Photo by sachac

It never truly leaves your mind. “Is there a way we can do this better/faster/more efficiently?” If one exists, you want to test it out. If one doesn’t exist, well, time to invent it!

Maybe you knew about Remote Work already. Maybe not. Either way, this blog is meant to help your business become better by using it.

How so? Well, think about this…

  1. Business Owners – Taking advantage of higher productivity with minimal costs
  2. Managers & VPs – Paying well for good work, no matter where the worker is
  3. Startups – Your talent pool is as big as you want it to be
  4. Government – Even if your hiring is jurisdiction-based, you can push the limits without sacrificing quality of work

They all seem like advantages to me. How about you?

Where This All Started – a Remote Work Reversal

The Remote Worker Office. Everyone's at home.

My career has lasted 20 years now. I’ve spent 13 of those years telecommuting, either full-time or part-time. Early on, I found working remotely a great boon to my work. I had quiet, focus, and no trouble communicating when needed.

Recently, my employer decided that working remotely was no longer acceptable. (Except for himself and his VP.) Why? When I asked, he pointed to recent news of companies canceling their telecommuting policies: Yahoo, IBM, Reddit.

I reminded him that my most productive days are spent working remotely. (This was also true of co-workers, but I could only speak for myself at the time.) He dismissed that with a wave of his hand. I reminded him that his business model is totally different from those companies. Another hand-wave.

Since then, my productivity has waned. Not by choice…I don’t like it at all! I’d say I average 20% higher productivity when working remotely.

Why did that happen? A few of the reasons:

  • I’m an introvert. I can tolerate social settings for a while, but then I start to shrink inward.
  • Constant distraction. People shouting out requests to others, walking around…I’m a content professional. I need focus to create good content!
  • On-the-spot task assignment. Hey, since you just walked into my field of vision, I remembered 3 other things you’ll need to do today! That’s not a problem, right?

I want to do my best work. I know the conditions in which my best work comes out. You probably do too. Wouldn’t you agree that, if everyone had the ability to work in their best conditions, productivity would soar to (and stay at) Maximum?

Feedback is Requested.

Final point: I want to learn too. I’ve spoken with many businesses owners, VPs, and the like over the years. Each had their own story to tell…their own circumstances governing productivity.

I want to hear from you. What you think of remote work, your experiences with telecommuting, which jobs do you think you could remote-enable and which you could not.

Is there something about telecommuting that bugs you? Do you use it now, but find it’s not working too well?

The more I hear, the more I can tackle these problems. The more value businesses—ALL businesses—can get out of Remote Work.

That’s what this blog is meant for.

Want to send in feedback? Please leave a comment on any post. (Don’t forget to subscribe too.)

You’re also welcome to email me, at chris@remotework.works.

Welcome to the journey!

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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