The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely: How To Make Working From Home Work For You
The Ultimate Guide to Working Remotely: How To Make Working From Home Work For You
In today’s fast-paced digital world, working remotely has moved beyond being a mere buzzword. It is a reality, a phenomenon taking center stage in our work cultures, disrupting traditional work arrangements, and offering unprecedented flexibility. A product of technological advancements and changing societal values, remote work, also known as flex work, mobile work, or teleworking, is capturing the interest of millions worldwide.
Remarkable changes in the popularity of remote work occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic data shows that a modest 5% of full-time office employees in the United States worked primarily from their homes. This dramatically changed as the pandemic progressed, with businesses and employees alike adjusting to remote work conditions. By 2021, there was a threefold increase in the number of people primarily working from home, surging to 17.9% (equivalent to 27.6 million individuals).
During the height of the pandemic, nearly 50% of the workforce adopted full-time remote work. As of 2023, data shows that 27% of U.S. employees have transitioned to remote work. With this trend of remote work gaining traction, its prevalence is only anticipated to expand further in the years to come.
The Rising Appeal of Remote Work
A substantial 68% of Americans indicate a preference for full remote work, with a 2022 Pew Research Center report finding that 60% of workers desire to work from home at least part of the time. Why is working remotely becoming a trend hard to ignore? That’s easy to answer. There are many advantages. For example:
Potential savings in both time and money from reduced commuting. In the U.S., remote work has been shown to save the average employee 55 minutes per day. Considering that commuters report spending between $3k and $15k annually on commuting costs plus other expenses such as car maintenance, the savings from working remotely can be substantial.
Higher productivity and performance. Remote work can bolster productivity compared to a traditional office environment, presumably because of time saved on fewer distractions than in an office setting, such as office politics. On average, studies have found that remote workers outperform their office-based colleagues by 47%. Other research has shown that performance increases by 22% when employees are allowed to work from home.
Less exposure to common illnesses that spread in traditional workplaces. Remote workers take 50% fewer sick days, and in turn, this can potentially lower healthcare costs for employers.
Lower expenses related to work. While not specific to a traditional work setting, the average household in 2020 spent $1434 on apparel and in 2021, $359 monthly on meals away from home. Remote employees can reasonably reduce such expenditures.
Of course, some professions lend themselves easily to working remotely, such as certain jobs in IT, customer service, finance, sales, marketing, and research.
But, newer technology such as video conferencing has even enabled some jobs that used to require face-to-face interaction — such as counseling, security, and legal jobs — to become remote jobs, at least part of the time.
Is Working Remotely Right for You?
Before diving into working remotely, it’s crucial to conduct a self-assessment. Consider these key questions:
Is your personality suited to working from home? Not everyone enjoys working remotely. Some find it isolating, for example, and are happier with an onsite job.
Are you good at taking initiative and managing your workload independently? Working from home requires a lot of discipline and self-management. You’ll need to take care of your schedule, prioritize daily tasks, and meet your deadlines without anyone watching over you.
Do you have the necessary dedicated office space at home for remote work? Even if it isn’t an actual home office, you will need a space in your home where you can work without being disturbed, and you will need the right technology tools, such as fast internet access and the ability to conduct video calls.
Will you have the support of other family members or roommates? The comfort of your home can be both a boon and a bane for work-life balance and overall productivity. Home distractions such as family responsibilities, pets, household chores, or even the temptation of leisure activities can encroach upon your work time.
Does your employer already allow employees to work remotely? Asking for remote work opportunities is easier if your company already has a system for remote employment.
How common is remote work in your industry? Do other companies similar to yours let their employees work from home? If your employer is afraid of losing workers to other companies, they might be more willing to let you work remotely.
Can your job be performed remotely? Remote work isn’t equally applicable to all job roles. While some jobs can be performed seamlessly from a remote environment, others may require hands-on interaction or involve equipment that can’t be replicated at home.
Do you sometimes get to work from home already? If you’ve shown that you can handle working remotely, it might be easier to transition to regular remote work.
Embracing remote work can be a major shift in your professional life, and it’s important to gauge your readiness and suitability for this change. With the answers to these questions in mind, it’s time to put together your proposal to work virtually.
ChatGPT for Remote Work Support
ChatGPT or other AI chatbots can be surprisingly versatile tools for someone considering remote work. If you haven’t experimented with it, we urge you to do so. Here are a few ways it can be helpful:
Career Exploration: If you are unsure about what kind of remote work might suit you, ask ChatGPT about different career paths, roles, and industries that are well-suited to remote work.
Time Management and Productivity Tips: Ask ChatGPT for advice on managing time effectively, staying motivated, and maintaining productivity while working remotely. This can be particularly useful if you are new to remote work.
Mock Interviews and Communication Practice: ChatGPT can be used to simulate job interviews or professional conversations. This can help you prepare for real-life scenarios, such as remote job interviews or difficult conversations with team members.
Exploring New Tools and Technologies: If you are unfamiliar with a tool commonly used in remote work, ask ChatGPT for a basic rundown or even specific questions about it. This can include project management tools, communication platforms, or even best practices for setting up a home office.
Stress Management and Mental Health: Remote work can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation or burnout. ChatGPT can provide strategies for managing stress and maintaining mental health while working remotely.
Understanding Remote Work Culture: The culture in remote work can be quite different from traditional office settings. ChatGPT can provide insights into what to expect and how to navigate these differences.
Learning and Development: Ask ChatGPT for information on online courses, certifications, and skills development opportunities that can enhance your ability to work remotely.
Pitching Remote Work To Your Boss & Crafting an Effective Proposal
Understanding your company’s current stance on remote work options is a crucial step in writing your remote working proposal. If your organization already has a policy in place, it’s important to investigate what type of work qualifies for remote work and if your role fits within those parameters.
As an increasing number of companies support remote work – 16% of U.S. businesses are already fully remote and 15% of all new jobs are said to be remote opportunities – there’s a strong chance that your company might be open to this transition and remote employees as well.
When detailing your remote work proposal, specificity is key. Which days and hours are you proposing to telecommute? As hybrid models gain traction, allowing workers to work partially in the office and partially from home, working remotely just part of the time could be a feasible starting point.
Below are some crucial points to address in your proposal:
Advantages to the Employer. As discussed previously, numerous studies in recent years have highlighted the positive impact of remote work vs an office job on employee productivity and efficiency. Furthermore, remote employees can often cover different time zones, which wouldn’t be feasible in a conventional office setting. If multiple employees are allowed to work remotely, requirements for office space can be reduced with the use of shared co-working spaces, saving the company money. One study found that companies can save $11,000 in overhead per employee who shifts to working remotely. It is crucial that the benefits emphasized in your proposal primarily concern the company rather than personal gains.
Compatibility with the Company’s Current Remote Work Policy. If your company already allows remote work, familiarize yourself with the existing policies and procedures. Identify the roles eligible for remote work and whether your role qualifies. Understand the company’s expectations regarding the frequency of remote work.
Your Remote Work Proposal. Specify the days and/or hours you propose to work remotely. Clarity is essential.
Ability to Fulfill Job Responsibilities Remotely. Specify the technology you will need to work from home, such as a computer, laptop, tablet, wi-fi internet connection, Virtual Private Network (VPN), or specific software. Will you request the company to cover any of these expenses?
Identify Non-remote Tasks and Provide Solutions. Acknowledge any tasks that cannot be performed remotely and propose how you would manage these.
Address Potential Issues and Suggest Resolutions. Could your absence from the office affect your colleagues? Identify these potential issues and propose viable solutions. For instance, if you mentor a colleague, suggest maintaining the mentoring relationship via regular video conferencing.
Data Security Measures. If your work involves sensitive client information, outline how you will secure this data. You could mention your commitment to using a shredder, employing strong passwords, utilizing antivirus software, and physical data security measures (such as locked drawers or safes).
Communication Strategy. Elaborate on how you plan to maintain effective communication with your team and superiors. Utilization of technology such as Slack, Skype, and Zoom can ensure seamless interaction, as can regular texts and conference calls.
Reporting Plan. To address management concerns about productivity, provide a strategy to report your tasks and progress regularly. For instance, you could maintain daily logs of your tasks and submit a weekly report detailing your accomplishments.
Start With a Trial Period. Suggest a trial period for the remote work arrangement in your proposal. Propose working remotely for one or two days per week for a specified period (such as the first few weeks or a few months). Also, plan for an initial review of the arrangement’s effectiveness, followed by periodic reviews (perhaps every six months).
Call to Action. Conclude your proposal with a request for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the proposal and any potential concerns.
Every proposal will be unique, but this list will give you an idea of the basic topics to cover.
Tips for Job Hunters: Searching for a Remote Job
If you have decided that working remotely is for you and you are currently unemployed, or your current employer rejects your virtual work proposal, what should you do?
Highlight Relevant Skills: Working remotely requires a specific set of skills, such as self-motivation, communication, time management, and proficiency with digital tools. Make sure to emphasize these transferable skills in your resume to show potential employers that you’re well-equipped for remote work.
Experience Working Remotely: If you have any previous experience as a remote worker, be sure to include it in your work history. This demonstrates to potential employers that you can thrive in a remote environment.
Technical Competency: Given the critical role of technology for remote workers, demonstrate your competence with the tools commonly used in remote settings, such as collaboration platforms (Slack, Microsoft Teams), video conferencing software (Zoom, Google Meet), and project management apps (Trello, Asana).
Include a Remote Work Section. Consider adding a dedicated section in your resume where you detail your remote experience, skills, and tools proficiency. This helps to quickly draw attention to your readiness for remote work.
Express Interest in Remote Work. In your cover letter, explicitly state your interest and willingness to work remotely. This can be a simple statement like “I am particularly drawn to the flexibility offered by remote work and believe that my productivity and satisfaction increase in such an environment.”
Provide Examples: Use the cover letter to provide specific examples where you have successfully worked remotely or managed your tasks independently. This provides concrete proof of your ability to work remotely.
Communication and Collaboration Skills. Emphasize your communication and collaboration skills. Highlight any experiences that show how you’ve collaborated with virtual teams or how you’ve overcome the communication challenges inherent in remote work.
Proactive Problem-Solving. Show your proactive problem-solving skills by providing examples of when you’ve independently solved problems or handled issues that can often occur in a remote work setting.
Networking:Leverage your professional network. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with individuals who are already engaged in remote work. They can offer invaluable advice based on their firsthand experience and might even be able to guide you toward career opportunities. Moreover, a well-placed referral can significantly improve your chances of landing a remote job. Participate in virtual networking events, webinars, and professional forums relevant to your field, as these platforms can provide opportunities to connect with remote workers, industry leaders, and potential employers. Remember, nurturing professional relationships today could open doors to opportunities tomorrow.
Company Research: To pinpoint remote-friendly companies or those with a fully distributed workforce, consider implementing thorough research strategies. Look for clear indicators in job descriptions, on company websites, or in news releases and articles. Companies that are remote-friendly often emphasize their flexible work policies, the importance of work-life balance, and their use of collaborative online tools. Understanding the remote work culture of these organizations will enable you to customize your resume to align with their core values and working style, thereby improving your chances of making a strong impression.
Interview Preparation: Prepare for remote job interviews by setting up a professional environment, ensuring a stable internet connection, and practicing common remote job interview questions.
Achieving Work-Life Balance: Tips for Success When Working Remotely
Striking a balance between your career and home life can be tricky, particularly when your living and working spaces overlap.
How do you divide your attention between professional tasks and personal duties?
Is it possible to concentrate on work phone calls when laundry is piling up?
Whether you’re a newcomer to the remote work lifestyle or an old hand, the following suggestions can help you manage distractions and priorities. These tips will help you keep calm, stay efficient, and avoid burnout when working from home.
Maintain a routine. Define a clear beginning and end to your workday. Address the toughest tasks during your most productive hours. Once the day is done, completely detach from work.
Choose comfortable office furniture. A good-quality ergonomic chair is a key investment. Opt for one that can be adjusted and provides sufficient back support. Your desk should allow you to keep your wrists straight when typing.
Lighting matters. Good lighting can boost both your mood and performance. If your workspace has a window, place your computer screen at a right angle to the natural light. Also, consider layering artificial lights.
Get dressed. You don’t need to wear formal clothes, but getting out of your pajamas can enhance your professional mindset. Change into fresh clothes every morning.
Limit distractions. Avoid activities like watching TV or browsing social media during work hours. Save these for break times.
Take breaks. Regular breaks can actually boost your productivity by refreshing your mind and body.
Don’t forget to have fun. Engage in an activity that helps you switch from work to leisure mode at the end of the day. You might listen to calming music or take a stroll.
Organize. Develop routines and systems that promote efficiency. Get a storage unit for your office supplies and use an online calendar to manage your time.
Monitor your work hours. It’s easy to lose track of the time you spend working. Aim for a schedule that you can maintain in the long run. Consider starting small and gradually increasing your work-from-home days until you achieve a balance that suits you.
Never stop learning. Career growth is important whether you work from home or in an office. Enroll in online courses, join adult education programs at nearby universities, or read industry publications.
Self-assess. Regularly evaluate your performance to identify ways to improve efficiency, time management, and stress levels. Modify your strategy as your objectives change.
STEPS TO TAKE WITH OTHERS
Communicate with your supervisor. Balancing work and life becomes easier when you and your boss have agreed on expectations. Discuss the flexibility you need to thrive.
Have regular meetings with your supervisor. You may fear that working from home might hinder your career progression due to decreased visibility. However, regular planned meetings can provide more opportunities to set and review goals than working in an office.
Share your availability. Let your boss and colleagues know your work hours. Discuss how to handle emergencies outside of these times.
Stay connected. Regularly attend business lunches and other events to enhance your network. Visit the office for staff meetings, celebrations, and other gatherings. Volunteer at your professional association’s local branch.
Keep colleagues updated. Share your contact information with everyone at the office. In case of urgent situations, let people know whether it’s best to contact you via email or phone. Regularly check your messages.
Inform external parties. It’s usually best to let clients and other contacts know that you’re working from home. As long as you maintain professionalism and high-quality service, they’ll likely be comfortable with the setup.
Get support. A robust support network boosts your confidence and productivity. Seek emotional and practical help from family and friends. Show your appreciation and be ready to help them in return.
Working remotely doesn’t mean sacrificing the balance between your work and your personal life. By setting reasonable boundaries between personal and professional activities, you can actually enjoy more well-being and contentment.
With some planning and discipline working remotely can provide significant benefits for both you and your employer.
As a remote employee, you avoid commute times and interruptions, enabling you to get more done in the comfort of your home. This can lower stress and help you achieve both career goals and a better work-life balance.
When you work from home, take measures to boost your spirits, stay efficient, and remain connected. The results will benefit both you and your employer!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is remote work?
Remote work, also known as flex work, mobile work, or teleworking, is a way of working outside of traditional office environments. It means that you don’t have to commute to a particular place to do your job. Instead, you can work from anywhere you choose, such as your home, a co-working space, or even a coffee shop.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact remote work?
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased the number of people working remotely. Before the pandemic, only about 5% of full-time office employees in the U.S. worked mostly from home. As the pandemic progressed, this number increased dramatically. By 2021, nearly 18% of U.S. employees were working primarily from home.
What are the advantages of remote work?
Remote work offers several benefits. It provides more flexible schedules, saving time and money by reducing commuting. It can also improve work-life balance, lower stress levels, and increase job satisfaction. In addition, remote workers often report higher productivity, less exposure to common illnesses, and reduced expenses related to work.
Can all jobs be done remotely?
Not all jobs can be done remotely. Some jobs require physical presence or hands-on interaction. However, many jobs, especially in IT, customer service, finance, sales, marketing, and research, can be done remotely. Technology like video conferencing has also made it possible for some jobs that used to require face-to-face interaction to be done remotely, at least part of the time.
How can I know if remote work is right for me?
Deciding if remote work is right for you involves considering factors such as your personality, self-discipline, availability of a dedicated workspace at home, the support of family members or roommates, and whether your job can be performed remotely.
How can I propose remote work to my boss?
When proposing remote work to your boss, be specific about the days and hours you intend to work remotely. Highlight the benefits to the employer, such as improved productivity, potential savings for the company, and coverage of different time zones. Suggest a trial period and be ready to address potential issues such as maintaining effective communication and securing sensitive data.
What should I do if I want a remote job but my current employer doesn't offer it?
If your current employer doesn’t offer remote work and you want to work remotely, you may need to look for a new job. There are many online platforms, like LinkedIn and FlexJobs, where you can find remote job listings. Networking can also be a powerful tool in finding remote work opportunities.
How can I make my resume stand out for a remote job?
To make your resume stand out for a remote job, highlight relevant skills such as self-motivation, communication, time management, and proficiency with digital tools. Include any previous remote work experience and demonstrate your technical competency. You might even consider adding a dedicated remote work section to your resume.
What should I include in my cover letter for a remote job?
In your cover letter for a remote job, clearly state your interest in remote work. Provide specific examples of your successful remote work experience or independent task management. Emphasize your communication, collaboration, and proactive problem-solving skills.
How can I navigate the remote job market?
Navigating the remote job market involves leveraging platforms like LinkedIn and remote job listing sites, as well as networking. Participate in industry-related discussions and virtual networking events, join relevant groups, and connect with professionals in your desired field.
Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. To learn more about the services offered by Distinctive Career Services visit https://www.distinctiveweb.com