Remote work has emerged as a widespread practice in the workplace. It’s safe to say that the traditional workplace is forever changed due to the Covid pandemic.
Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from 5.7% (roughly 9 million people) to 17.9% (27.6 million people), according to new 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) released by the U.S. Census Bureau. More recent statistics now put that percentage at more than 26% as of the end of 2022. More than 36 million Americans are expected to work remotely by 2025.
Nearly half of the workers in the District of Columbia now work from home. Another geographic area with a high percentage of remote workers is San Francisco and Oakland.
A report from Owl labs in 2021 found that 55% of respondents say they work more hours remotely than at the physical office. And some companies are reporting that remote workers are more productive and happier. Flexibility for family schedules, eliminating stressful and time-consuming commutes, freedom to work from any location and reducing expenses for work-related clothing and meals are among the reasons that workers mention for working away from the traditional office setting.
Technology has made remote work an ideal reality for so many people who otherwise may not be able to participate in the workforce.
Whether you’re freelancing or telecommuting from a full-time job, you really can be just as productive, if not more, than a cubicle dweller. Just remember this advice for succeeding on the home front:
• Start your day off right. You may not have to work a rigid 9-to-5 schedule when working at home but take your job seriously. “Report” to your desk, wherever it is, at an appropriate time ready to work. Some experts recommend showering and dressing as if you’re going to the office to get into the right frame of mind.
• Understand what your organization needs. Working from home means you won’t get as much direct feedback and instruction from your boss throughout the day. Get clear expectations from your manager so you’ll be working on the right tasks and the right schedule. Set short-term and long-range goals that align with your organization’s objectives.
• Establish firm boundaries. Family members and friends should know when you’re working and realize that you can’t be interrupted for trivial reasons. Keep your door closed (if you have one) and let the answering machine pick up the phone. Emergencies aside, don’t get distracted by irrelevant chitchat.
• Stay connected with people. Don’t let them forget you back at the office. Check in frequently with emails and phone calls to let people know you’re on top of things. Visit the office when you can and maintain your friendships with co-workers. You want to be thought of as a full member of the team, wherever you are.
• Make sure your internet and phone connections are reliable and adequate for the demands of the job. Make plans for alternate locations if necessary for power outages and internet issues. And if you are planning to work from a really remote location, such as a mountain retreat or a tropical island, check in advance for connectivity issues.
• Take breaks as needed. Don’t work yourself to exhaustion trying to prove you’re just as productive at home as you would be at work. Although you shouldn’t start a home renovation project in the middle of writing a report, there’s nothing wrong with spending a few minutes emptying the dishwasher or putting laundry away to clear your mind and relax a little.
• Evaluate your progress regularly. Keep track of your workload and your goals so you can review how much you’re getting done and whether you need to make any adjustments. As your own supervisor, you’ll need to keep an eye on what you’re accomplishing so you don’t fall behind.
Let me share a little secret that sales people have known for generations: working remotely is hardly a new phenomenon. In this profession, a lot of work gets done on the golf course, at a ball game or over a good meal. As a lifelong salesman, I appreciate the flexibility. But I am grateful for those back at the factory who show up every day to manufacture the products that we sell!
Mackay’s Moral: Getting down to business doesn’t need to mean getting to the business.