Most jobs nowadays, still require you to get up early and get ready and to then spend a percentage of your life sitting inside of a vehicle driving to a point B. A few jobs however, have evolved beyond that, and can now be done from anywhere in the world. Thank you internet. For example, you can write from anywhere in the world. Editors are sitting in coffee shops as we speak writing that next big trending post. Many universities have begun to transition to remote educations. You can get an MBA from your bed in your pajamas right now, if you so wish. And of course, you can program from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection, and many time without an internet connection. And while both editors and education courses are becoming the new norm for many, the same doesn't hold true for programming.
For the most part, most tech companies hate the idea of not being able to see what their employees are up to. It's an ingrained trait in work. When someone is paying you for work, they probably won't trust you until it is complete. Hence, you have to sit in a chair and do it in front of them. I've worked for about 5 tech companies now, from small shops to large companies with hundreds of employees and for the most part, working from home normally isn't an option that's available. Usually there's a manager, and then another manager, and then a cubicle. And that's for the most part, the image that we all have about office work.
Currently there are a fair number of larger companies playing around with the idea of remote work however and they're considered to be "edgy" and "modern". The same thing happened when Ford decided to implement the 8 hour work day and to pay his employees double what they used to earn. Many other companies saw it as a crazy move, but within one year Ford managed to double its earnings due to the increased productivity of its employees. And now everyone does it. And in that same manner many employers that allow their employees to work from anywhere are seeing the benefit to their companies.
Aside from the obvious benefit of having happier employees, there are many other benefits to having employees work remotely. Most impact productivity but some have wider reaching effects on both their own personal lives and on society as well.
Employees Not Limited To 20 Miles
Most people when they look for work, focus on companies that are within a certain radius of their home. Most people don't typically enjoy driving 2 hours one way in order to work for 8, then have another 2 hours back. That's already a 12 hour day. Remote employees however, bypass this entire step. They can apply to a company in another city, state or even another country altogether. Websites like WeWorkRemotely help to pair up tech individuals to companies that operate remotely and it opens up the job market to much larger levels. And companies like Stack Overflow have offices throughout the country but also give employees the option to work from home.
Employers Not Limited to 20 Miles
Usually one of the top questions that get asked when you go to an interview is "Where do you live?", and that's because employers generally want to hire people that are within close proximity, so that they may arrive to work on time. This is hugely limiting for some companies that aren't exactly near residential areas. Finding talented individuals to do the job can sometimes be nearly impossible.
I once applied to a company that was a 1.5 hour drive 1 way. When I was asked if that would be a problem, I replied with a joyous "of course not, it would be my pleasure". And of course, I did not get a call back. So usually companies settle for someone who lives nearly and can sort of do the job.
Less Realty Required
Having a company with 200 employees is difficult, because not only do you have to provide supplies for these 200 people in order for them to do their job, but you also have to provide a certain square footage for them to work as well. And for some companies, this can be overly expensive. We all have homes that we pay for in some shape, way or form. And we spend over one-third of our time not using them while we're at work. We forgot that this is also workable real estate that we're already paying for.
Less Cars On The Road
Needless to say, most people have traffic problems day in and day out. And that's of course due to people going to work. Most cars on the road during high traffic hours carry just a single passenger. 2000 pounds of steel and several gallons of gasoline are required in order to get those people to work daily and then back home. And that's insane. It's bad for the environments, it wears down our cars, and it wears down most peoples sanity.
There aren't as many cons as there as pros from what I've seen in my experience and from what I've heard from other people. And really that just comes down to common sense. Working from home sounds amazing for a reason. Because it is. You get to wake up when you want, you don't have to worry about traffic, and you get more time to do the day to day activities that most people save for the weekend. Needless to say, here are a few, some would say negative effects of working from home.
Lack of Communication
The most common complaint that I hear from friends who work remotely is that it's difficult to get more than 2 people together at the same time. People end up working their own hours and sometimes having a text conversation can seem to take forever. For a programmer however this isn't as much of a problem, as meetings normally aren't to beneficial to them.
It Doesn't Feel Like Work
Without anyone looming over your shoulder, some people, not saying all, will tend to get distracted more easily. I'll say this. At my current job, I'm surrounded by my managers, so unless it's Friday at 7pm, I'm staring at some work related item on my screen. Even if I'm just clicking from window to window for an hour, which sadly happens, I'm staring at "work". If you're at home, clicking on just "one more" YouTube video probably won't seem like such a big deal.
It Gets Boring
I have several programmer friends who have spent over a year working remotely from home for their current companies. And many reported the same thing. That after a few days and the thrill of doing whatever you want wear off, that it gets pretty lonely, and pretty boring. No more group lunches where you complain about work, and no more spending 20 minutes near the coffee machine talking about the latest episode of Daredevil. It's just you, a laptop, and a messenger. And this can drive many people to rush back to the office.
It's Not For Everyone
The truth is that those that want to work remotely, should work remotely, and those that don't, shouldn't. Some people love the office environment of sitting in a chair for 8 hours and having their 1 hour lunch breaks. Hard to believe, but many do in fact enjoy the simplicity in it. Some people go to work each and every day and wonder where their lives went wrong. Those people should at least have the option of working somewhere that they don't hate. Personally for me, I used to enjoy working in an office, and now for the most part, I can't really stand it. I'm several times more productive at home working on my own computer with my own keyboard and monitor. But I know plenty of people that have way too many distractions at home and whose jobs require a higher level of concentration.
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Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker
and performance enthusiast.