Here’s 6 reasons why remote workers are valuable.

guy telecommuting

Remote work is great for remote workers because it’s always Casual Friday. ūüôā

I was re-reading an article I had posted on Facebook years ago, namely “More Companies Turning To Virtual Employees” found on the Huffington Post in early 2012, and saw that technical writers were among the top positions listed to be good remote positions and positions for independent contractors. Back then, I thought, “Great! Sign me up!”

Four years later upon re-reading this article, I was thinking, “Great! Sign me up!” However,¬†I’m wondering if things have changed since that article has posted. The reason I ask is that I’ve been looking for those remote positions, and I’ll be damned if I can find one, or find one easily.

Now, keep in mind, I’ve had the opportunity to be a remote worker, and I did it for about three¬†years. The small consulting gig I have after hours that’s an extension of that job is still done remotely. I know what it takes to be a successful remote worker.

So why is it so difficult to find these remote positions? When¬†Marissa Meyer of Yahoo took away telecommuting privileges in 2013 (a year after the Huffington Post article), did it scare everyone else to do the same? I protested that move then, and I protest it now. ¬†I’ve seen many positions listed that could be done remotely, or mostly remotely (like an occasional visit to the office would be okay), but everyone insists that workers need to be in the office. I’m all for teamwork, yet I’ve been on several teams remotely without any problem.

I have a feeling that there are several misconceptions about remote working on the part of employers. Perceptions I have heard include:

  1. Workers will get more done in the office workers who work remotely goof off and regard the time as their own.
  2. Working from the office costs will be less expensive.
  3. You can keep a closer eye on workers/micromanage when they are in the office.
  4. There’s nothing like the social aspects of being in the office as part of a team.
  5. Being in the office with your fellow co-workers will instill more teamwork, and more company loyalty, and more productivity. (This was an argument of Marissa Mayer.)

Rubbish, I tell you!

I have found from my own experience, and the experiences that others have told me, all these are not true. This is not to say there isn’t some truth to some of these preconceptions, but they are based on the worst in class workers instead of the best in class.

Here are the 6 reasons why employers should consider hiring more remote workers:

  1. Remote workers actually put in more hours than office workers.
    Since we don’t have to commute to the office, we often are starting work earlier and finishing work later. Good remote workers will usually have a home office so they can be removed from household distractions, and distractions are actually fewer than in an office setting. Even if we have to step away for a doctor’s appointment, pick up the kid from the bus stop, etc. we put in more quality time in those working hours. In most cases, we keep the same business hours, but are at our desk more than someone moving around the office.
  2. Remote workers take on a good chunk of the operating costs.
    Since we work from home most often, we pay for the space, electricity, heating/AC, and the internet connectivity. All the other potential costs, like a VOIP phone, network box or VPN, and a company computer would be the same as if you were at the office. In some cases, the remote worker uses a VPN connection, and it’s the cost of using their own computer or equipment being used. The employer doesn’t have to pay for the occupation of space at the office.
  3. Good remote workers don’t need to be micromanaged.
    Remote workers can keep themselves busy, and are more productive if they don’t have someone constantly looking over their shoulder. If details are important to an employer, remote workers have to deal with details to ensure that communications about projects are understood well¬†as a result of being¬†remote. They ask clarifying questions as needed. Just relax!
  4. Social time¬†isn’t going to get the work done.
    Being a remote worker can be lonely sometimes, and some of the social aspects of working in an office can be missed. But thanks to social media tools, web conferencing, and good old email, being remote isn’t anti-social. Work, after all, isn’t about hanging out with your friends. Work is about getting a job done, and if you become friendly with your teammates, that’s great. I’ve seen plenty of situations where workers at the office socialize more than they actually work. You don’t have that problem with a¬†remote worker.
  5. Remote workers work harder to be a valuable member of the team than those in the office.
    While there is some validity that face to face events help to foster teamwork, it’s not a must-have. Remote workers can feel out of the loop a little bit when there are small chats across cubicles that are missed out, but when phone meetings or web conferences are going on, remote workers will go out of their way to integrate and ensure that their contribution is at least on par with the office teammates and¬†that the other teammates know that you are pulling your weight–sometimes more. This is especially true of global or cross-country teams that all meet remotely whether they are at the office or not. By being allowed to work independently as a remote worker, and by being allowed to work in a way that best suits that worker, this situation allows for more worker satisfaction, which can lead to more loyalty to the company, and further productivity.
  6. Here’s a bonus for prospective employers–you don’t have to limit your search to a local commuting radius or pay for any relocation for the right remote¬†worker.
    The best person for the job might be 100, 1000, or more miles away, ready to adapt to time differences if needed, and ready to work!

Not everyone is cut out to do remote work. And yes, some jobs do require that you need to be in the office, or at least every now and then. ¬†But in this digital age when we can connect in so many ways, I don’t understand how this hasn’t taken off more. I have Skype, WebEx, AdobeConnect, and other web conferencing tools at my fingertips. I also have email, social media, and internet access. I have most of the standard tools such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud on my laptop.¬†What’s stopping me from getting another remote position? ¬†Oh yeah…it’s that I can’t find where they are, and they aren’t many of them out there.

What do you think? Should remote working or telecommuting be happening more? It was predicted that more people would be telecommuting by now, but I haven’t seen it happen yet. What are your experiences? Include your comments below.

About TechCommGeekMom

Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who has recently started her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, and BASF North America, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog, TechCommGeekMom.com, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/daniellemvillegas, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog.
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4 Responses to Here’s 6 reasons why remote workers are valuable.

  1. I would say employers believe they are paying for your skills AND your time. If you work from home, they can’t control how you spend your time. If you’re in the office, you can’t throw in a load of laundry or do the dishes. You may think it’s okay to throw in a load of laundry or walk the dog. I doubt your employers feel that way. Also, if you’re in the office, it is easy to tap your shoulder for a quick meeting. If you’re at home, your manager needs to track you down, and I doubt she wants to spend any time at all doing that.

    • I hear you, Craig, and I understand your point. But that comes back to that micromanaging issue again. I’ve worked in big enough buildings where my boss was in another section, and might miss me because I’m off to a meeting–or just a quick trip to the ladies’ room. Same thing happens when I’m home. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat for hours, and the one moment I get up to stretch, go to the loo, etc. that’s when somebody calls or IMs me. I’ve often found myself wandering looking for my manager to ask questions while in the office all the time, so it goes both ways. Being remote is not that drastically different. I can also say that in my experience also, my managers didn’t care when I put my hours in, as long as the work got done, done well, and in a timely manner.

  2. I went from working in an office, embedded with my engineering team to working remote from home. I found that I missed out on details about the software that I gleaned from overhearing conversations between developers and qa analysts, between developers and product owners, between product owners and product support, etc.

    There is very much an out-of-sight out-of-mind mentality. It’s not intentional. It just how us humans are. Like that friend that says they’re going to stay in touch when you move to another state. And they do in the beginning, but then it fades. Outta sight, outta mind. When I was in the office, a developer, qa analyst, product owner, or support person would walk by my cube and be reminded of product or user workflow information they want to share with me. That no longer happened once I was working remote.

    I also found that I got to play less of a role in the usability of the software itself, again, because I wasn’t physically present for someone to call me into their conversation. When I worked in the office, my fellow developers would call me over to look at a UI or workflow they were working on because I was right there and it was easy to just call me over to their cube. I know it doesn’t take much to set up a webex and share the screen. But it honestly isn’t the same as working side-by-side with someone. It takes a little more effort. For me, I found that making the extra effort to work with the remote tech writer just didn’t happen. As a result, I felt like my documentation lost some of its richness……..those little tidbits I picked up from overhearing conversations. I also missed not being more involved in the usability of the product.

    And…….I missed the comradery. I missed the work relationships you build when you socialize with your teammates over lunch, coffee breaks, drinks after work, and work celebrations. I believe these work relationships are important, especially to tech writers. I find it much easier to get the information I need from an engineer that knows me on a social level and not just a work level.

    • Thanks for your insight, Hope! I understand what you are saying. Sometimes those nuances can go a long way! I guess my experiences have been different from most people’s experiences. I thought I’d miss the camaraderie, and sometimes I do, but not as much as I thought. It depends on the group you are with. I’ve been around office groups that I really would never associate with otherwise, and others have become friends. It can be complex! I actually miss being a remote worker right now. I don’t need to hear 2-3 other conversations going on at the same time, other people’s cell phones or laptops beeping, etc. I enjoy the quiet and coziness of being at home. I found that social media and instant messaging has worked well in professional relationships. If I need to tap into someone’s head, it’s just an IM away. And I’m used to using web conferencing a lot and sharing screens with others often. So I suppose it’s all a matter of what tools are available and how they are used to maintain communication.

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