Working Remotely: Benefits and Challenges
Let me start by saying something so you can understand our position about this subject: Pixel2HTML is a Remote-First company. When Diego Peralta started this company back in May 2011 (Oh boy, it’s been almost four years!). He was working alone from his parent’s house (in Bahia Blanca, Argentina) and coordinating clients & our team located in different cities around the world. I joined in August 2011 as Project Manager, also working remotely (from Buenos Aires Argentina) and our team continued to work remotely. We have always adopted this methodology of work from ground zero. And we like it a lot! Being that said….
Possibly you’ve heard about Remote Working lately, it’s becoming an usual thing specially among the digital/startup industry. It’s sounds pretty amazing at first glance. But… like everything: It has some pros and cons.
I’ll do my best to outline some Benefits & Challenges of Working Remotely. Let’s dive in…
Benefits of Working Remotely
We understand this primarily about being able to travel and move without the need of taking time off from work, quitting or waiting for retirement. We really don’t care where you are located as long as you are available only a (reasonable) certain part of our business hours and you accomplish the goals and objectives that were agreed on.
On a second side, you’ll probably have other relationships or areas of interest in your life that could benefit from the fact that you don’t need to commute every single weekday to an office wasting 1 or 2 hours of your time daily. You could use that time for other things, ranging from having breakfast in the mornings with your girlfriend or jogging at the afternoon before cooking dinner. You name it.
Attract & Retain Talented Staff
Statistically speaking, there’s a higher chance that someone you want to hire won’t be able to commute to your office daily. Offering the ability of Working Remotely will open your recruiting baseline to almost everyone who’s willing to work this way. On the other side think of this like they have children and need to watch them at home, they want to move out to Europe for three months to explore some new countries or any other excuse you can imagine. Having a remote staff will give you the ability of keeping this guys around and not force them to quit or retire.
The biggest fear among employers is that remote workers will ‘go offline’ and be less productive. In my experience nothing could be further from the truth. Remote workers might not necessarily work a traditional 9 to 5, but they do put the hours in. And sometimes they even get more stuff done than an office based worker. For starters: at least some of the time they would have spent commuting is inevitably spent doing work.
Finally, those working from home are usually more focused than when in the office. Employers fear that home is full of distractions such as TV, playing videogames after lunch, or to take off a full morning. I will not pretend that employees (or even myself) never succumb to these interruptions. However, they are insignificant compared to the distractions in the workplace. Phone calls, pre-established useless meetings, colleagues, ambient noise and other distractions make the office a far worse place to focus than home, especially for a digital worker.
Important Side Note: As with much things in life, this requires discipline. Your team needs to be able to game up on this sooner than later.
Challenges of Working Remotely
One of the biggest challenges of Remote Working, it’s to know when to stop working, as odd as it sounds, since you work and live in the same place it gets hard to stop working when you have the constant temptation to check your email, IRC, etc.
Setting and keep regular office hours could mean a great improvement if you manage to stick to them. Having a special workplace in your house could also help with this, so when the work hour it’s over you leave your workplace and avoid to return.
Taking breaks and avoiding distractions are two importantes things, that go along one with each other, if you take some minutes between work hours you will notice an improvement in your productivity and also in the ability to avoid distractions.
Another big challenge it’s communication give your best to maintain a fluid communication with your co-workers, you should invest in communication software since it becomes really depressing when there’s a lack of communication due to a software problem. Having a fluid and good communication system solves a big problem of remote working like misunderstandings, that could be a really simple thing but lead to a big snowball delaying hours of work.
Finally we believe that remote working is an awesome alternative to the usual style of working that most of us is used to, but the companies and employees should be prepared to overcome the challenges that comes with it, to create a successful environment and keep their remote workers on the same page as everyone else in the company.
Working remotely requires that all your team members enhance their communication. Sometimes it can be very difficult to coordinate things thousands of miles away from each other. It can be really difficult to understand each other due to cultural differences or due to timezones that are really far from each other. You and your team need to over communicate things and make sure everything’s crystal clear from ground zero.
If there’s also the case of something went wrong, you need to be able to involve all the people in a particular project together and have the chance to make any pivots or changes asap. At Pixel2HTML, one thing that helps us a lot is using Slack, we gather around at least 6 hours at the same time every Monday to Friday so we can catch up on the status of things and also share some personal things about our lives. If we need to go into situation-room-mood we normally use Google Hangouts for that.
Working from home and having a lot of flexibility sometimes has a bad output as well. You might end up being on your own all the day at home sitting in front of your computer and interacting with the world through it, while missing real world face to face time with your colleagues and friends. You need to be aware of the fact that Working Remotely doesn’t mean that you won’t be visiting the office ever. A lot of companies still do have an office and welcome all their employees to come to work some days per month in there. You can also visit co-working spaces or meetups nearby your house regularly to get that nerdy talk fix you miss the most. After all, we are humans and as much as we love having the privilege to work from our backyard with peace and tranquility we need the company and each other from time to time :).
Feel like you are interested on the topic? Here are some great articles and books about working remotely and creating a culture for supporting that: