The future of work has officially arrived, and it’s a remote one.
In a matter of weeks, working from home (WFH), which was once just a dream for many workers in the United States, is now a daily reality. While not all companies are operating on a remote basis (and there are many selfless, essential workers still operating as usual), much of the workforce has, in fact, moved home.
In 2016, 43 percent of U.S. workers worked remotely some of the time, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace. Though it’s still too early to say what percentage of companies are operating remotely today, one can assume it’s skyrocketed.
Whether you’re an employer trying to navigate hiring in a remote economy, a first time WFHer, or a job seeker on the hunt for a new remote gig, there is space for you to thrive in our newly remote world. Here’s how you can do it.
The Benefits of a Remote Workforce
Before we dive into teaching you how to navigate the new frontier of a remote workforce, let’s discuss the benefits and challenges.
Greater Employee Satisfaction
Eric Schwartz is the Software Engineering General Manager at Kenzie Academy, a tech and coding school based in Indianapolis, Ind. Eric lives in Fort Mill, S.C. and finds himself in a unique position, managing people working several states away.
From his perspective, employees are often happier when they can work remotely.
“Part of someone’s work day is how much time they spend commuting,” Eric said. “That can affect their happiness. Being remote is nice because you’re not getting to work after spending an hour on your commute being irritated in traffic. People are usually in a better mood when they start their day.”
For Karrie Wozniak, the SVP of Marketing at OneCause, remote work is about giving people freedom to make choices with their work. When asked what her employees like most about the WFH life, her answer was simple.
“Freedom,” Karrie said. “Freedom to be able to orchestrate your day and schedule accordingly. You have the ability to self-start. Yes, there are calls. But when there are not calls, you have the freedom to say, ‘Okay, what do I need to accomplish today?’”
Environmental Benefits & Flattening the Curve
Not only do people benefit from a remote workforce, but the environment benefits too. Studies have shown teleworking is an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and create a healthier environment for everyone.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, the energy consumption rate at an office is double that of a home office. The publication also cites a 2007 Sun Microsystems study in which 24,000 U.S. employees spent a year telecommuting. The result? A 32,000 metric ton reduction in carbon emissions. Since these employees drove less often, the environment (and probably their budgets) reaped the benefits. We can only imagine the impact telecommuting will have in the next few years as more companies implement WFH policies.
Currently, remote work is going beyond the environment and saving human lives. Teleworking has made it possible for millions of people to continue making an income while helping to flatten the curve amidst the current coronavirus pandemic.
Overcoming the Challenges of a Remote Workforce
Though many technologically progressive organizations may have easily made the switch to remote work, many more traditional companies and institutions are still struggling to adjust. There’s really no better time than the present to break with tradition and try out a new way of working. This is the prime time to start objectively considering the benefits and challenges and ask if this is something your organization is willing to implement now and in the future.
Choosing to consider offering remote work benefits to employees could not only create a happier workforce but also a more productive one. Of course, it’s up to each company to decide if it’s truly something that can work going forward.
Just because your team is dispersed, doesn’t mean you can’t foster those all-important water cooler interactions. According to Spark Hire, creating camaraderie within your organization not only fosters employee satisfaction but is also crucial to organizational success. Whether it’s by creating Slack channels for non-work related chatter or hosting happy hours via Zoom, creating casual spaces for employees to continue fostering connections with each other can keep your workforce afloat while operations go remote.
Let Time do its Thing
If your organization is struggling to adjust to remote operation, it can be an added burden to an already stressful and uncertain time. But it doesn’t have to be. Showing up to the workforce with a little bit of grace and patience can help here. If you’re an employee, know your managers are doing the best they can with the resources and knowledge they have. It takes time to switch up systems that have been in place for years, especially when it happens unexpectedly and all at once. If you’re an employer, approach this time with curiosity, a willingness to learn, and patience for staff members as they adapt to the sudden changes. And who knows? Maybe remote work could be part of your company’s long-term success.
As an employee, navigating a telecommuting world is certainly going to feel different. But it can help to approach your remote role with some mindfulness. Eric suggests employees show up and be present in their work in the same way they would in an office.
“Go to the virtual happy hours,” Eric said. “Go to the all-company meetings. Reach out to the employees you’re close with. Let them know you’re still there. Be present. It’s really easy to disappear into the void if you’re not staying engaged.”
Introverts may feel challenged by this. It can be difficult to assert yourself on a video call when it seems like everyone is talking over one another. It may require stepping a little out of your comfort zone to ensure your ideas are still heard. This can feel unnatural at first, but you’ll get the hang of it with practice and time.
Springbuk’s VP of Technology Roger Deetz helps his dispersed staff members transition to remote work by setting expectations and check-in times upfront. This helps to create consistency in a new hire’s schedule.
“Do a little more checking in, but on a defined schedule,” Roger said. “Checking in more frequently, but on an unpredictable schedule, can be even worse for folks not used to working remotely. But if you set some expectations up front (‘Let’s sync first thing in the morning and once more after lunch’) then folks can get used to a rhythm and the checking-in can be used for problem-solving and not stress-inducing.”
Hiring in a Remote Economy
Speaking of new employees, hiring in a remote economy is going to look a little different from the traditional, 8-5 workplace process, but there are more similarities than you might think.
According to Eric, it’s essential to evaluate the candidate’s office roles first. When hiring remote workers, it’s less about their previous remote experience and more about their previous work experience in general. For example, if you’re looking to hire someone into a remote management role, it’s more important to look at what other management roles they’ve already held than to consider the remote aspect first.
Still, there are a few qualities hiring managers should be on the lookout for. The ideal remote employee is a self-starter, communicative, and goal-oriented.
According to writer Rachel Go at 15Five, a great way to determine if a candidate will make for a good remote employee is to look at their communication during the interview process.
“Take note of how quickly they respond to your emails, how professional they sound, and how well they communicate during the interview process,” Rachel said. “This will provide insight into how well they’ll communicate when they work with you.”
For Roger, the same technical and communication skills he looks for in any new hire still apply, but he also looks for one additional qualification.
“For those we know will be full-time remote, we like to see folks who demonstrate exceptional self-discipline,” Roger said.
What Job Seekers Should Look for in a Remote Position
When adjusting to remote work life, job seekers should be even more aware of what they’re getting themselves into when they sign on the dotted line. Do your research so you can avoid a company and work situation that doesn’t gel with your goals and personality.
First, get clear on your own needs and wants. You can get started with these questions: Are you ok with working in a freelance capacity? Do you need the company to cover healthcare or are you ok to shoulder the cost on your own? How much vacation time do you want?
Also, pay attention to company culture. Since you’ll be spending 40 hours of your week in the job, you want to make sure you jive well with the company’s values. Do you want to work somewhere with a more casual, progressive environment or somewhere more formal and traditional? Research the company’s mission and see if you can get down with what they stand for.
You’ll also want to watch for work-life balance issues. If this is important to you, ask the interviewer about what this balance is like for them (since they already work there). Get a feel for what their day-to-day schedule is like – are they able to log off at 5 p.m. or are they working well into the night?
Just because you’ll be remote, doesn’t mean you can’t take part in in-person job training and professional development activities. Find out if the company holds in-person events for its remote workforce and how often. Also, ask if the business invests in employees by providing opportunities for you to attend conferences and other professional development activities.
Top Tech Companies Hiring Remotely Right Now
In the market for a new tech job? Check out these companies hiring remote workers right now to get your job search started.
CB Insights is a machine intelligence platform looking to hire data-driven individuals who are positive and hungry to learn. CB Insights offers some great benefits too, like a 401k with 4% matching, a yearly education stipend, and paid parental leave. Right now, you can apply for the open Software Engineering positions. Learn more here.
Want to take on some of the biggest challenges in tech? Consider joining the team at Element 84; they’re taking on things like petabyte search, consumer streaming, and Earth science repositories. Element 84 is big on keeping employees happy and has the benefits to back it up: 401k, health/dental/life/disability insurance, flexible schedule, cell phone stipend, flexible spending accounts for transportation and dependent care, and a generous PTO policy. Join this innovative company remotely by applying for its Senior DevOps/Cloud Engineer position here.
Fastly is an edge cloud platform that enables customers to create great digital experiences. Over half its workforce operates remotely and they’re proud to have an international remote culture. Its current remote openings include a Senior Software Engineering Manager, Solutions Architect, and Site Reliability Engineer, to name a few. View all openings here.
GitLab’s workforce is the largest all-remote company in the world. Its team works from 65+ countries to build a collaboration tool for DevOps. Currently, there are openings for Backend Engineers, Engineering Managers, and a plethora of other tech positions. You can check out the company’s remote work guide here.
With over 3,300 staff members around the world, Hubspot is a B2B software company. Employees enjoy working here for the autonomy they’re given and the awesome work-life balance. Unlimited vacation? Yes, please. Join the team by viewing open positions
Modern Tribe is a 100% dispersed team working to provide software and design solutions for some of the world’s largest companies and government institutions. Though the company is currently pausing hiring due to COVID-19, you can still submit a general application here.
This Indy-based company offers remote work opportunities in the health intelligence space. They boast great benefits like unlimited PTO and professional development opportunities. You can view current openings here.
TEKsystems is one of the leading providers of IT staffing and talent management in the country. The company boasts high employee satisfaction with 92% of its employees saying it’s a great place to work. Currently, TEKsystems has 215 remote openings for various tech positions. Find your next gig here.
Making Remote Work for You
Every worker is different, so learning to thrive in a remote economy is going to look different for everyone. There are a million and one remote work tips floating around right now. We suggest being open to trying some of these tips but if they don’t work for you, that’s ok too. The key is to approach remote work with a willingness to experiment. You should hold space for yourself during this time of transition, knowing eventually you’ll uncover what works for you. Here are a few of our favorite tips for you to try.
Designing a Workspace
Half the fun of working remotely is working from anywhere. Find out where you feel most creative and productive and make it your workspace. While we’re currently limited to our home offices, consider local coworking spaces or coffee shops once it’s safe to do so. Wherever you choose to work, don’t infringe on areas you do life stuff in (like sleeping and eating). As great as coding from bed may seem, it can actually interfere with your sleep patterns.
WFH isn’t working for you? Speak up! Let your managers know what you’re struggling with so they can assist. Whether it’s getting tips or just venting your frustrations about transitioning to WFH life, talking about what’s hindering your work will help you evaluate the problem and look for solutions. Your success in your remote role is vital to the company’s success, and more importantly, your well-being. So your higher-ups will want to know if you’re struggling and how they can help you make it work.
It’s important to keep in mind those working from home are also balancing other roles: parent, caretaker, partner… you get the picture. We’re at a unique point in our history where all of these roles are being managed from one space: the home.
Parents who became homeschool teachers overnight can try to create flexibility within their homeschooling schedule. For example, a parent could do schoolwork with the kids Monday, Wednesday, Friday and on weekends. This would give them two days during the workweek to focus solely on job responsibilities and hopefully minimize some of the distractions which come from balancing the role of teacher and remote worker. Melissa, who has a government job in Washington D.C., is hoping to minimize the distraction by setting up a trampoline in her backyard. It’s simple but she hopes it will be an outlet for her daughters’ energy as they deal with being cooped up in the house together.
Those who are managing working remotely while partners or other family members do the same, can try to create boundaries during the workday by working in separate areas of the home. This will hopefully alleviate distraction and keep stress and tension levels at a minimum.
A Remote Future
WFH is likely to be a large part of our future, not just in this time of crisis, but also continuing after, in our normal, everyday lives. You can find success in a remote role by creating balance and space in your home, minimizing distractions, and working on skills like self-discipline. Hiring managers can now capitalize on opportunities to find talent from all over the globe to fill open positions, streamline their processes, and place new emphasis on employees’ happiness. Whatever happens, we’re pumped to see how remote work will transform the hiring landscape in the coming years.