Does the Eye of Sauron always need to be behind your back? A few more words on remote work...
I know, I know - we have already talked about this. So many of you may ask: "Why again?"
The answer is simple - I wrote a single article on the topic of remote work. One article on a topic that could very well be an inspiration for an entire book! I mentioned it earlier and I'll mention it now - remote work is the future that most employees want, and so the more we learn and make ourselves familiar with it - the better.
Don't you worry, I'm not going to make you read the very same thing again - no, in this article we are going to look at remote work from a little bit different perspective. We better get started, because we have a long way ahead of us!
What is wrong with employers?
In the last article (I advise you to read it if you haven't done that already) we pointed out one very important fact - while employees are more and more keen on having a possibility of working remotely, employers are still rather distrustful towards this new trend. The big question is - why?
First off, some companies try to limit their employees' ability to work remotely because they feel that it just doesn't work for them - while of course employees’ satisfaction is going up, the company's results are going downhill. At this moment some of you may look at the screen in disbelief - "But you said in your last article that remote work was beneficial!". Yes, I did. But you need to know how to use it wisely.
In many cases, employees are given an opportunity of working remotely with little to no proper training in that matter. They have absolutely no idea how to set up a videoconference, how to navigate through a company's data resources and they basically have no idea how to do their job, not mentioning that without spending at least a little bit of time in the office, they have zero idea about cooperation in their team. This is of course harmful to the company's results, as their workforce is now less efficient, even if it is a little happier. Another thing is the kind of job you're doing - remote work may be very beneficial when your job demands creativity, since you need a proper inspiration and motivation to make something creative - even something as simple as an article cannot be created when you just lack a good idea for it. But a repetitive job is a bit different - you don't need an inspiration to fill out an Excel tab! You need to focus, and for that to be possible, you need to limit the number of possible distractions - and that can be quite difficult while remote… - oh hi there doggy, there you go, who's a good boy? Oh gosh, that's my favourite series on TV! Oh man, I'm starving! Let us look what we've got in the refrigerator, oooh, wine! Now surely no harm will come from drinking just a tad bit of it...was there something I was supposed to do for my job? Naaah, I'm sure it's not that important...
See what I mean?
But except for those measurable disadvantages of remote work for companies, there are some that may be much harder to measure, namely lack of control. Some managers believe that their employees are most efficient when someone is constantly watching over them, peeking behind their shoulder and making sure they are actually working. And of course, that kind of approach has its pros and cons. I guess you have already figured out that while that style of management will be helpful with repetitive tasks, employees with more creative jobs may feel less motivated with that omnipresence of the Eye of Sauron behind their backs. Some managers may also find out that the distance between them and their employees may be problematic even in modern days - time zones, cultural differences and a general lack of trust towards someone who you have seen only once in your life may be a deciding factor for a manager when choosing whether to allow or to discourage remote work.
Where to work remotely?
Now let's assume that your boss has been in a good mood and gave you permission to work remotely. A thought may come to your mind that since you no longer need to be in the middle of Manhattan, you could move somewhere where you will feel more comfortable. That is a nice idea, right? But once your work-home-grocery store bubble is pinched, you may find yourselves at the crossroads - where to go? The world is so big, how can you decide where do you want to spend your time now that you don't have to worry about being late to work?
I think you will like the fact that you are not the first nor the last person who faced the very same dilemma. While some of us simply spend their time in our apartments instead of an office, some brave souls decided to take it a step further and live abroad - only them, their laptop, internet connection and some work to be done remotely. Of course, the world is big and the natural question that first appears in our mind is - how do I choose a perfect country for working remotely?
A perfect place for your remote career has to meet certain requirements, for example:
It has to be affordable - that especially applies to all the freelancers who want to earn money by translating or writing - you can earn quite a money by doing that, but it takes a lot of time and effort to get there, so until then you might reconsider that nice house in Scandinavia, okay?
It has to have a great Internet connection - that one is pretty self-explanatory, if you're working remotely, then you need Internet to communicate with your manager, teammates or your clients. Always have that in mind!
It should offer you some coworking spaces nearby - according to a study, 21% of questioned remote workers named loneliness as a biggest downside to their new way of working. Of course if you live with your family and your house is buzzing with activity, you won't really suffer from loneliness that much - but if you for example decide to travel around the world and suddenly a sting of loneliness hits you while you're in Malaysia or Thailand, just look around for something called a coworking space - an office specially designed and prepared for all you digital nomads to spend some time around people and simultaneously do your job. Of course, you can always go to a cafeteria, but it may be hard to focus in such a crowded, loud place, while a coworking space was made with people like you in mind.
You should feel good in there - that one is the most obvious, and yet very important - everywhere you go, you should always WANT to go there, you should enjoy your stay there! You didn't get those remote work privileges only to waste your time in a place that you despise. You can go anywhere - use that freedom!
When you look at those points, you can easily see what countries are best for remote work - in Europe your pick should be either Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, the Czech Republic or Bulgaria, or if you have the money - some of the countries in Western Europe. While Scandinavian countries may be beautiful, the cost of living can cause some problems. In Asia - Thailand is an undisputed champion of the remote workers, with low prices, beautiful environment and more than enough attractions. In Africa the choice is rather limited by the Internet connection, but South Africa should be a way to go.
I know some of you have already started you browse for your perfect place somewhere in the world, but guess what - there are already hundreds of guides and websites prepared especially to find and to compare numerous countries and cities from the point of view of a remote worker. Personally, I can't think of anything more complete than Nomadlist, which offers a browser with hundreds of cities, an easy to understand scoring system, comments left by other nomads, dating app, apartment browser and many, many more.
But is it really for me?
That is a very good question - will I actually enjoy working remotely? What if an old office-based system works for me just fine? Fortunately, it is quite easy to answer, since we can easily list (and I bet some of you have already figured out at least few of those) the traits that make a perfect remote worker. You should consider abandoning your normal office style of work if:
You are creative - as mentioned in the beginning of this article, remote work is most beneficial for the tasks that require creativity - so all the writers, designers and many more. If your job is repetitive, then you may find it much harder to be done while at home.
You are motivated and well organised - outside of the office there is no manager making sure you work as you are supposed to be, so you need to be your own manager. Organise your time, make sure to have a schedule for an entire day and stay focused - it is really easy to get distracted and fall into the vicious cycle of running out of time one day and putting the rest of the work off - trust me, that's why this article took so freaking long!
You are a night owl or an early bird - that is such a great thing about a remote work - you can finally adapt your working hours to your biological clock and make the most out of your productivity and energy. You work better early in the morning? Get up at 6am, work till noon and then have yourself a nice, relaxing dinner while your client or your manager checks your work. You are a typical night owl? Sit behind your computer at 9pm, go to sleep at 1am and that is it.
You are a good writer - if you were that one kid in high school who always said that "oh, English classes are boring and pointless, why do I have to write so many essays? It will never be useful!", then I'm afraid you have to scrape some dust off your notebook and learn how to write. Yup, quality of your writing is a cornerstone of your remote career, especially as a freelancer writer. So, make sure you get your writing as eye-catching as possible - your employment may depend on it!
You can be trusted - that one is crucial for your manager - he won't allow you to work from home if he knows that you barely even work at office, not to mention an environment as distracting as your house! So, if you want to work remotely - you have to earn it!
Time for some numbers
Yaaaay, statistics! We all love them! They're nice, easy to understand and you usually don't have to think about them too much, one quick glance is all it takes to look like an expert on the subject. So, let us see some interesting facts and numbers, shall we?
First off, something about the future of the remote work - according to this study, among remote workers, 70% are remote for the entirety of their time, 90% of them would like to work this way for the rest of their lives and 94% would definitely recommend that working style to their friends. That is a nice picture of what employees think about remote work - but what about employers and managers?
Don't you worry, we got those too! According to this study, 63% of companies have some kind of remote workers, and almost 84% of the hiring managers believe that more of their team members will be working remotely in the next 10 years. Sounds nice, right? Unfortunately, around 57% of the companies do not have work-from-home policies, and 31% of those that do admit that their policies became much more strict - 8% of the aforementioned companies have even removed those policies completely and made it impossible to work remotely!
According to yet another study, remote workers are much more likely to earn over $100 000 per year than their office-bound colleagues. When it comes to their personal life, 94%believe it would be much better if their work schedule would be more flexible. Sounds great!
And the list goes on and on, and it is a never ending story, but long story short - remote work is the future and it is visible to almost all employees and most employers. The market and many companies still have to figure out how they will react to those changes, but one thing is certain - those changes are inevitable. And who knows - maybe it is not my last word on this topic??? Let me know what you think and ciao from Italy!