Who knew it’d be a pandemic to encourage remote work?

It is early March 2020. At this writing, the coronavirus (also known as COVID19) pandemic is slowly taking over, and people are starting to realize that they need to take it seriously. Unlike other pandemics in the past (last big one was “Spanish Flu” 100 years ago), we do have the knowledge and means to prevent it from spreading too much with basic sanitary hygiene like washing your hands and not touching other surfaces and hands that infected people might have also touched.

It is in light of this that I’m getting many of my tech comm friends pinging me on social media about remote work, as in, “Hey, I know you are an advocate for remote work, and more companies are sending people home in fear of the coronavirus.” Yep, so I’ve seen!  Who knew that it would take a pandemic to encourage remote work?

While there are jobs out there where you do need to show up, most technical communications jobs are really not among them. I’ve worked on virtual teams of technical writers, content strategists, UX designers, programmers, project managers, visual designers, and we did just fine. It’s all about communication and having the appropriate tools, but I’ll go into that more in a moment. Let’s look at some other factors that show that remote work is super viable.  

I could have told you that remote work was better for health reasons long ago. First, we can keep our germs to ourselves more by staying home. This doesn’t mean that we never leave our homes, but because we only go out to shop or get errands done, we’re not exposed to as many things as most. Yes, it only takes one germ to get ‘ya, but your risk is significantly minimized. I used to get really bad bronchial infections, colds, and other things when I worked in offices, no matter how much hand sanitizer I used and how many Clorox anti-bacterial wipes I used on my equipment.  Once I worked from home, that happened less often.  If workers don’t get sick as often, then their health benefits are not as expensive and there’s more time working. That benefits employers as much as it does workers. 

Costs of working from home is significantly less. I think I read a statistic–I think Chris Herd put it on LinkedIn recently (he’s another big remote advocate like me) that it costs something like $18,000+ per worker per year (or something like that) to pay for office space. I don’t think that included internet/wifi connectivity, water/electricity/heating/cooling, telephony, or any other things that you have in an office. Working from home, that costs about 1/10th of that per year. Additionally, there’s the cost of commuting by car or public transit, or even eating out for lunch. Those costs in not only money but time also take away from the “bottom line”–they add up very quickly. 

Remote workers also reap mental health benefits from working from home. In most cases, there have been studies that show that working from home is more productive as there are less disturbances, allowing workers to better focus on their work.  They can use that free time to get a gym workout in, talk to their kids, make a healthier meal than take out, or just…whatever. The balance between work and home is better because there’s more “home” time involved.  Less stress means happier workers. 

Now, I know there are those who say that they like having to work around people. Good for you! But I know this tech comm bunch–most of us (including myself) are introverts. (I know, I don’t seem like one, but I am an extroverted introvert.) We don’t have to deal with people ALL THE TIME. What about that one co-worker you would prefer not to talk to unless you have to? When you are in the office, you are forced into seeing your office colleagues all day, whether you like them or not. You see them more than you see your family, in some cases. If you have great colleagues, good for you. I’ve been in bad groups and good groups. I would rather control my face time with all of them. Remote work lets me do that.  We live in an age where we can video conference, audio conference, make phone calls, email, and instant message people. There are shared drives and BaseCamp and Microsoft Teams and Jira/Confluence and other tools that help with the collaboration. As I said, I’ve been on teams where everyone was spread out globally, and with consistent, concise, and frequent communication using most of the tools listed above, we would make great things happen. 

IT CAN WORK. 

Now, companies are forced into trying it for the sake of world health. I’m willing to bet that many companies that previously didn’t have any kind of telecommuting or remote options that are now forced to consider it are going to get a shocking surprise at how well things will work. Remote work was supposed to be something that was going to be very commonplace by 2020, and it still isn’t. (Thanks, Marissa Meyer.) 

I’m looking for a new remote position right now, as a matter of fact. I am suited for it. I prefer it. I get more work done. I am able to keep after my health better. My mental state is better. I can take care of my family better. I’m more comfortable working in my own setup, and saving money on commuting and other working-at-an-office costs. Some of my best work has been done when I worked from home. 

Will this be the huge wake up call that we advocates of remote work have been waiting for? Time will tell. 

What do you think? Include your comments below.  

PS – You might also want to do a search in this blog on the word “remote” and see several articles that I’ve shared and other insights as well. 😉

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, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, 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, TCUK (ISTC) 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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