Remote Work: Find Happiness at Work From Anywhere

Technology is making the traditional 9-to-5 grind less necessary. Mobile devices, centralized data, and all kinds of apps and software are helping us stay connected wherever we are. So naturally, this creates new possibilities for increased work–life freedom, as more and more of us can work remotely.

In the past, when we spoke of work life balance, we assumed that work and life shouldn’t overlap or blend. Increasingly, the conversation is turning towards work-life fusion, where the lines between work and life are blurred. And this trend is even more prevalent when when you work remotely.

The interesting side effect is that having more work life freedom is making people happier at work.

What type of work lends itself to remote work?

Some people are well-suited to telecommuting, whether it’s because they are introverted or they are parents or military spouses. Examples of remote jobs done by knowledge workers include:

  • writers
  • graphic designers
  • developers
  • customer support
  • community managers
  • accountants

What are the benefits of working from home? What makes people happy working from anywhere? I’ve interviewed more than 80 remote teams, and in those interviews, four main themes emerged:

  1. Freedom from the commute
  2. Freedom to make our own schedules
  3. Freedom to create our own spaces
  4. Freedom to choose our work

Not surprisingly, the number one reason people want to work remotely is to end the dreaded commute.

It’s not that people wanted to get away from the office. They didn’t want to go there in the first place.

Remote Work Reason #1: Freedom from the commute

remote-work-from-anywhereAround the world, commuting times vary from a few minutes to a few hours per day. Every minute we commute is a minute we lose spending time on something we want to do. On top of that, the journey is not known for being relaxing. We are dealing with traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, delays and all the noise and smells that come with being packed into small spaces with strangers .

Getting to and from work takes away the time people have with their families or hobbies.  And as much as people may like their jobs, a bad commute can ruin a great job.

Remote Work Reason #2: Freedom to make our own schedules

Close behind the dreaded commute, the next most popular reason given for leaving the office is simple freedom. The freedom to create our own schedules. To some, it’s the ability to take a walk or a nap during the day. To some, freedom means traveling the world.

Having the freedom to create my own schedule during the day is one of the reasons that resonates strongest with me when it comes to working remotely.

I once had a job where everyone was required to be in the office by 9 a.m. There wasn’t any particular reason to be at the office — all of the work was online — but regardless, the CEO required a 9 a.m. start time for everyone. I am a runner and would run in the mornings before work. Some days I felt great out on the trail and wanted to go longer but I couldn’t because of the arbitrary 9 a.m. start time. It felt like I was a kindergartener instead of in a professional adult.

Remote Work Reason #3: Freedom to create our own spaces

lisette-sutherland-standing-desk

Working from anywhere gives us the opportunity — the luxury even — to design and choose a workspace where we’re most productive.

Some prefer being in an office with others while some thrive while traveling. And then there are some, like myself, who prefer to work from home. It’s the small things that I appreciate most like my standing desk, my favorite coffee being able to control the temperature, the neighbor cat who comes over to visit, playing my own music on a surround sound system, and going running in the middle of the day. I could go on and on. My home office is a haven where I’m most comfortable and productive.

But more than just loving our spaces is loving the choice. Many people are more productive when they can choose the location where they work.

Remote Work Reason #4: Freedom to choose our work

lisette-sutherland-virutal-collaboration-partnerIt’s attractive to be able to choose where we work, whether it’s in our home office or our work-holiday office. But what’s equally, if not more, attractive is the choice of projects and people we work with.

People, both those who work remotely and those who are co-located, want to work on challenging problems, have pride in the work they do and surround themselves with competent teammates.

Whether it’s to spend more time with our families, or whether we want to spend more time on the road, the ability to fuse work and life and maximize our freedom makes us happy workers indeed. Get tips for being location independent on the Collaboration Superpowers mailing list.

 

What do you like best about working from anywhere?

Post in the comments below!

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Comments

  1. Thanks Lisette! I love working on remote at least some days during the week. You mentioned developers could apply this way to work, BUT what happen if a company applies Agile – when one of Agile Principles is “Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)”? Moreover, what happen if a company allowed remote work and now it is not possible as it is implemented the Agile methodology? Do you think Agile is compatible with the happiness?

    Comment by Cristina on September 20, 2016 at 10:01 PM

  2. Thanks for the comment Cristina. I get asked if Agile and remote are compatible all the time. It’s controversial, but I believe that it can be done. I gave a talk at Tools4AgileTeams back in 2014 that addressed this: https://youtu.be/CeA2u_TSO24

    In short, technology has come a long way in the last 5 years. There are options with video and telepresence that make remote working SO much easier than it’s ever been.

    Jesse Fewell is an Agile Coach that talks about this in his interview: http://www.collaborationsuperpowers.com/let-go-of-old-habits-with-jesse-fewell/

    ETEO makes an interactive task board with video for Agile teams: http://www.collaborationsuperpowers.com/connect-distributed-agile-teams-eteo-saxonia-systems/

    And check out Retrium, the remote retrospectives tool: https://www.retrium.com/welcome/lisette-sutherland

    Comment by Lisette Sutherland on September 21, 2016 at 8:35 PM

  3. In my company, only managers are allowed to work remotely. All employees have to be in the office during “core time” which is from 9AM to 3PM. Despite the fact that I have to be in the office, my team is co-located in Germany (me), Lithuania and China.
    The team work with the colleagues in Lithuania actually is pretty simple due to the Microsoft toolset we use (SharePoint, Skype for Business, Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio) and our online application lifecycle management tool (codeBeamer from Intland). Although we are also using this toolset for working with the colleagues in China, the big problem there is the time zone delay. And the language barrier, which we partially lower through texting instead of talking on the phone (we realized that writing English is easier for Chinese colleagues than talking).
    What is far more important than physical closeness for good remote teamwork is mental closeness (see also Jurgen Appelos video about Personal Maps: https://youtu.be/T9d8w-OG-Fk). I have taken over responsibility for this issue from our Product Manager and I am currently planning our very first remote team convention. It is exactly this subject of mental closeness, that I want to particularly address.

    Comment by Alexander Weinhard on December 10, 2016 at 7:07 PM

  4. The #2 reason is my #1, the freedom to make your own schedule opens up so many other benefits and empowers happiness.

    Comment by Andy Willis on February 12, 2017 at 10:01 PM

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