Is Remote Work as Great as it Sounds?
Wondering if remote work is for you? Considering managing a distributed team? We’re here to help you determine if working remotely is as good as it sounds. As you consider it, read through the benefits, advantages, and challenges so you can make an informed decision. As experts in distributed work, we’ll even share how our teams overcome the pitfalls of being in different places.
Benefits & advantages of remote work
Working from home is becoming more and more common – so what’s all the fuss about? It’s important to understand the many different reasons employees embrace the remote life, from environmental impact to having more time to take care of a family. Since we’re a distributed company, here are the benefits we’ve seen from having flexible remote schedules.
The Miro team can get work done from anywhere.
1. Save money
Imagining all the money you’ll save if you work from home? Commuting, lunches, coffees, client meetings, buying professional outfits—it all adds up over time. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics says that people who work from home even half time can save between $2,000-$6,500 per year. That’s a lot of money you can spend on your family, yourself, or put in a retirement fund.
2. No commute
OK, this is pretty obvious, but it’s an incredible benefit of remote work. Commute times are getting longer (in the U.S., it’s hit an all-time high of 27 minutes one way, according to the U.S. Census Bureau) Just think: with remote work, gone are the hours spent sitting in traffic or crammed onto a crowded train or bus to get to an office. Not to mention the hours saved—your time (and your team’s time) is valuable.
3. Flexible schedule
Life can get hectic – and these days, that's an understatement. And more and more companies are adopting the philosophy of, “if the work gets done well, we don’t care when you do it.” Working remotely allows you to plan your day-to-day activities around your meeting schedule. Need to run an errand in between meetings and make up the time later? You have full autonomy to do so.
4. Work-life balance
It can seem counterintuitive that bringing your work home with you can lead to better work-life balance, but hear us out. When you work remotely, you often deal with fewer distractions and increase your productivity. This means work gets done more quickly, and you have more time to spend with your family and friends.
5. More effective meetings
When you’re not able to throw time on people’s calendars for meetings on a whim, you need to be more intentional about your calls. Working remotely can actually help you have more effective meetings by setting agendas upfront, or only taking calls that have a specific purpose.
6. Fewer distractions
When you work remotely, you control your office environment. That means you can build a space that promotes productivity and reduces distractions for you. Plus, some feel that being in an office with others can be distracting—you’re often getting tapped on the shoulder about things that take your focus away from the task at hand.
7. Less office politics
Office politics are a fact of life. But one advantage of working remotely is that you are constantly focused on good communication and intentional interaction with coworkers. That, paired with spending less time in person with people, can add up to fewer misunderstandings or office politics. And, if your team is fully remote, that means everyone is on an even playing field – no one is left out.
8. Better for the environment
The fact of the matter is, commuting into a job increases your carbon footprint. Not to mention the pollution that results from keeping office fridges and supply closets stocked. At Miro, we’ve even delved into the tree-saving impact of using virtual sticky notes!
The Miro team planting a tree, to commemorate 70,000 virtual sticky notes used.
9. Increased productivity
Like we mentioned above, setting your own schedule and controlling your office environment means you can optimize for better productivity. Removing things you know distract you and curating your environment to suit your needs is key.
10. Better health
Having a flexible remote schedule means it’s easier to find time for exercise. Need to take a break to lift weights, go for a run, or practice yoga? No problem. Additionally, it makes it easier to eat healthy meals at home (whether you cook for yourself or order something pre-made).
And will all the advantages flexible remote work has for workers, it’s also starting to be a tool companies use to attract candidates, sweeten job offers, or retain employees longer.
Challenges of remote work (& how to overcome them)
While a lot of people enjoy remote work, it’s important to acknowledge it’s not always a walk in the park (even if it enables more actual walks in the park). We surveyed real remote experts to learn more about their struggles collaborating from different locations. Here’s what we found.
1. Setting boundaries
When there’s less separation between work and home, some employees have a hard time setting boundaries. Many feel expected to be online and available constantly, and instant messaging or collaboration tools can add to that feeling. Additionally, for those working with people in different time zones, it can be hard to have a regular work schedule.
This is a challenge that can be managed by creating a culture where boundary setting is encouraged and respected. If managers set this expectation up front, be an example, and back up their teams when boundaries are violated, it’ll help employees feel safe to set boundaries themselves. There are also and strategies to make it easier to communicate boundaries, such as clearly setting “working hours” in calendars or maintaining Slack statuses.
“Set up calendar blocks or update your Slack status to let people know when you're available, or if you'll be slow to respond.”
— Suzanne Holloway, Head of Demand & Growth Marketing at Miro
Having 100% virtual communication means more opportunities for miscommunication. When people aren’t sitting next to each other, it can be harder to talk things through and get things done as a team. Instead of a casual chat, they need to spend time typing something out—and there’s no guarantee the recipient has read the message, let alone understood it.
The fact is, whether a team is distributed or in an office, misunderstandings happen. The best way to face this challenge is by ensuring the company uses video conferencing software. It makes a huge difference to be able to speak to someone face to face. Not only will it help team members bond and build trust (which helps them deal with miscommunications later), but it will help avoid any miscommunication.
“Give distributed teams the space and flexibility to create their own processes. Instead of proposing something, ask them what the challenge is and agree on how you'll work together.”
— Pete Lim, Agile Coach at Eventbrite
3. Personal connection
Whether it’s heading out for happy hour drinks or chatting about the weekend, remote workers have to work harder to connect and build trust with one another. And if others on your team are co-located, they may not capture in writing what they’ve talked about in person.
“In meetings, create a space for casual conversations. If you as a manager model this behavior by – for example – asking people about their weekends, it’s easier for your team to do the same.”
— Jesse James Garrett, co-founder of Adaptive Path
4. Building processes and scaling
The rituals and processes of a distributed team are different than a colocated one – and also be different than a hybrid team. There are multiple aspects to building a cohesive culture, from the personal (e.g., eating lunch together) to the tactical (e.g., making decisions asynchronously).
“As soon as you have at least two people working together in the same space, the complexity in aligning is so much bigger. We make sure decisions are written down, so people who weren’t there can refer to it.”
— Jessica Tiwari, VP of Product Management at Upwork
Tools like Miro and Confluence can help with documenting decision.
5. Collaborative meetings
Remote employees need to plan a bit more carefully to make brainstorming and planning sessions run smoothly and productively. It can be difficult to read body language, and you need a strong moderator to make sure everyone stays on task.
“At Pivotal, we have certain rituals that are very team-oriented (stand-ups, retros, etc.), and they help remote teams be autonomous and iterative in process.”
— Aloka Penmetcha, Director of Product Management at Pivotal
While we believe remote work’s benefits far outweigh its challenges, only you know what’s best for you and your team. But by educating yourself about the advantages and pitfalls, you can make a decision that works for you.