What do long-time remote workers think are the pros and cons of remote working?
Last week we published our survey of remote workers to gauge their experience. We spoke to several remote workers about their experiences.
Computer programmer Hugo Lujan Chavez worked remotely before the pandemic started and his last two roles have been remote from the start. He says the advantages of working remotely include “being able to live wherever I want or need to; spending more time with my family; the opportunity to travel and visit new places; the opportunity to make new friends; the opportunity to spend time with my girlfriend who lives in Russia; and spending less money and enjoying a stable high income while enjoying a good quality of life”.
The disadvantages are being unable to spend time with colleagues; spending more time in meetings; the degree of distrust from management if you work remotely; and the fact that some things can be done better in person. On balance, however, he definitely prefers to work remotely.
Hugo says he doesn’t think his career has suffered due to working remotely and he has earned as much as if he had been at an on-site job. Moreover, his employers have been supportive and that support increased during the pandemic. He hopes the pandemic will have normalised remote working. He says: “There are many office jobs that can be done remotely without any detriment and the fact that so many people have continued to be effective at their job will help to maintain this trend. I can’t understand the obsession of some companies with having people sitting in an office and not offering people the choice to decide what is better for them.”
Sue Foxton [not her real name] has worked both remotely and in an office for eight years as a PA, after two decades in secretarial work. She currently does two days a week in a surveyor’s office and the rest of the time does self employed secretarial work from home. She originally moved to remote working so she could care for her grandchildren.
She has mainly found work through word of mouth or through Gumtree, but has been struggling to find more remote work recently, which she feels may be down to her age. She is 58.
Sue has been working in the same job at the surveyors company since 2006 and says that it has evolved over time. She has sourced any training, such as on software developments, herself.
She really enjoys working from home and plans to keep working past retirement. “I prefer working from home and being in control of my own time. I find I am more productive, I don’t have to travel and I don’t feel isolated. I enjoy my own company. I’ve got better at organising my time and I don’t miss the office environment or office politics,” says Sue.
Karen Hobbs’ experience shows how some workers are ditching the office and employment for greater flexibility. Karen from Marlow has worked from home for 11 years as a researcher for EUROPA communications, working with big corporate clients. She has also set up her own business, KJ Business Services, where she offers business support, including events planning, research and lead generation.
Karen went remote following an accident in 2010 almost led to her losing part of her leg. After allowing her to work from home initially, her then employer got cold feet. Karen feels they didn’t trust her and it was only when another employee came to her house that they saw how bad her leg was. By then she had been contacted by some of the customers she was working with who were impressed by her work and said they would give her business if she went freelance.
She has built her clients through word of mouth. Although she loves working from home, there have been challenges. For instance, during Covid she faced problems doing lead generation because people were harder to get hold of because they were working from home. Her events work dried up until employers started moving their events online, which Karen finds easier to manage and which are now more accessible by more people.
She says that working from home has made her much more disciplined. She works from her spare room and ‘commutes’ to it every day, going for a walk round the block before starting work. She has regular breaks during the day and can flex working in the evening if a friend wants to go out during the afternoon, for instance. “As long as I do my hours and get the job done, I can organise myself how I like,” she says. From her years of experience, she knows when the best time is to call different businesses, for instance, she knows that after 9am IT managers are unlikely to be available and that the best time to get sales managers is later in the morning after their regular catch-up calls.
Karen says she sometimes misses face to face interaction with people, particularly on a bad day, and thinks working from home is not for everyone, but she is not sure she could go back to working in an office, even if, before Covid, she used to occasionally go to one. “I’m not sure I could put up with working in an office if not everyone was pulling their weight,” she says. “If something goes wrong now I know it is down to me.”
She adds that she remains open to new ideas and ways of doing things, and has done her own training to keep up with technological advances. Karen, who is paid by the hour or by the project, is confident of her own skills and approach to getting new leads, which is based on asking open questions rather than being too pushy and on quality appointments over quantity.