Are you taking Remote control?

Remote working has become big labour news over the past few years. In the UK alone, there were nearly a quarter of a million more home workers in 2016 than in 2006, and those people who do it report higher levels of productivity than those who work in open-plan offices. It represents part of a swing towards less ‘typical’ work, including flexible hours and self-employment, although its existence shouldn’t mean any change in the rest of your contract details.

So, what exactly is remote working?

In case it isn’t self-explanatory, or if you’ve never come across the term before, it means working away from your organisation’s main base. Sometimes it’s working from home; sometimes from a co-working space (an office-like environment, but you’re all doing your own thing); sometimes from a café, or on holiday – though we’d like to state for the record that we do not approve of working when you’re supposed to be taking a break. For most roles that can allow this, all you need is a computer and internet connection. Sometimes a phone, too, but more and more businesses are using web-based audio and video calling instead. There are some companies, such as Buffer, which are fully remote – there’s no head office, and everyone works wherever they are. Others offer the (slightly) more traditional option of working from home one day a week, or on a flexible basis. Importantly: remote working isn’t freelancing, or necessarily part of the ‘gig economy’. It’s an option within a permanent job, whether full-time or part-time. In fact, many UK workers have a legal right to request flexible working, whether that’s compressed hours or remote working. Note that your company doesn’t need to agree to your request – try to analyse their objections in advance, to see if you have any counter-points – but they do have to take it seriously.

Why would I want to work from home?

Aside from the above-mentioned productivity levels, there are plenty more reasons you might not want to work in your company’s office (assuming they have one). If you have a disability that means travelling or an unsuitable office layout would add on extra stress or difficulty, remote working would completely remove that barrier. You might have caring responsibilities, the school run, dogs to walk. You might get headaches from office strip lighting. You might just be a bit noise sensitive and find it much easier to concentrate in an environment you’ve designed yourself. On top of this, you’d get extra sleep, be able to take breaks when you need to, and wouldn’t need to pay for commuting.

You might be someone who thrives in professional working conditions. In that case, if you’d still like to try remote working, or your company needs it, you could look at desks in a co-working space – check out CreativeBoom’s list of the best UK options. And remember, even at home, working remotely doesn’t mean working alone; in a company which has thought it through, you should still feel hugely connected to your colleagues, through online meetings, chat software such as Slack or Skype, and file sharing options such as Dropbox and Google Docs.

Our tips for remote working:

  • If you want to ask your company for permission, check out restrictions for your statutory rights here (although do remember, if you have a good relationship with your boss, you can probably have the conversation without having to resort to enforcing the law).
  • Starting today? Sticking to a schedule can help you to be productive, but remember to figure in breaks and a stop time – take it from someone who freelanced for years, it’s all too easy to work for nine hours straight and forget to eat lunch AND dinner.
  • As a remote worker, you shouldn’t feel like you’re an afterthought to the people in the office. If you think it’s heading that way, make your feelings clear to your colleagues, and discuss some solutions. Maybe a daily 10am call to check in is all you need to feel you’re still part of the department.

Author: Katherine Stephen

Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.

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