Most of my adult life, I have been a remote worker. I have worked from my RV in the middle of the mountains of Montana. I have worked remotely in the desert of Nevada. I have worked from a secluded cabin in New Mexico. I even have worked remotely while serving as a full time missionary living in Guatemala (http://2forChrist.com)
But as a freelance software developer, I routinely bump heads with recruiters and employers who want to have me onsite from 9 to 5 in their office. I always chuckle a bit and say to most of them “Welcome to the 1980’s”
Yes… it’s probably arrogant. I am well aware of that, but when you really stop to think about what I do for a living, is it necessary to see me 8 hours a day? Is it necessary to pull me from the most productive environment I could possibly have? An environment that cost no company a single penny to obtain?
I like where I work and the antiquated notion that somebody who shows up at 8am, all nicely dressed and physically at the office all day, is somehow more productive than I am, is just silly.
I work in my own private office building which is not connected to my house. It’s on my own property in the middle of the woods with no distractions (people talking around the water cooler at work; normal office gossip, etc).
I’m so remote that there is no automobile traffic that can be heard from my office building. I have no neighbors and I don’t have visitors just drop by. I have extremely few distractions and I have all the infrastructure that any company could ever possibly provide… high speed internet; complete LAMP and WAMP stack LANs, servers, etc.
I have multiple backup fail-safes to every piece of infrastructure here as well. I have multiple LANs. I have physical backup here onsite and stored in a 72 hour fire safe guaranteed to $1 million dollars of value in case of a loss. I use a “constant on” remote backup service that makes a backup every time I stop typing for more than 5 seconds. I use GitHub.com to instantly store all the code I write.
If my computer were to die, I would simply grab another from the many we have here and be back online in less than two minutes. All my work is saved to multiple locations and I would lose at most, 5 seconds of typing during the crash.
It’s worth noting, that I maintain two sources of high speed internet. If one goes down, it doesn’t effect me either. I have 12mb service on one and 25mb service on the other.
My house and my office building are also immune to power outages. If the commercial power goes out, we have multiple generator backup systems. I simply flip a switch and I’m back up and running in less than two minutes. I maintain multiple generators with enough fuel to last at least four continuous days without needing more. In a power outage from a storm, I’m betting your office could go dark and you would have to send everyone home. So much for that work day.
In addition, I am much more productive, sitting here with the lights down low; my windows blocked from outside harsh light; stereo jamming at a volume level that would upset most teenagers; my air conditioner set to a chilly 65 degrees and I just “get in the zone”. Something that is impossible in your stuffy, noisy, loud, hot or cold office.
I wish I could find the Harvard study I once read, that talked about “getting in the zone”. Basically the study said if you want to really achieve your most productive potential for flow and creativity, then you should put yourself in a “sensory deprivation tank”.
In other words, eliminate all the distractions. All the distractions I would have at a company office such as someone walking into my office, or worse… by my cubicle. I don’t have to worry about that… nobody comes here during my working hours except my wife and I even have a light on the outside of my office building to indicate I am “in the zone”. When I turn it on, she knows to not dare enter my office unless the house is burning down. Sensory Deprivation Tank… I’ve achieved it much better than any company could ever provide, I assure you!
I recently wrote another article on how to success as a remote worker.
But let’s look at the benefits to a company who is considering remote workers..
1) Less expensive: My work space is paid for entirely by me. You don’t have to rent a office space. I don’t need your office or your cubicle. You can save that money. I have my definition of luxury here. Likewise, you don’t have to provide internet or worry about the infrastructure… it’s already taken care of for you.
2) Happier employees/contractors stick around longer: I hate the cities. I have lived in Des Moines, Denver, Boulder, Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Little Rock, London, and even Guatemala. If there is one thing I know, it’s that I hate the concrete jungles known as cities. They do nothing but add frustration to me. The traffic to and from work; noisy neighbors; higher crime; and overall rudeness of the people there… I’m just much happier here in the sticks. Maybe other workers like working from home while living in the city. That’s fine too. The point is… let employees be happy and they will stick around longer. Force them into a 1980’s paradigm of coming to your office and it just shows you don’t care as much about them as you should.
A Swedish study published in May 2011 looked at two million Swedes between 1995 and 2005 and found that people who commute longer than 45 minutes had a 40% higher likelihood of divorcing their spouse. Longer commutes are even more trying for a married couple.
When my work day is done, I get to spend the time with my family that most people would be spending commuting. Tell me that doesn’t make for happier employees?
3) Less stress: Remote workers are much less stressed. Work is work and sometimes it is stressful. The long hours trying to meet a deadline are harsh enough. But to insist that those hours be spent in a location away from the things that matter most to employees is just evil. Why add that extra stress of long hours, then driving home tired? When I’m at work, I work into the night frequently. When I’m done, I walk only a few steps, hit the shower and then crash in my bed. I’m not driving home exhausted and crashing into a minivan full of some family that did nothing wrong but be out at night when your tired employee fell asleep at the wheel.
4) Wider talent pool: I am a software developer. I develop web applications for a living. If you only want to hire people local to you, then we should rename the “World Wide Web” and call it the “Wichita Wide Web” or whatever your location is. By hiring remotely, you can hire anyone from anywhere. The number of talented people available to you is so significantly greater that it boggles the mind. Why would anyone not hire remote workers, if for no other reason than this one alone?!
5) Remote workers are more engaged and work more hours: Gallup did a study that shows 70% of workers are not “engaged” while at work (at a company office!). In addition, they found that nearly all remote workers work longer hours than their in-office counterparts.
6) Dependability: When mother nature wreaks havoc, most businesses are affected. Some employees may be unable to trudge through the snow storm, etc. Remote workers can work no matter if it’s rain or shine. This level of reliability shouldn’t be overlooked.
7) Better communication skills: Being remote forces employees to get really good at communicating. You’ll get better updates, emails, etc. This is a skill that is difficult to learn in an office environment.
8) Increased productivity: It’s every micro-manager’s worst nightmare… “Let the employees work from home and they will just slack off all day, playing on Facebook or Twitter”. But in reality, the opposite is true. Employees who telecommute tend to be far more productive. Fewer meetings— and unscheduled interruptions from chatty coworkers— all help to keep remote workers on task and on schedule.
9) Technology makes it easy: When I first started working remotely (nearly 27 years ago), it was significantly more effort than it is today. Since that time several tools have become available. Some of my favorite tools include: HipChat, Skype, and Google Hangouts for staying in touch. Google Drive, GitHub, and DropBox for sharing data. I routinely use BaseCamp for project management, but have recently been drawn to Peak as well.
The bottom line… remote workers shine brighter than that awful fluorescent lighting in your office ever could! I encourage you to give remote workers a try. You’ll be amazed at how truly professional and productive we can be!