Work Remotely: Advantages & Disadvantages for Employees and Companies

13 Min.
Michael Firnkes introduction interview
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For nine years I have been working completely from home: Initially self-employed, later as a part-time employee. Personally, I could not go back to an office. At the same time, I know the challenges of remote work or temporary home office. A field report for employees, agencies and companies.

Since April 2019 I am working at RAIDBOXES. Of course, I am attracted by the task of working independently in the Holacracy modelthe young team (I'm not the youngest myself) and the start-up mode. However, I made the decision for the company for another reason: RAIDBOXES allows me to work almost completely from home. And that on a part-time basis. Many people are still looked at strangely when they express this wish.

For Torben and Johannes of RAIDBOXES all this was not a problem, although they too are well aware of the challenges of remote work. More on this later. There are several reasons why employees and companies choose the home office as their workplace:

  • The team cannot find suitable experts located in the immediate vicinity.
  • You deliberately want to work from home. Because you can concentrate better there, for example, or you are more flexible in terms of time.
  • This is the only way to reconcile your personal, family and work life. For example with small children or with a time-consuming journey to work.
  • The company does not have a large local office, it is completely remote or operated from abroad.

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

Tip: We're still hiring! Become part of the RAIDBOXES team - in Münster or from your home office. Take a look at our current job vacancies .

My advantages

What I appreciate most is the flexibility that remote work offers me. I did not want to give up being a freelancer at all. That's why I decided to keep on working for myself alongside my part-time employment. For my second job (Teach online marketing) I often have to travel. At the same time I have a little daughter whom I take care of. Neither of these circumstances would be possible when having a 9 to 5 job.

Remote workspace
My workplace in the home office

In addition, I work in a small, highly specialised niche. Companies that focus on WordPress...they're not common. The remote model gives me the opportunity to work in the environment of my choice. And at the same time I can bring my private and work life together.

Depending on the personal situation, there are also other advantages:

  • Concentrated work: For me as a creative copywriter, this is extremely important. I travel to our office in Muenster from time to time. A very committed and lively team works there. What some people love is partly hell for me. For me personally, it has to be silent when blogging or doing content marketing. That's why not even headphones work for me. Even for highly sensitive people or employees with autistic features, working from home can be a blessing.
  • No commute: You save yourself the commute. I used to commute two hours to and from work. That's 10 hours more free time per week (when working full-time).
  • Family time: The nursery closes at 4 pm and your partner cannot take over? Are you a single parent or do you only see your children by the day? Do you have pets? This is often easier to arrange when working from home compared to a office job.
  • Private appointments: The postman doesn't ring twice? Taking half a day off because the water meter is read or the washing machine is delivered? Quickly to the hairdresser during the break? All this is easier from home. But of course it should not get out of hand and must be well coordinated with the employer. We RAIDBOXES have a channel that our remote colleagues use to log in and out of the screen for such short breaks. More about this later.
  • Cost saving: You may save the expensive public transport subscription or countless kilometres by car if you work in the remote model. On the other hand, there are of course additional costs for the home office, which should not be underestimated (electricity, water, heating, fast internet). You can partly deduct the costs for the journey from your tax bill, under certain circumstances also the home office. Or you can get a subsidy from your employer.

The last point in particular requires an exact calculation. In general, you should weigh up the pros and cons carefully. Because while some people welcome the seclusion of the home office (better concentration), others need the exchange with their colleagues. Only then can they work creatively at all.

Tip: Remote work does not have to be done from the home office. If you want to use the advantages of the model without losing contact with your fellow human beings, you can also work completely or partially in a Coworking Space rent. There are now rentals in all major cities and towns.

Challenges for employees

"Working from home? I could never do that!". I hear this sentence in almost every discussion with friends and acquaintances. It is clear: Not everyone is suitable for the model. However, you can get used to working in a home office. Especially when

  • There are regular attendance times in the company
  • If you often have to travel to customers, suppliers, congresses, training courses etc. for your job
  • you have a compensation through a second or side job where you are socially more active

This is also true for me, even if I tend to be a loner. Without the seminars, where I come into contact with many different people, the job would be too lonely for me. Likewise without the days in the RAIDBOXES office in Muenster.

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For a while I worked in a company that was completely remote. This meant that I only saw my colleagues about twice a year - clearly too little for me.

Tip: You have to find your own pain tolerance. Ideally, you should work for a company that gives you a certain amount of freedom in terms of the number of days you spend in the office. At least until you find the right balance.

Of course it helps here if you don't have to travel across Germany or even Europe to get to your employer. Too much local proximity increases the temptation or pressure to be on the spot more often than you would like. As you can see: You should slowly approach your first remote job. And keep in  mind that your needs 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 on the contrary, do you constantly need someone at your site side who can dictate the work steps and tasks?
  • Professional development: Are you "seen" enough as a remote worker? Can you cope with no chatting with your colleages? If you have ambitious plans for your career, this could become a problem.
  • Task sharing: Are you good with briefings via telephone, chat or e-mail?
  • Infrastructure: Do you have the necessary tools and a separate area to create your own home office? We'll go through this in a bit.
  • Corporate culture: Do your colleagues and your superiors already have gained experience with remote employees? Is it already clear which tools are to be used? I will introduce you to some of them later.
  • Financial arrangements: Who pays for the additional costs of a home office? Is this included in the (higher) salary? Is there a travel budget that you can fall back on to come to the company headquarters regularly? And to stay overnight near there?

Another point that is very important: Do you usually relate your social contacts from your work environment? Or is your private network strong enough? Does your partner give you enough space and freedom to work from home? Quite a few remote workers underestimate the affects on private life at first sight.

Tip: Some remote workers work completely independent of location, as so-called digital nomads. Read our Interview with Michael Hörnlimann. He names the advantages and hurdles of the working method.

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

Distinction between work life and personal life

I have always kept my work and private life as strictly separated as possible. In the home office, this is unrelenting - whether you work at home all the time or now and then. Only with this separation can you do your work. And only in this way you don't run the risk of turning on the computer late in the evening or on your days off "just for a short time", or being constantly available for your employer. Above all, pay attention to the following:

  • Communication: Disconnect your channels. Don't use your private computer and your own smartphone for business communication.
  • Your desk: The same applies to your documents: Do you spread work documents and personal bills on your desk? Not a good idea.
  • Working hours: Agree with your employer on when you're available and when you're 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 "log out". Especially employers who have no remote experience so far will quickly become suspicious.
  • Not now: Nevertheless, you usually need fixed slots in which you can work concentrated. Or you can use tools like Slack to signal that you are busy. See the corresponding section below.

Video conferencing allows deep insight into your privacy. Here too, a separate area makes perfect sense.

Also, make sure you're home alone when you work. From time to time it is unavoidable that your partner or children are present, for example when you are ill. Here you need a good coordination but also a consistent spatial separation so that you can still work reasonably. At least that is my experience.

More tips for everyday life as a remote worker:

  • Get into the habit of a regular work routine with fixed times, as if you had to drive to an office. It'll help you focus on the job.
  • You do not 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 get too comfortable. The sofa is not a suitable place when working from home.
  • Move your private smartphone to another room. It'll distract you too much. Take regular breaks.
Working from home
Don't get too comfortable. Working from the sofa is not a good idea.

Advantages for companies

I know many companies that have a modern setup, but still refuse to work remotely. I will come to the reasons for this in a moment. The model has several advantages:

  • Recruiting: Especially in the technical environment there is probably no company that is not desperately looking for specialists. By opening up to remote, the catchment area increases enormously. Especially for companies in rural areas.
  • Less effort: New employees no longer have to move to the company's location. This is also a good way to test a collaboration.
  • Favourable working model: Under certain circumstances, working remotely can save a lot of money. You don't have to set up additional workstations or even look for a new office in case the new hires work from home.
  • Customer proximity: When the company operates in Germany or Europe: Your remote workers may be located much closer to individual customers, suppliers and new markets. You can use this.
  • Expansion: In the long term, this will even allow new branch offices to be established.

The shortage of skilled workers is probably the most important point. Small companies and start-ups in particular are increasingly opening up to remote work, as otherwise they would have no chance of filling all the vacancies. It's quite similar for RAIDBOXES us. For important positions we found employees faster.

Tip: Keeping good employees is almost even more important and is often neglected by companies. A very esteemed colleague of ours has moved from Muenster to Hamburg for private reasons. Without remote work we would certainly have lost her.

Challenges for companies

Remote work ain't easy - especially at the beginning. It can also fail if the company or employees are not yet ready for it. Probably the biggest challenge is to maintain contact with colleagues in the home office:

  • They must feel integrated into the team. This is not so easy when the daily personal contact disappears.
  • The company or the management must also have a good connection and above all a lot of trust.

Remote workers instinctively sense whether or not this leap of faith is being made to them. They also sense whether they are fully accepted by the local team, whether they are considered less valued employees, or whether there is even envy towards them. After all, you can enjoy privileges in the home office that do not apply in the office. This is where management needs to be very attentive but also to provide information. You have to communicate all advantages of remote work to both your team and your remoters.

Work Remotely: Advantages & Disadvantages for Employees and Companies

In this way, you will be able to keep in touch with your employees on site:

  • Attendance times: Homeworkers should also be seen in the office for a few days every now and then. You can make the rotation dependent on how time-consuming the journey is.
  • Social activities: RAIDBOXES organises joint team events very regularly. The effort to involve us remoters here is not insignificant. But Johannes and Torben have realized that this is very important for the integration.
  • Feedback loops: Remote workers do not notice the atmosphere in the office. They also have less of a feeling for whether and how their work is received. Good feedback is important here. See our 10 Tips for Improving Your Feedback Culture.
  • Infrastructure: What techniques and tools are needed to make collaboration work? This ranges from systems for video conferencing to optional time recording.

Most important for remote workers is access to information. I don't follow my colleagues' discussions at work, in the coffee kitchen or during lunch breaks. Quickly something is explained or agreed upon there that I actually should know. There must be a role or processes in the company that catch up and document important information and share it in generally accessible channels. This is where the help of remoters is also needed. They are the quickest way to recognize at which points important information is lost.

This is elaborately, but in the end all employees benefit from it. After all, a comprehensive documentation is created along the way. RAIDBOXES solves this point with a internal wiki See the section "Tools and Meetings"Slack .

Note: Companies should set out in writing important points of collaboration with remote professionals. 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 home office employees perform less?

The home office is rejected by many companies. Because it cannot be controlled to the same extent as the employees on site. In some places there is great concern about remoters being lazy and less productive. At the same time, there are studies that say that remote workers can do even more. Because at home, people like to spend evenings working on work projects.

The truth should lie somewhere in the middle. At home I am tempted to walk the dog or hang up the laundry - that's what breaks are for. However, the distraction at work by other colleagues disappears. In my experience this is a point that one should not underestimate. Almost every technical discussion slides at some point into private chatting. And if someone interrupts me at my desk, I always start again from scratch. Remoters can create a more protected setting here.

Working in the office
You can also do that at the office.

In my opinion, the discussion about more productive in the office or from home is not central at all. It depends on whether my employees are motivated - regardless of where they work. After all, being lazy and not getting things done is also possible in the office. Ultimately, it's a question of corporate culture. Here too, models like the Holacracyin order to encourage independent action.

Whoever performs a fulfilling and appreciated activity as a remoter will show his total commitment. Remote workers are often very loyal employees. Because they appreciate what the company offers them.

Tools and meetings

The right tools are needed to involve local employees in 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, with which employees and teams can exchange information. You can also use it to send files, create reminders, make group phone calls or quickly set up video conferences. It is suitable for fast office communication as well as for the exchange with remoters or external specialists. We at RAIDBOXES Slack work very successfully with Slack.
  • Videoconferencing: We use Google Hangouts for video conferencing, despite slack. Because the quality is not always really good with slack. Our conference room in Muenster is equipped with the appropriate equipment, so that we can see each other but also share screens (cameras, micro, Airtame). This allows the remoters to participate in all meetings if required.
  • Virtual meeting rooms: We have set up virtual rooms for each remote location in Google Hangouts. They are easily accessible via a link in our WordPress dashboard. So you can quickly meet with one or more remote locations in "Hamburg", "Magdeburg" or "Freiburg".
  • Project Management: A good project management tool is important for any company working in a technical environment and with mixed teams. I enter all my tasks there. This way my colleagues always know what I am working on. And it helps me to organize myself. We currently work with Zohobut also with Trello I've had good experiences.
  • Editorial planning: Especially distributed content teams need to be well organized. The classic here is still Excel - or Google Sheets as a modern variant. On the net you will find countless Templates for editorial plans.

A few words about Slack : channels for groups and themes are an important instrument to avoid a proliferation of groups and themes. We have a channel, for example, where we log off and log on during 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 with which remote workers can move to the workstations of their on-site colleagues to talk to them virtually. See this supplier. We thought about getting one for a while. However, some employees had privacy concerns. You should take these into account in general, with all tools.

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

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

My conclusion

Remote work brings more flexibility for employees and companies alike, if you consider the following advice:

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

I wish you good luck with your remote job, or with building up an appropriate team.

Do you have questions about working remotely? Feel free to use the comment function. Do you want to receive all new information about WordPress WooCommerce? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook , or subscribe to our Newsletter.

Further articles about the topic

Here are some more links for employees, agencies and companies:

Pictures: Alif Pratama, Shridhar Gupta, Damir Kopezhanov

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