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Working Remotely: The Many Benefits

This series on “Working Remotely” is inspired by “Remote,” the book by the 37Signals guys, and by my own experience working remotely for many years.
After working for almost two decades in the offices of large entities – federal courts, law school, and law firm – I left to work for an entity of one: me. The ensuing three years working in my home office prepared me for the next chapter: working remotely for a legal technology startup.
Then, I recently came across the excellent new book, Remote: Office not Required, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. These guys practice what they preach: A software company, they don’t have a single employee in San Francisco, the hub of technology companies.
The book provided many a-ha moments, which, along with insights gained, and lessons learned from working remotely for the past few years, inspired this series of posts.
From 2005-2012, working remotely – telecommuting, as it’s commonly called – grew by a whopping 80 percent in the United States. 2.6% of the U.S. employee workforce – 3.3 million people – now consider home their primary place of work. (For this and other telecommuting statistics, check out globalworkplaceanalytics.com.) Why the continued rise in people working remotely? Of the many benefits, here are five key ones.
1. Flexibility – Many surveys cite flexibility as the number one reason employees prefer working from home. Flexibility with time: working remotely doesn’t mean that you have to abide by a strict 9-5 schedule. Flexibility to develop better work-life balance. (We’ll talk more about trust, responsibilities, and communication later in the series.) Flexibility to perform creative work when you’re in a creative mindset. Flexibility to vary workstations to avoid neck and shoulder pain. And, much more.
2. Remove time and stress of commuting –  Crowded and delayed buses and trains sap your energy, waste your time, and stress you out. So does sitting in traffic. All this before you begin your work day! Then you get to do it all over again in the evening after a long day of work. Repeat this every day for the rest of your work life and that’s an awful lot of time wasted. Working remotely solves this problem.
Getting rid of your daily commute is also good for your health: studies show that people with long commutes are likely to experience a ton of health problems. A healthy worker is a productive worker. This is a win-win for company and worker.

3. Remove distractions and increase productivity – We’ll talk about managing distractions in your home office later in the series. It’s easier to do than managing distractions at work: constant interruptions, water cooler chats, and endless meetings. As David and Jason note in Remote:

If you ask people where they go when they really need to get work done, very few will respond “the office.” If they do say the office, they’ll include a qualifier such as “super early in the morning before anyone gets in” or “I stay late at night after everyone’s left” or “I sneak in on the weekend… Meaningful work, creative work, thoughtful work, important work – this type of effort takes uninterrupted time to get into the zone.”

4. No snow days – Okay, some may view this as a downside since remote workers don’t get the day off when offices are closed due to snow, severe weather or natural (and other) disasters. (Though it doesn’t have to be a letdown – use an hour for lunch to build a snowman with your kids or go sledding with the dog. And you can do that on any day of the week!) Since you’re working away from the office, when the mother ship is hit with emergencies, you’ll still be operating at full capacity. A huge win for the company.
And, it doesn’t have to be big disasters: if you’re feeling under the weather, need to take care of someone, or handle an emergency at home, an entire day would be lost if you couldn’t make it into the office. A remote worker will be able to handle these issues as they arise and still get the work done.
5. Recruiting talent – Limiting recruiting efforts to local candidates robs your company of great talent. The talent doesn’t have to come to you – many won’t – you can go to them. Employing remote workers gives you access to the best people, wherever they are.
Some industries and professions lend themselves to remote workers more than others, but even when face time is required, it’s usually not every day. The other days can be spent working from home. Among the many industries Remote identifies as being able to take advantage of remote work, are accounting, marketing, finance, insurance, and yes, legal.
There are many other benefits to working remotely, such as office overhead and commuting cost savings and environmentally friendly non-commutes. Do you work remotely? Share some of the benefits you’ve experienced in the comments below.
POSTS IN THE SERIES:
Working Remotely: The Many Benefits
Traits of an Effective Telecommuter
How to Manage Work-at-Home Employees
A Productive Home Office
Managing Solitude
Communication and collaboration
Managing Distractions
Managing Time, Boundaries, and Balance
Evaluating Employee Performance
Company Culture Beyond the Office Walls
How Lee Rosen Moved His Law Firm to an All-Remote Workforce
Working Remotely: Have Computer, Will Travel