The pandemic forced many of us to work from home. But remote work is likely to be with us well after the pandemic restrictions are gone.
Corporate giants and smaller companies have told at least a portion of their workforce to stay home permanently.
According to Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:
“When the pandemic is over, one in six workers is projected to continue working from home or co-working at least two days a week, according to a recent survey by economists at Harvard Business School. Another survey of hiring managers by the global freelancing platform Upwork found that one-fifth of the workforce could be entirely remote after the pandemic.”
Remote work comes with unique challenges
No doubt, working from home offers many pluses, and has been embraced by many big employers. According to Sarah Kessler in the NY Times:
“Around 10,000 employees at Google recently applied to work remotely or transfer to a different location, and the company approved 85 percent of the requests. The real estate platform Zillow says more women have applied for its jobs since it announced a year ago that most of its 5,900 employees could work from home permanently. The software company Slack, which also offered permanent remote positions last year, said that among recent hires the number of minority workers was 50 percent higher for those who planned to work primarily from home than for those who preferred the office.”
The downside? The biases that can arise against remote workers:
“The employees who are working in person may get more visibility with leadership,” said Sonja Gittens Ottley (in the above NY Times article), the head of diversity and inclusion at the software company Asana, which has more than 1,000 employees who will be allowed to spend two days a week working remotely when offices reopen. “They might have more opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship.”
What is the impact of remote work?
According to Thompson, one potential outcome of the increase in work-from-home staff could be an increase in entrepreneurship:
“Working from home, our connection to the office weakens, and our connection to the world outside the office expands. At the kitchen counter, hunched over your computer, you are as close to the people and communities on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram as you are to the Slack messages and chats of your bosses and colleagues. By degrees, the remote experiment can weaken the bonds between workers within companies and strengthen the connections between some workers and professional networks outside the company.
As people realize that their connection to the office is virtual, more Americans may take on side gigs and even start their own companies. The very tools that co-workers use to stay connected—such as cultivating online a polished version of yourself to a group of people you don’t see particularly often—can be repurposed to go solo. Ambitious engineers, media makers, marketers, PR people, and others may be more inclined to strike out on their own, in part because they will, at some point, look around at their living room and realize: I am alone, and I might as well monetize the fact of my independence. A new era of entrepreneurship may be born in America, supercharged by a dash of social-existential angst.”
How Companies Can Improve Remote Work
Leadership strategy expert Enrique Dans said in a Forbes article that to make remote working work better, we are headed towards:
“The optimization of working practices, which means changing the synchronous-asynchronous balance: fewer rounds of endless video conferences and more short videos recorded for later viewing, much more Slack and similar communication tools, along with less time spent sitting in front of a screen listening to other people. Shared documents people can work on synchronously — coordinating in the chat window — or asynchronously are infinitely more effective than a marathon video conference. A spreadsheet, text document, or presentation that requires input from several people is an ideal solution for Google Docs, Office 360, or any of their competitors.
Not only can we can save on the time spent getting to and from work, we can also organize our workplace at home, helped by our employers, and we can afford to be much more creative. In short, we will find that the distributed company not only attracts better talent by eliminating geographic restrictions, but is consistently more efficient than any organization with a face-to-face culture.”
Is remote work making you paranoid?
Jessica Grose of the NY Times suggested that remote work can make some people paranoid:
“Millions more Americans communicating completely virtually with their co-workers does not mean our emotional office dynamics have caught up yet to our new videoconference world. Many are feeling a spectrum of new anxieties about their interactions with colleagues.
Employees are asking themselves questions like: Is that Slack message unanswered because I’m getting fired, or because my boss is dealing with remote schooling her kid? Did that joke land flat on that video call because it was a bad joke, or am I falling out of favor?
‘Past research on the topic of organizational and social paranoia shows that working from home may exacerbate uncertainty about status, which can lead to over-processing information and rumination’, said Roderick M. Kramer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who has studied paranoia at work.”
Where To Find Companies That Offer Remote Work
If you’re job-hunting for a stay-at-home job, here’s some help in locating this kind of work.
Job Sites for Remote Work
Hannah Morgan of CareerSherpa.net wrote a robust post about remote work and side-gig work, listing the following:
Websites for side gigs
- LinkedIn Profinder
Websites for remote work
Top Companies with Remote Jobs
FlexJobs released its eighth annual Top 100 Companies to Watch for Remote Jobs list, that includes:
Top career fields for remote work
- Computer & IT
- Medical & Health
- Project Management
- Accounting & Finance
- Customer Service
Fastest-growing remote job categories
- HR & Recruiting
- Accounting & Financing
- Graphic Design
- Customer Service
- Mortgage & Real Estate
- Internet & Ecommerce
- Project Management
100 top companies with remote jobs in 2021
The top 25 in the list are:
- Working Solutions
- Robert Half International
- UnitedHealth Group
- Cactus Communications
- EF Education First
- Supporting Strategies
- Thermo Fisher Scientific
Best cities for work-from-home jobs
Use the InMyArea.com remote work web tool for:
- Best cities by size
- Best work-from-home city in your state
- Top cities in each state
How To Make Remote Work Work Better for You
Working from home certainly has many benefits, but also comes with its own set of challenges. Since it seems to be here to stay (and growing), how well are you prepared to deal with it?
Are you suffering from work-at-home burnout?
Aytekin Tank, founder of JotForm, offered 4 telltale signs that indicate remote work my be putting your mental health at risk, and causing burnout:
- You don’t take time off (even though you have it)
- You use your work as an escape from stress
- You’re obsessed with job security
- You lack boundaries in your remote work setup
He also gave this advice to protect yourself from burnout:
“These changes in how you work don’t have to throw you for a loop, or compromise your mental health. New territory simply requires a new strategy: one that prioritizes your well-being so you can contribute in meaningful ways, whether you’re working in a cubicle or in the comfort of your living room.”
Self-care is important when you work from home
Priya Florence Shah, Group Editor at SHEROES, wrote an article laying out 21 self-care tips for remote work:
- Know your personality type
- Get attuned to your biological clock
- Find your Ikigai, or reason for being
- Create a comfortable home office space
- Play music while you work
- Start a mindfulness practice
- Take lots of mini-breaks
- Move your body often
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get enough sleep
- Cultivate a hobby
- Relax on the weekends
- Make use of your vacation days
- Take a mental health day
- Get your family to pitch in
- Find ways to stave off loneliness
- Be gentle with yourself
- Focus on solutions, not problems
- Start writing a journal
- Create a vision
Don’t forget to make yourself look good on Zoom calls
You may consider it frivolous, but without good lighting, you may not be taken seriously on these work calls.
Amanda Mull at the Atlantic described what began happening with the proliferation of on-camera calls, as the pandemic unfolded:
“While people had been living their in-person life, blissfully unaware of their expression at any given moment, the cameras around them had been multiplying and improving. Once office work and socializing went online, everyone looked terrible. Americans had spent the past decade mastering the momentary muscle movements of a good selfie, but starring in a high-quality live video in front of co-workers or romantic prospects for hours at a time is a different beast entirely. People had no idea how to contend with broadcasting their own face—weird shadows, awkward backdrops, and under-the-chin shots from low-slung laptops abounded.
“Things stayed like that for a little while, in the suspended animation of collective uncertainty. But looking at your own bored face during an interminable Zoom call is brutal. Once it became clear that a quick return to normal life wasn’t in the cards, many of those trying to look professional while working from home (or look presentable to their friends at a Zoom happy hour, or look enticing on a FaceTime date) began to search for help.”
YouTubers held the key to looking good on Zoom calls
Advice on finding the right tools to make themselves look and sound better came through YouTubers and others like them who had been perfecting on-camera presence for years.
The most important piece of equipment has become the ring light, a glowing halo which does a good job of imitating professional lighting. As Mull said:
“When positioned carefully, their glow evens skin tone, brightens eyes, and, perhaps most importantly, helps people create an aura of competence and productivity on camera while their kids or roommates wander through the background on the way to the fridge.”