tel·e·com·muteTelecommuting

Verb

work from home, making use of the Internet, e-mail, and the telephone.

How awesome is the internet?

Seriously few things in the human existence have had such a profound effect on society. It’s up there with fire, iron, oil, the telephone, television, and Steve Jobs.

It has shrunk the world and connected cultures and communities; then we took it a little further. We created worlds, built cultures and formed new communities. Now each of those three topics could be the subject of life long investigation, but today we want to talk about one little niche that has been silently growing on the back of the power of the internet. This is the ever growing community of the telecommuter.

To me the word ‘Telecommuter’ feels like a word from the 60’s. I picture a well-dressed salesman sitting at a desk in front of an art deco phone, smoking a cigarette, indoors. I prefer to refer to today’s telecommuter as the remote worker. Furthermore, I am proud to count myself as part of the remote worker community.

Current Numbers and Facts

The MYOB AU Business Monitor National Report from October 2015 showed that over two thirds (68%) of surveyed operators use some form of telecommuting. In fact only 31% had employees working solely from their business premises.

Teleworking was more likely to be used by:

  • Franchisors (88%)
  • Construction & trades businesses (86%) and business, professional and
    property services (76%)
  • Exporters (79%)
  • Establishing businesses (79%)
  • Sole operators (75%)
  • Gen Y operators (74%)

Benefits of Remote Working

Productivity

Let’s face the truth: a large building full of lots of people is rarely a highly productive place. Distractions, context switching and meeting rooms are not places where productivity reigns. In a recent survey by TinyPulse, 91% of those surveyed felt more productive working remotely. Much of the productivity gain is through the removal of distractions, and thus having the ability to focus.

Tap into a wider talent pool

The average distance travelled by a traditional office based commuter will vary, but in most instances staff do not want hour long commutes. This limits the talent pool to effectively inside that time zone. This will have a profound impact on a business, no question – especially if that business is not in a central location close to major public transport hubs.

The other added benefit is to bring jobs to areas suffering with lack of local opportunity.

Environmental Impact

It’s pretty simple – less fuel burned during a commute means less harmful chemicals and toxic gases are released into the atmosphere. Working remotely helps protect the environment we depend on to survive. Pretty sweet deal really.

Adventure is out there!

Living and working in a remote location can have the added benefits of exploring new and exciting places. You could telecommute from Peru, Bali or Munich (did someone say Oktoberfest?). Into mountain biking or skiing? Telecommute from the ski lodge!

Downsides

Everything comes at a cost, and let’s be honest, remote working is not for everyone. We all know that one person in the office that says they would love to work remotely, but really they just want to stay home and watch TV. So outside of those peoples’ laziness, let’s go through some of the major pitfalls shall we?

Mental Health

Yep let’s start with the big one, the elephant in the (remote) room. We are social beings, us humans, so the remote home-based worker can suffer a little from that isolation. We risk turning into an unshaven hermit who struggles to make eye contact in physical interactions. The good news is this is easily managed. Go out and meet with friends, join clubs (meetup.com is a great place for this), or, as I did, join a coworking office. Instant colleagues! Yes you will trade some of that productivity, but not on the scale you might in, say, the company of the head office.

Hidden Costs

Well, it turns out working from home isn’t free, you need furniture, electricity, internet, stationary, heating and/or cooling, depending on your climate. You need food – things like milk and coffee which may have been supplied previously may now need to be supplied by you. It may not seem like much but it adds up to a cost.

Switching Off from Work

The single biggest issue I personally faced with remote working, wasn’t that I slacked off and did nothing, it was the opposite problem. And I get it, if you run a business, then you often just have to suck it up and work your arse off. But for the employee of a large firm this is not usually the case. But, often it turns out the remote worker actually works longer hours than their office based counterpart. There are numerous reasons for this, but for me it often was just that I could perhaps knock off a few more things I have been working on. I would find myself saying things like, ‘I’ll just do a half hour on that thing’, which usually becomes a two or three hour session.

The other issue in this respect is that home will begin to feel like work, making it hard to separate and relax from work. Especially after one of those days. You know the the days I am talking about!

Solutions

However, the solution to these down sides is at hand: coworking! I totally mean that. In fact I personally like coworking so much that I became a partner in my local coworking space, Cowork Launceston. Coworking provides instant colleagues (see the mental health section above), and even an instant social network. Caffeine is often supplied, sometimes forcibly. Spaces are often a shorter commute than that of the usual physical office, so the environmental impact is still lower. More and more businesses are waking up to the benefits of having remote employees, especially when having them based in coworking facilities. The future is bright, the future is remote.

The Future is Remote

In the future I expect that it will not be uncommon for large corporations to have desks pre-booked in regional coworking spaces all around the globe. It will enable employees to use and connect via virtual reality, augmented reality and holographic imagery. Allowing a more realistic look and feel to how we work and collaborate with colleges. In summary, the revolution will be remotely operated!

Article was written by Cowork Launceston partner Dermot McElduff – Technological geek by day, action photographer by night. He is a success story for telecommuting.