Are remote workers really happier? A survey by Owl Labs suggests so. At-home workers reported being happy 22 percent more than office workers, also saying they are less stressed, are more focused, and enjoy a better work–life balance than their counterparts.
In my experience, remote work has had a hugely positive impact on my personal and professional life. I’ve enjoyed incredible flexibility, better productivity, and proactive friendship-building, all of which have made my life richer and more enjoyable. Here’s why I think everyone who can should consider working remotely.
Flexibility and Work–Life Balance
“While workers are demanding (and receiving) higher compensation, many of them also want more flexibility, community, and an inclusive culture (what we call relational factors) to accept a full-time job at a traditional employer,” say Aaron De Smet, Bonnie Dowling, Marino Mugayar-Baldocchi, and Bill Schaninger at McKinsey.
Are these relational factors important to you? Then it’s probably not surprising that when workers are offered the option to work flexibly, 87 percent of them take it.
When I was given the chance to accept a flexible, remote job at SVI, I took it and never looked back. As a parent—and simply as a person with multifaceted needs and obligations—flexible work has been life-changing. Here are just some of the ways I personally have benefited from this arrangement:
- Feeding and caring for my infant daughter in the way that works best for both of us and seeing my five-year-old during the day as she plays quietly beside me while I work
- Going to doctor appointments or running other time-sensitive errands without having to take a half-day of PTO, keeping my phone with me in case a colleague needs a quick response
- Dedicating eight hours a day to work, with time I used to spend commuting now spent with my family
- Being able to use PTO for vacations!
I never thought this kind of flexibility would be an option, and I can’t say enough about how nice it is to be able to see my kids during the day and still be an active contributor at work.
Productivity You Can Be Proud Of
As much as I love remote work, I recognize that it’s not beneficial—or even possible—for everybody. Sometimes, the work part of work–life balance suffers. A lot of this comes down to what type of work you are doing.
A study of 273 remote workers found that “employees whose jobs were highly complex but did not require significant collaboration or social support performed better when telecommuting than when working in the company’s office.” For people whose jobs require a lot of problem-solving and deep thinking, a quiet office at home without distractions from coworkers can be the best environment for effective work.
If your job is suited to remote work, the next challenge is to be disciplined. When it’s possible for you to check emails and even attend meetings while sitting on your bed, it can be hard to focus on work when you’re “at” work and focus on home and family when you’re “at” home.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t good at separating home and work life at first. It takes practice! Today, I’ll often sit in the living room to work with my husband, who also works at home. But when I need to buckle down and really focus, I go into my office space and close the door, getting up to check on the kids once an hour. When I leave my office space, I’m 100 percent focused on family. Practicing this kind of discipline is a skill, and it has helped my productivity.
This skill also improves the quality of my work. When I was working in a traditional office, I didn’t need to work particularly fast or efficiently because I knew I was there from eight to five regardless. Now, I’m eager to get my work done correctly the first time and make every minute count. I’ve been told that when I hop on a meeting, I don’t do small talk! If I don’t focus, I’ll have to work later at night or I’ll miss out on time with my kids. That motivation makes it easier to get the work part of the work–life balance right.
Proactive Culture and Work Friendships
Remote work can give you flexibility and save you time and money, but there are potential downsides.
“The impact of such arrangements on productivity, creativity and morale has been up for debate, primarily because working from home offers employees fewer opportunities to talk and network with their colleagues,” said Zara Abrams at the American Psychological Association.
Making friends in a remote work environment is a little more difficult than in a traditional office, especially when you’re shy. To counteract those difficulties, it’s crucial to be proactive about building interoffice friendships and a strong culture across the company.
How can you do that? Marisa Franco, PhD, has five tips:
- Schedule informal meetings just to chat—and not about work!
- Make these informal meetings consistent to build the friendship.
- Share more about yourself, because people like people who disclose details about themselves. And on the flip side, ask questions to get to know your colleagues.
- Express praise; the secret to being likable is actually to like people.
- “Repot” friendships by taking them out of the workplace to another setting like an art gallery on the weekend or a restaurant for lunch.
Taking these personal steps is important, but it also helps when you have a workplace with culture-building initiatives in place. At SVI, we’re in different countries and time zones, so it can be hard to feel like a team on the same page. That’s why we are proactive about organizing team- and culture-building activities. We encourage people to reach out and get to know each other. We have monthly coffee chats on Zoom. We also set up groups for people to meet separately (e.g., a women’s group).
A remote workplace presents challenges, but as chief of staff, the extra work needed is worth the result of happier, better-connected employees. And as an individual, I’ve found that these activities have helped me make meaningful connections that enrich my experience at work.
If you’re considering remote work, you can be confident knowing that, despite some challenges, the flexibility, productivity, and friendship-building you’ll experience will benefit your life immensely. To browse the remote positions available at SVI, visit siliconvalleyinsight.com/careers.