Remote Work: Opportunities and obstacles
I think I’m fairly safe in saying that most of us at some point have dreamt of leading a remote work life. In saying this, that dream probably included images of an exotic beach, sunshine and cocktails whilst casually working from a laptop by the pool. Here’s where expectation versus reality comes into play and contrastingly, most of us in 2020 are hibernating inside a stuffy apartment enduring the neighbours’ incessant home renovations whilst working on a tight deadline.
Without a doubt, not everyone is suited to working remotely and I myself can attest to the fact it can be challenging at times. Having two cats and a senior dog all vying for my attention while I try to write coherently can be problematic. As a consequence, I have found myself weighing up the opportunities and the obstacles we encounter when working remotely, which I shall outline for you below.
There are definitely advantages both long-term and short-term to remote work. A Stanford University study provides some insight into this with Professor Nicholas Bloom’s findings. Bloom found that there was an astonishing boost in productivity with his participants working from home whilst employee attrition also dropped by 50% during this study. Participants claimed to have a better work/life balance and overall greater happiness. After exploring various studies and statistics, it’s clear to me there are some obvious advantages which advocate remote work to the masses.
Often employees find that their flexibility and productivity is boosted when working remotely as they work at their own pace in their own space. They no longer have to worry about a dreaded commute to and from work which leaves them exhausted and frustrated. Inevitably, there’s always office politics at some stage and working remotely removes these awkward, unnecessary complications. Also, when it comes to saving money and promoting a healthier lifestyle, remote work has its obvious opportunities. Rather than buying that overpriced sandwich or calorie laden fast food on a time constraint, remote workers can prepare healthy, home cooked meals or even prepare for the week in advance. While they’re at it, they’re also helping to reduce waste and do their bit in sustaining the planet. One big drawcard for myself is the opportunity to set my own hours and sleep in when I’m plagued by relentless migraines. Adding on to this, I am able to create a personalised working space/desk that gives me more freedom than I would have in an office and the opportunity to try out what works best for me. This also allows me to adjust my working hours to suit my needs. The indisputable advantage in 2020 is of course the social isolation remote work provides allowing us to steer clear of germs and viruses and minimising the need to wear a mask and constantly slather on sanitiser.
For a lot of people, the dream of having a perfect work-life balance is also said to be better achieved when working remotely. You are able to adapt your hours, habits and environment to increase your productivity. Nowadays, we also have plenty of apps to help us achieve this.
On the flip side, there are of course disadvantages and obstacles to working remotely. If you are a sociable person who thrives on working within a community with clear communication and instant feedback, then this will be a tricky adjustment for you. Remote work requires a lot of self- discipline when it comes to organisation, staying motivated and communicating effectively.
Some people report a major disadvantage as loneliness. Whether you’re close with your colleagues or not, a bit of banter and face-to-face interaction makes you feel part of a team and connected to one another. Remote work can leave you feeling isolated and withdrawn from the company spirit. Communication problems can also become a frustrating part of working remotely. When tech crashes and time zones interfere, it can be hard to keep up productivity and feedback. Unless you live in a mansion, it’s likely physical activity will also be reduced as you no longer need to scamper around your office building to address colleagues or have meetings. Inadequate working space could also encourage an inability to unplug from work. Perhaps your lounge merges into your office and it can be tempting to return to your desk or have work constantly on your mind during leisure hours. Furthermore, if you don’t have great self-discipline or motivation, procrastination could become your worst enemy with nobody to witness your efficiency or keep you in check.
Regardless of the pros and cons outlined above, many of us have to make the best out of this situation and don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. So, if you’re lucky enough to be deliberating whether or not to work remotely, remember to weigh up both sides of the equation and what will allow you to execute your work the most effectively.