Be honest, we've all thought about it, but is working from home really better for you?
Recently, I published an interview with Hayley Swindell, the founder of The Refinery (a shared studio space in Austin, Texas), on the potential benefits of co-working. As a former small business owner, Swindell founded the space as a solution to some of the problems she faced as a budding creative entrepreneur, namely a lack of professional amenities and supportive peer network. In that piece, she argued co-working environments give independent freelancers and small business owners the community necessary to share resources, battle scars and stories of success.
Although co-working works for some (it definitely works for me), an office environment doesn't work for every entrepreneur, side hustler, business or employee. Some of us need to pick up our kids in the afternoon every Monday through Friday. Some of us prefer to work alone. Some of us have frequent medical appointments. Some of us just need the flexibility.
So, in this post, I'm digging into the benefits of remote work. I had the opportunity to chat with Sara Sutton Fell, the founder of Remote.co, 1 Million For Work Flexibility and FlexJobs, a job-hunting site for professionals seeking remote employment. Whether you're a business owner, employee or freelancer, here are the five key reasons Sutton Fell says working remotely (and/or taking remote jobs) might be the lifestyle choice that works best for you.
1.) Businesses that offer remote work options tend to be led by women and offer better working cultures.
"From my personal experience in starting and running FlexJobs as a remote company, I have been keenly fascinated with the development of culture in this kind of environment while keeping in mind that the first company I started, JobDirect [which was acquired by Korn|Ferry International in 2000] had a traditional on-site office. I’m proud of both cultures we created, but I think that the remote environment has been uniquely conducive to more adaptability and integration with busy life stages, such as motherhood. I saw an opportunity with the similar conversations we were having with other remote-heavy companies on Remote.co, and so we started to look at the percentage of women in leadership in remote companies over the last few years. What we found was that remote companies consistently have far more women in leadership roles, especially at the CEO and C-level positions, than traditional companies. After finding this interesting (and exciting!) difference, we decided to ask the women leading these companies why they think that might be—and yes, it very much comes down to a better overall culture dynamic at remote companies. Specifically, these companies do a better job of offering flexible work options to all their workers, which helps both women and men better balance their work and personal responsibilities. For women, who tend to handle the bulk of caregiving responsibilities (for children, elderly parents, etc.), this sort of flexibility means making far fewer trade-offs and better handling conflicting responsibilities."
2.) Leadership in remote working environments differs from traditional office power dynamics.
"Another important facet of [remote work] is that remote companies don’t rely on the traditional notion of what a leader 'looks like.' Spending a lot of time in the office, dressing like a traditional executive, and generally looking like the traditional company leader—often an older man—are not useful indicators in a remote environment."
3.) Remote work positions are on the rise.
"The larger trends over the last five to ten years all show remote work, on the whole, increasing. We partnered with Global Workplace Analytics this year to produce a report on the state of telecommuting in 2017, which shows that telecommuting by employees has grown by 115% in 10 years. In 2016, 43% of U.S. workers worked remotely at least occasionally, up from 9% in 2007."
4.) Remote work environments can give employees more agency, especially those with responsibilities that may need to be addressed during typical nine-to-five work hours.
"I think that working mothers are a significant advantage to the workforce. This is my experience, and I think that remote work and its increased focus on measurable productivity and cultures that thrive on inclusive effectiveness can help show the impactful contributions working women make, regardless of whether they’re working from home or in the office. But it’s not just working mothers—flexible work options give all workers more agency, whether they need more control over their workdays because they have children or elderly parents to care for; or they’re also caring for their own mental or physical health issues; or they live in a rural or economically depressed area; or their careers require more flexibility for unexpected changes, as is the case with military spouses; or they simply believe strongly in work-life integration in balance. And that’s very exciting: Not only can remote work de-stigmatize the workforce for working mothers, it can help all people live more fulfilling, balanced, and manageable lives, all while accomplishing great things and being productive members of the workforce."
5.) Allowing employees to work from home is also beneficial to the employer—when done with intention.
"One of the great things about implementing a remote work program is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each company should tailor its program to meet its specific logistical needs, and there are many policies out there for companies to study. For example, if the company values the ability to have employees on-site for meetings with coworkers or clients, or because they feel certain meetings are more collaborative when people are in person, they might create a remote work program that requires people live in a certain region near the office.
I really hope that the future of work culture embraces what is both best for the company and best for their workers—to look at longer-term, sustainable, healthy ways to support growth with good people. I strongly believe that flexible and remote work can, and should, play a significant part in this considering the technological platforms we have available nowadays. An important consideration for this as forward-thinking companies continue to make a key shift towards remote and flex work is that they formalize it as a policy rather than allowing it to be done casually, which often backfires. In doing so, it will help organizations move away from antiquated managerial practices to more modern ones, integrating current workplace technologies to focus on effective processes, results-oriented outcomes, and having best talent regardless of geography. My wish is that more organizations realize that, to be successful in the future, they will lean into this shift in a way that benefits workers, companies, and the bottom line."
This article originally published on Forbes.com by Jane Clair Hervey