working remote

Working remotely: Advantages and disadvantages

I have been working entirely from home since 2014. Initially self-employed, later as a part-time employee. Personally, I couldn't go back to an office. At the same time, I know the challenges of working remotely or temporarily from home. This is my experience report.

I've been at Raidboxes since April 2019. Of course, I am attracted by the task, the independent work in the holacracy model, the young team (I am no longer the youngest myself) and the start-up character. However, I decided to join the company for another reason: Raidboxes allows me to work almost entirely from home. And on a part-time basis. Right before the 2020 pandemic, many men were looked at strangely when they expressed this wish.

Changes due to the pandemic

There have been many changes in this area, with remote or home office working becoming a necessity due to the circumstances of the pandemic in 2020. Since then, acceptance has risen sharply. This article deals with the advantages and disadvantages, which are essentially independent of the changes brought about by the pandemic.

None of this was a problem for Torben and Johannes from Raidboxes, although they are also well aware of the challenges of remote work. More on this later. There are several reasons why employees and companies choose to work from home:

  • The team cannot find suitable qualified candidates nearby.
  • You consciously want to work from home. Because you can concentrate better there or are more flexible in terms of time.
  • Working from home is the only way to balance your personal, family, and work life. For example, if you have small children or a lengthy commute.
  • The company doesn't have a large enough office, it's completely remote, or operates from abroad.

Of course, not every job is suitable for the remote model. But especially in areas such as (online) marketing, software development, support or sales, most jobs can be done from home - provided everyone involved is a little creative. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of modern working from home. Are you interested in this topic? Then take a look at our other posts articles:

Raidboxes seeks reinforcement

We are still looking for reinforcement. Become part of the Raidboxes team - whether in Münster or working from home. Take a look at our current vacancies.

Advantages of remote work

What I appreciate most is the flexibility that working from home gives me. I didn't want to give up my self-employment completely. I now do this as a freelancer alongside my part-time job. I often have to travel for my second job (I hold seminars in online marketing). At the same time, I have a young daughter who I look after at very different times. Neither would be possible with a traditional nine-to-five office job.

Remote workspace
My work station in my home office

In addition, I work in a very special environment. Companies that focus on WordPress are not to be found on every corner. The remote model allows me to work in my desired environment. And at the same time, I can reconcile my private and professional life.

Depending on your personal circumstances, there may be other benefits to working remotely:

  • Concentrated work: This is extremely important for me as a creative copywriter. I travel to our office in Münster from time to time. A very committed and lively team works there. What some people love is sometimes hell for me. I need almost complete silence in order to blog or do content marketing. Even headphones and the like don't help. Working from home can also be a blessing for highly sensitive people or people with autistic traits.
  • No commute: You save yourself the commute. I used to commute two hours to and from work in some cases. That's 10 more hours of free time per week (converted to a full-time job).
  • Family time: The daycare center closes at 4 p.m. sharp and no one can take over? Are you a single parent or do you only see your children on a daily basis? Do you have pets? This is often easier to reconcile with remote work than with a classic office job.
  • Private appointments: Need to accept a parcel? Take half a day off because the water meter has to be read or the washing machine delivered? A quick trip to the hairdresser during the break? All of this is easier from home. But of course it shouldn't get out of hand and must be well coordinated with your employer. At Raidboxes, we have a channel through which remote workers can log on and off for such short breaks from the screen. More on this later.
  • Cost savings: You may save yourself an expensive public transport subscription or countless kilometers by car if you work remotely. On the other hand, there are of course additional costs for the home office that should not be underestimated (electricity, water, heating, fast internet). You can deduct some of your commuting costs from your taxes, and under certain circumstances you can also deduct the costs of your home office. Or you can get an allowance from your employer.

The last point in particular requires a precise calculation. In general, you should weigh up the pros and cons carefully. Because while some people welcome the seclusion of working from home (better concentration), others need to interact with others. Only then can they work creatively at all.

Tip: Remote work does not have to be done from your home office. If you want to take advantage of this model without losing contact with your colleagues, you can also rent part or all of your space in a coworking space. These are now available in all major cities and municipalities.

Challenges for employees

"Working from home? I could never do that!". I hear this sentence in almost every discussion with friends and acquaintances. One thing is clear: Not everyone is suited to this model. On the other hand, you can get used to working from home. Especially when

  • There are regular core working hours within the company
  • Your job regularly involves travelling to customers, suppliers, congresses, or training courses.
  • You have a balance through a second or part-time job in which you are more socially active or have enough social interaction in your free time

That also applies to me, even if I tend to be more of a loner. Without the seminars, where I come into contact with lots of different people, the job would be too lonely for me. Likewise without the days in the Raidboxes office in Münster.

For a while, I worked in a company that was completely remote. This meant that I only saw the others about twice a year - clearly not enough for me.

Tip: Find out where your limits are. Ideally, you should work for a company that gives you a certain amount of flexibility in terms of office working days. At least until you find the right balance.

Of course, it helps if you don't have to travel across Germany or even Europe to get to your employer. At the same time, too much local proximity increases the temptation or pressure to be on site more often than you would actually like. As you can see, you should approach a remote job slowly. Especially as your needs may change over the years.

Some questions you should clarify in advance:

  • Personal responsibility: Do you know from previous jobs or projects that you can focus on a very independent way of working? Or do you, on the contrary, need someone at your side site to guide you through the work steps and tasks?
  • Professional development: Are you "seen" remotely enough? Can you manage without the floor radio? If you have ambitious plans for your career, this could be a problem.
  • Task sharing: Are you good with briefings via phone, chat or email?
  • Infrastructure: Do you have the necessary tools and a separate area for your home office? More on this in a moment.
  • Corporate culture: Have those involved already gained experience with remote work? Is it already clear which tools are to be used? I will introduce you to some of these later.
  • Financial arrangements: Who will pay for the additional costs incurred by a home office? Is this included in the (higher) salary? Is there a travel budget that you can draw on to get to the company's headquarters on a regular basis? And to stay overnight in the vicinity?

Another point that is very important: Do you usually get your social contacts from your professional environment? Or is your private network strong enough? Do people who live with you give you enough freedom to work from home? Quite a few remote workers underestimate at the beginning how much such a job affects their personal everyday life.

Tip: Some remote workers work completely independently of location as so-called digital nomads. Read our interview with Michael Hörnlimann. He explains the advantages and hurdles of this way of working.

coworking space
You can work from anywhere. Or in a coworking office.

Distinction between work life and personal life

I have always kept my professional and private life as strictly separate as possible. In the home office, this is essential - regardless of whether you work at home permanently or from time to time. Only with this separation can you get your tasks done. And only in this way you don't run the risk of starting up your computer late in the evening or on your days off, or of being constantly available for your employer. Above all, pay attention to the following:

  • Communication: Separate your channels. Do not use your private computer and your own smartphone for professional communication.
  • Your desk: The same goes for your documents: Are work documents and personal bills flying wildly around your desk? Not a good idea.
  • Working hours: Agree with your employer when you are available and how, and when you are not. You need times and spaces in your private environment where you and your family are not disturbed.
  • Availability: At the same time, make sure that you can actually be contacted during the agreed working hours. Otherwise you should "sign off". Employers in particular who have no previous remote experience will otherwise quickly become suspicious.
  • Not now: Nevertheless, you usually need fixed slots in which you can work in a concentrated manner. Or you can signal in tools like Slack that you are busy. See the relevant section below.

Video conferencing grants deep glimpses into your private space Here too, it makes perfect sense to have a separate area within your home for this.

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It also helps if you are alone at home while you work. Even if you normally work alone at home, it is sometimes unavoidable that children are present, for example in the event of illness. This requires good coordination, but also consistent physical separation so that you can still work properly. At least that's my experience.

Further tips for everyday life as a remote worker:

  • Many people benefit from a regular workflow. If you're one of them, get into the habit of a regular workflow with fixed times, as if you had to drive to an office. Then you can concentrate better on the job.
  • You don't necessarily have to set up your own study. But you need your own area and a desk for your work. Just like your employer, you should pay attention to ergonomics here.
  • Work in a tidy environment. You should feel comfortable, but not too cozy. The couch is not a suitable place for a home office.
  • Put your personal smartphone in another room or put it silently/off in a drawer or something. Otherwise, it distracts you too much. Take regular breaks for this.
Working from home
Don't get too cozy. Working from the sofa isn't a good idea.

Advantages for companies

I know many companies that are set up in a modern way and still refuse remote work. I'll come to the reasons for this in a moment. The model does have some advantages:

  • Recruiting: Especially in the technical environment, there is probably no company that is not desperately looking for skilled workers. Opening up to remote increases the catchment area enormously. Especially for companies in rural areas.
  • Less effort: No migration is required if someone wants to work for your company. This also allows you to test a collaboration first. This can save a lot of hassle, especially when it comes to finding accommodation, which is problematic these days (at least in Germany).
  • Inexpensive working model: Remote working can save you a lot of money. You don't have to set up additional workstations or even look for a new office if the new hires work from home.
  • Customer proximity: If the company operates throughout Germany or Europe: The remote workers may be located much closer to individual customers, suppliers and new markets. You can take advantage of this.
  • Expansion: In the long term, even new branch offices can be established in this way.

The shortage of skilled workers is probably the most important point. Small companies and start-ups in particular are increasingly turning to remote working, as they would otherwise have no chance of filling all their vacancies. It is very similar at Raidboxes. We found a suitable person for important positions more quickly.

Tip: Retaining good employees is almost more important and is often neglected by companies. A highly valued colleague of ours moved from Münster to Hamburg for personal reasons. Without remote work, we would certainly have lost her.

Challenges for companies

Of course, the remote model is not always easy - especially at the beginning. It can also fail if the company or the people involved are not yet ready for it. The biggest challenge is probably keeping in touch with the people in the home office:

  • Employees working remotely still need to feel like they're part of the team. This isn't so easy without the everyday personal contact.
  • The company or the management need to have a good relationship with the employees and, most importantly, a lot of trust.

Remote workers instinctively sense whether this trust is being placed in them or not. They also notice whether they are fully accepted by the team on site, whether they are considered second class or whether there is even envy towards them. After all, you enjoy privileges in the home office that don't apply in the office. This requires a great deal of attentiveness on the part of management, but also education. They need to communicate the benefits of the model to the remote workers and the team.

This enables you as a remoter to maintain contact with the people on site:

  • Presence times: Homeworkers should also show up at the office for a few days every now and then. The rotation can be made dependent on how time-consuming the journey is.
  • Social activities: Raidboxes regularly organizes joint team events. The effort required to involve us remote workers here is not insignificant. But Johannes and Torben have realized that this is very important for integration.
  • Feedback loops: Remote workers are not aware of the mood in the office. They also have less of a sense of whether and how their work is being received. Good feedback is important here. See our 10 tips for a better feedback culture.
  • Infrastructure: What techniques and tools are needed to make collaboration work? This ranges from systems for video conferencing to optional time recording.

The most important thing for remote workers is access to information. I don't get to hear the discussions at work, in the coffee kitchen or during my lunch break. Something is quickly explained or agreed there that I should actually know. There must be a role or processes in the company that filter out important information, document it and place it in generally accessible channels. This is where the help of the remoters is needed. They are the quickest to recognize where important information is being lost.

This is time-consuming, but everyone benefits in the end. After all, comprehensive documentation is created in the process. Raidboxes solves this issue with an internal wiki and specialist groups in Slack. See the "Tools and meetings" section.

Note: Companies should set out important points of cooperation with remote specialists in writing. For example, in the employment contract. This includes points such as rights and obligations, working hours, but also the issue of data protection and access to customer data.

Do remote employees work less?

The home office is rejected by many companies. This is because it cannot be controlled to the same extent as the people on site. There is a lot of concern in some places about remote workers "twiddling their thumbs". At the same time, there are studies that show that remote workers actually achieve more. This is because people like to work on professional projects at home in the evenings.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. At home, I'm tempted to walk the dog or hang up the laundry - that's what breaks are for. However, I'm not going to get distracted by other colleagues at home. In my experience, this point shouldn't be underestimated. Almost every work discussion slides at some point into private chatting. And if someone interrupts me at my desk, I'll often have to start what I was doing again from scratch. Remote employees can create a more protected setting for themselves in this respect.

Working in the office
Feeling a bit silly? You can also do that in the office.

In my opinion, the discussion about where more or less work is done is not central. What matters is that my employees are motivated - regardless of where they work. Because ducking out and "taking it easy" is also possible in the office. Ultimately, it's a question of corporate culture. Models like the holacracyhelp to promote independent action.

Remote workers who do a job that is fulfilling and appreciated will show just as much commitment. Remote workers are often very loyal. This is because they appreciate what the company offers them.

Tools and meetings

You need the right tools to integrate everyone into the work processes. It depends on your processes and your existing software landscape which ones are suitable for you. Here is a small selection:

  • Slack: Slack is a kind of chat tool for companies that allows people and teams to exchange information. You can also use it to send files, create reminders, make group calls or set up video conferences very quickly. It is suitable for quick office communication as well as for exchanging information with remote workers or external specialists. We at Raidboxes work very successfully with Slack.
  • Video conferencing: We use Google Meet for video conferencing, despite Slack. Because the quality of Slack is not always really good. Our conference room in Münster is equipped with the right equipment so that we can see each other but also share screens (cameras, microphone, Airtame). This means that the remoters can take part in all meetings if necessary.
  • Virtual meeting rooms: We have set up virtual rooms for each remote location in Google Meets. They are very easy to access via a link in our WordPress Dashboard . So you can quickly meet with one or more remoters in "Hamburg", "Magdeburg" or "Freiburg".
  • Project management: A good project management tool is important for any company that works in a technical environment and with mixed teams. I enter all my tasks there. That way, everyone knows what I'm working on at all times. And it helps me to organize myself. We're currently working with Asana, but I've also had good experiences with Trello.
  • Editorial planning: Distributed content teams in particular need to be well organized. The classic tool here is still Excel - or Google Sheets as a modern version. You can find countless templates for editorial plans online. Asana also offers a way to do this.

A few more words about Slack: channels for groups and topics are an important tool there to prevent uncontrolled growth. For example, we have a channel where we log in and out for breaks. And even a "coffee kitchen" for small talk. Or a channel purely for marketing topics. Everyone can decide for themselves where they want to read along.

There are now robots that remote workers can use to move around the office and talk to others virtually. See this provider. We briefly considered purchasing one. However, some had data protection concerns. You should generally take these into account with all tools.

double hallway
The "Double" in action. Image © Double Robotics

Do you know any other tools? How happy are you with the solutions mentioned above? Feel free to add your experiences or tips in the comments.

Conclusion

Remote work brings more flexibility for employees and companies alike if you take the following tips into account:

  • It takes a while before the appropriate processes are in place. In the beginning, remote employees and the teams on site should be in constant exchange about what can be optimized and how. The necessary resources must be available.
  • You need good social contacts outside work if you work mainly from home.
  • Information in the company must be freely accessible to everyone.
  • Remote workers should meet regularly with the office teams, in addition to virtual meetings.
  • The remote model is not suitable for very controlling entrepreneurial personalities.

I wish you every success in your remote job or in building a team. Do you have any questions about remote work? Feel free to use the comment function. Want to stay up to date with the latest news about WordPress and WooCommerce ? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

Further articles about the topic

Here are some further links:

for the German-speaking region:

Images: Alif Pratama, Shridhar Gupta, Damir Kopezhanov

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