Before the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed millions to work from home, the number of remote workers in the U.S. was already increasing. In an article by FlexJobs, an online tool for job seekers, there was a 44% growth in the remote workforce over the past five years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic. This number jumps dramatically when you look at the past 10-years, which reveals a whopping 91% increase in people working from home.
Undoubtedly, the explosive growth of remote workers over the past few years is what led to coworking companies, like Riveter and Industrious Chicago River North, popping up all over the country. Not only to address the loneliness and isolation that comes with working alone from home but also to help individuals work in a professional office setting without some of the tempting distractions that come with working from home, like turning on the TV or making a trip to the fridge.
The Advantages of Working Remotely
It’s Possible to Create a Better Work-Life Balance
Creating a work-life balance can sometimes be like searching for a Unicorn. But one of the genuinely empowering things about working from home is the ability to add more play into your day. Even so, remote workers have their own unique set of challenges in creating a work-life balance.
When compared to working in an office 8+ hours a day, working from home means there is more flexibility on taking the kids to soccer practice or scheduling dentist appointments. Flexible work hours make grocery shopping at noon or attending a fitness class without a wardrobe change much easier too.
Creating a work-life balance means you’re allocating your time so you don’t overwork and can focus on personalizing the other aspects of your life like taking care of family, seeing friends, or attending different types of social activities. This melding of your work life with your personal life and can be instrumental in achieving a balance.
With Very Little Effort, You’ll Save Time & Money
By some estimates, people who work from home half time can save as much as $6,500 a year. In some regions of the country, like the Dallas-Fortworth Metro Area, commute times are typically about an hour, and gas prices are typically higher near big cities, and this is before paying to park if you work downtown.
A one-hour per day driving to and from work equates to roughly 436 days spent commuting over a 45-year career, according to the Dallas Business Journal. Yes, more than a year’s worth of time! Moreover, Dallas, Texas is the second-most-expensive commute time in the country.
Additional benefits that are hard to put a price tag on include getting extra sleep in the morning or getting in a workout and spending more time with your family in the mornings to taking more time to prepare healthy meals, for example.
You’ll Be Making a Positive Environmental Impact
In today’s world of climate action, Mother Earth won’t be the only one thanking you. So you can smile more just knowing that you’re shrinking your carbon footprint on the days you work from home. The existing telecommuting population (3.9 million employees) reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking over 600,000 cars off the road for a year, according to the “State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce” report.
When coupled with using less energy at offices, reducing the need for roadway repairs, and less paper usage via electronic documents, remote workers may one day be considered as part of the “green workforce.”
The Challenges of Working from Home
Before the coronavirus crisis, if you told someone that you worked from home, they would look at you with unknowing envy. But truth be told, and what so many will continue to learn as the weeks go by, is that working from home has a downside.
The biggest challenge can be summed up in one word. Productivity. So ultimately, there is only one real challenge or working from home and then everything else that goes along with it. Especially for those attempting it for the first time. Typically, loneliness would be the top challenge for remote workers, Not so today. Loneliness is flipped on its head and the desire to be alone “So I can get some work done!” is desired by anyone working at home with children underfoot or roommates.
Domestic distractions is another big challenge for remote workers. Especially now when reports of coronavirus news are constantly flashing across our screens. The TV is also sited a huge temptation and distraction for home-based workers. And again, it’s tempting to turn on the TV in the early morning and sometimes hard to turn it off.
Working too much is often cited as a reason why some employees prefer to go to the office daily or even just a few times a week. For many, a physical workspace away from home helps to separate home life from work life and triggers their brain to stop working after leaving the office.
For at-home workers, the home workspace is one in the same, making it necessary to allocate and design a productive workspace— preferably with a door— that differentiates domestic life from office life.
How to Successfully Work with Remote Teams
Having the ability to share documents and collaborate with your coworkers is the key to staying successful while working from home. If you’re a consultant or freelancer, you already have a favorite cloud-based platform such as Microsoft or Google.
If you’re still getting used to the ins and outs of working from home, hang in there! It takes months and sometimes years for individuals to hone their WFH skills. For example, adjusting to the continually changing routines of school-aged children or learning how to avoid what your triggers are that get you off-task.
How Will COVID-19 Changing the Way We Work Together in the Future?
Like so many things, the coronavirus is changing the way work. Not only is it radically changing the way we interact, but the crisis is also redefining how companies view employees. Agile companies are asking their employees to recreate their roles do tasks they could never have imagined a few weeks ago. For example, Brooks Brothers and New Balance are now producing surgical masks and gowns. At the same time, Tesla, Ford, and General Motors have retooled their factories to produce ventilators from car parts after idling their automotive plants due to plummeting consumer demand.
We’re going to be in a “quarantine state of mind” for many weeks, possibly even months ahead, so what seems imperative now, like wearing masks, will soon become the norm as mask-wearing selfies continue to reinforce the practice in western culture.
Other changes we’re likely to see in offices will range from walking clockwise around the office (think of Apple’s world headquarters sphere-shaped building) to improved indoor ventilation and air quality systems.
Other Tips and Tricks for Working From Home for First-Timers
Maybe you’d like to watch a video to learn these and other tips and tricks to work from home? These freelance and business video creators share their tips and tricks to effectively work from home, from troubleshooting weak Wi-Fi to collaborating with your coworkers.