You could say I was a working remotely long before I knew what that really meant. I wasn’t fully remote, though: when I started freelancing, I taught English as a second language – mainly in big, boring German companies. Becoming a copywriter happened by accident. I discovered that I could write for money with many of the “content mills” that were trawling the Internet back in the day. I quickly learned to get out of that habit.
When I got hired to work at a company in Cologne, Germany, I was over the moon. It was what some of my friends called a “real job”. There was an office, a telephone, my own desk… It was new, varied, interesting and of course, came with a stable salary. Probably the most delicious temptation after spending years carefully tracking how much money is coming in every month.
That was all well and good. Until I started to dread getting up in the morning. Full trams were never the problem though. It dawned on me that for the rest of my time at that company, I would (probably) be sitting in the same chair, in the same room… Eight hours a day, five days a week.
I nearly went crazy although I managed to hold out for two years.
Arrangements for Working Remotely: Are they possible?
If you want to start working remotely, the general advice is this: instead of quitting your job and going after any freelance gig you can find, you should speak to your boss first. Remote working arrangements are available at a surprising number of companies these days: from Canonical to Dell to various start-ups such as Hotjar and Buffer (the latter of which operate entirely remotely).
It also depends on your company culture. Do you have team members based in offices in other countries? How much of your work involves meeting people? All must be taken into consideration. For those of us who SEOs, online marketers and programmers, pretty much all of the work can be done with a laptop and an Internet connection.
There are naturally countless arguments against it: employees may slack off, are less visible etc. However, this post isn’t about that. It’s about remote working from the perspective of an employee who started it.
Remote Working as an Employee: The benefits
The benefits were obvious to me. Since I spent most of my time in front of a computer anyway, it made sense to work where I was most comfortable and could concentrate. That usually means a bean bag or my sofa (not a fan of chairs in general). Once I started working remotely, things generally got easier. I did sometimes work longer, though I noticed just how much more effective I was. My boss remarked on it as well.
During my office days, I used to dread getting up in the morning, getting ready and going out somewhere. While I like a bit of fresh air and social interaction, it’s usually the last thing I want to do at 8 AM. When working in the office, I was usually one of the later ones (my company isn’t too strict on hours, being an online marketing firm). When working at home… Suddenly, I was up and working at 7. I had plenty of time to do shopping, washing, household chores and still get my work done.
I even noticed another benefit: I had more social energy. I’m not someone who likes spending all my time around people. I like to choose with whom I can do it. My work involves very little social interaction to begin with and, although my colleagues are nice people, we don’t get much of a chance to really spend quality time. It made sense to concentrate during the day on my work, and then get out in the evening.
Yep, I still really like working remotely
In conclusion, I would say that at least on a personal level working remotely is my absolute preferred method of getting things done. Spending time getting bits and pieces done in cafes also helps, though it’s not mandatory. Of course, some people cannot concentrate without being in an office environment. I have full sympathy. I’m not one of those people who advocate the abolition of offices completely, however offering employees a much more flexible system of work could make a huge difference on their general happiness and well-being – as well as that of the company.