The number of Americans who do at least some of their work remotely is growing every year (it’s currently over 40%), and it’s easy to see why. Average commutes are at their longest since the census bureau began tracking them in 1980, and the number of workers with extreme commutes (90-plus minutes) is increasing the most. Working remotely gives you back that time. It also allows you control over your schedule, a new work-life balance, and cheaper, healthier eating options (provided you don’t use your oven for storage).
Where are the remote jobs?
For someone who is good at managing their time, a remote company is an exciting, liberating “place” to work. Working 100% remotely can mean never having to put on pants again unless you want to.
The range of businesses that allow staff to do at least some remote work has expanded and includes everything from tech firms like Amazon to smaller local businesses. However, if you want a full-time job while working remotely all the time, your potential employers will probably have certain traits in common. One-hundred-percent-remote companies tend to be younger, both in terms of the business’s age and that of its founders. Many are start-ups, drawn to the cost savings of going office-less, and the ability to source talent from around the world. Most are involved in digitally-driven tech businesses such as app development, software, and web design. (There are even firms whose remote workforces develop tools for other businesses to manage their own remote workers.)
Forward-thinking companies like digital product design firm InVision, and software development platform GitHub attract committed, energetic remote staff around the world, resulting in a dynamic work culture, even though that culture mostly exists across email, Slack, and Zoom, plus the occasional company meet up.
That said, even the most specialized remote app company has many of the same needs as a traditional office-based firm, from HR to finance, strategy and marketing, so if you want to work remotely but don’t see your skill set as “tech,” there are still plenty of roles available to you.
Watch out, though. It can also lead to loneliness, isolation, and never really switching off from work since the line between home and office may not be apparent. If you’re thinking about working for a fully remote company, here are three things to consider:
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Choose your location carefully
It’s called working “remotely” rather than “from home” because you really can work anywhere, from your local coffee shop to a beach several time zones away.
Still, you have to choose your “office” with care: will the Wi-Fi at the oceanfront hotel in the Gambia be good enough for video conferencing? Will the Chinese government firewall make it hard to work in Shanghai? And, less glamorously, is the noise level at your local café going to be a problem if your boss wants a quick Skype chat?
To take full advantage of being able to work anywhere, make sure you consider services and atmosphere before you fill your laptop bag.
Create an environment for concentration
Ironically, many traditional work environments are not conducive to doing actual work. Offices are full of distractions – from colleagues who drop by when you’re in the middle of an idea to random noises and pointless meetings.
One great joy of remote working is that you can create an environment that allows you to fully concentrate, whether you achieve that through monastic silence or an unbroken stream of club-volume music.
However, a life without colleagues can be lonely: even the team at InVision, which is consistently rated as a great place to work, make wistful observations about only interacting with other people when they’re delivering food and packages, or appearing on TV.
Consider using a co-working space, or even just a laptop-friendly café now and then to make sure you don’t lose all your real-world social skills.
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Balance vacations and workdays
One major perk of fully remote companies is that many offer unlimited vacation time. By definition, remote employers have to trust their staff to manage their time effectively, so the expectation is that staff will know when they can (or can’t) take time off without jeopardizing their projects.
Paradoxically, people who work remotely often find it harder to take any time off, starting work on their phones before they’ve gotten out of bed in the morning, and remaining glued to devices long into the night. The knowledge that someone from your team is always working (thanks to the global spread of employees), coupled with the fact that you effectively live in your office, can make it very hard to switch off.
Consider scheduling some offline time each day, and treating it as seriously as any other work-related task.
If you can balance self-motivation (for effective unsupervised working) with self-preservation (to make sure you don’t just see other people during Zoom meetings) remote working can be an upgrade to your life and career, especially if you want more time with your kids, or you want to work uninterrupted at the time of day when you’re most effective.
A word of caution, though: once you’ve figured out how to earn a living in your pajamas, it can be hard to go back to office life.
For those who want to know more, Remote.co is a good resource for learning about the culture of different remote companies.
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Michael Davis is a freelance writer and editor. He has covered everything from fashion and music to parenting, work, and finance. In a previous life, he was a chef and restaurateur.