August 26, 2014
Advances in technology have allowed more and more people to do their jobs remotely. According the U.S. Census, 4.2 million more people worked from home at least one day per week in 2010 than in 1997. Broadband Internet, Skype, instant messaging, and of course the reliable telephone make working from home a reality for millions of people every day.
We talked to six individuals who work from home to learn more about the benefits and challenges of working from home (WFH). Here’s who they are and what they had to say:
- Erika Hilgaertner, Deal Operations Supervisor, Savings.com was hired as a remote employee.
- Meghan Heffernan, PR & Communications Executive, Savings.com transitioned to work-from-home after several years on the job
- Erica Roberts, Sr. Manager Training & Development, USG Corporation manages a distributed team while working from home.
- Jeff Kellem, Founder / Type Designer, Slanted Hall left a corporate job to start his own company from home.
- Sherman Tam, Sr. Channel Marketing Manager at Tegile Systems was hired as a remote employee.
- Lisa K., Executive Communications Manager at a global data storage company transitioned to working from home after several years at her previous company. At her current company, she was hired as a remote employee.
Working From Home Increases Productivity
“I get a ton of work done. I am, for the most part, always a moments notice away from time sensitive emails, etc.” Erika H.
“I get a lot done from home, especially meaty projects and plans.” Meghan H.
“Almost from day one I found that the lines between work hours and home hours began to blur, with the company being the primary beneficiary. In the work I do, peace and quiet helps.” Lisa K.
Employees Love the Work-Life Balance
“I am able to have both a job that I love, and do what’s best for my family. I had twin boys and moved closer to my mom’s house for the extra help.” – Meghan H
Because I have more flexibility I have more time with my family which means better work-life balance, and that aids in my overall productivity and happiness with my position.” Erika H.
“Having more flexibility to work things in like taking the dog for a walk or running a load of laundry is really positive. Those are small things, but meaningful. I was also able to work remotely from Santa Barbara for two months rather than my home in Northern California while my husband was on a job down there.” – Lisa K.
“The overall benefit to my life is less about working from home and more about choosing to work in areas that energize me and provide joy.” – Jeff K.
Overcoming the Challenges of Remote Communication
“It took some time to figure out how to be present, without being present. It can difficult when I am the only one not in the room for a meeting. I believe brainstorming and planning sessions are best done in person. When that’s not possible, it’s my responsibility to make sure that I can contribute in a significant way despite not being in the office.” – Meghan H.
“I make a conscious effort to talk [to my direct reports] every day, not just communicate via IM or email. I also make sure we don’t just talk about work. In the office, you get to know about people’s families ‘around the water cooler.’ I try to make sure we still talk about who we are as people. It makes it easier to work together.” – Erica R.
“It takes longer to build relationships. It can also be hard to track people down for information or deadlines.” – Sherman T.
“The challenge is not having a team in immediate proximity to discuss ideas.” – Jeff K.
“I try to manage my schedule so that the days I am in the office I set up a lot of in person and one-on-one meetings to stay connected. It does mean that I miss out on some of the socializing and work events like Tuesday lunches, after work running groups, and the Office Olympics. I try to plan my time in the office for some of those events as well.” – Meghan H.
“The difference for WFH employees is that we cannot see each other’s non-verbal cues. They cannot see my face to know I am joking about something or that I am serious and concerned about an issue. Oddly enough, the emoji symbols really help with joking. The recipient immediately understands your intention and can take it the right way. I also find myself stating my intention to ensure proper understanding.” – Erica R.
“It’s not easy to be the only person in a staff meeting of 6-10 people who is on the phone. I would say I haven’t completely cracked the code on the best way to make it work. There are some tricks that help: have a buddy in the room to chat with on IM (you can feed questions to them, sometimes get a better read of the room if things are tense); I have a phone that when I take it off mute it beeps. This wasn’t deliberate on my part, but I noticed that many of the teams that I work with on a daily basis recognize that beep as me coming off mute and looking for an opening to make a comment. It’s also critical to establish individual relationships with people outside of the team meetings, otherwise you can get marginalized.” – Lisa K.
Overall, The Company Benefits
“I’m very appreciative that my company was so understanding of my family needs that it motivates me to really do my best and deliver as a way of thanking them.” – Meghan H.
“I have found that it is easier for WFH employees to be more committed to a project or the company, because the company is able to offer them flexibility that could not exist if they worked in the office. I have also found that it is easier for WFH employees to meet deadlines because of this flexibility. Working from home allows them to find a healthy balance that is reflected in their work.” Erica R.
“I believe there’s value in trusting your employees to get work done and allowing them the time and focus that can come from working in a space with limited interruption.” Jeff K.
“I get more work done, am a happier employee and less stressed out about work.” – Sherman T.
“I wouldn’t be at my company if I wasn’t a remote employee.” Lisa K.
Working from home is becoming an increasingly popular option that benefits not only employees and their families, but the their employers as well. When the best employee for the job is too far away, consider hiring a work from home employee by posting an ad on Simply Hired.
This article is part of a series on how to adapt and thrive in this new era of changing careers. To receive articles like this by email, sign up for Simply Hired’s Monthly Newsletter and Feature Articles.
Read more from this series:
- The Changing Workforce
- 4 Pleasing Results From Hiring a Career Change Candidate
- Diversify with Career-Change Candidates: 6 Factors to Consider
- 6 Tips for Hiring in Emerging Fields
- Career Resurrection: How to Identify Top Candidates from Declining Fields
- Business Agility Meets Flexibility: The Growth in Alternative Work Models
- The Case for Hiring Contractors
- Part-Time Employees: A Hidden Weapon of Efficiency