Working from anywhere, the blessing and the rest of it

Derek Schauland

Working from anywhere with the technology available today has a bit of a different meaning than it did 20 years ago, but the idea in the eyes of many organizations has not changed much: accomplish more work from wherever you are. The concept of working from any device, any place, at any time has pros and cons for sure, and these fall both ways. This article will look at some of these alongside what expectations exist as far as the availability of modern-day workers is concerned.

Hopefully this will help you, and your organization determine the right balance when it comes to remote work.

The good
There are a lot of benefits to remote working, the first being that you can get work done any time of day from anywhere. This might allow you the freedom to leave early to attend the holiday concert for your children because you can log on after the concert from home and clean up the bit of work you missed. This has two benefits. Firstly, you can leave a bit early and make up time later without needing to head back in to the office. Secondly, you can also login from anywhere you have Internet access, which today is almost impossible to avoid.

These things are the two biggest benefits for the mobile worker and might cause some heartburn for the organization at first because nobody is constantly watching what might be going on and monitoring your productivity. For the employee, that too is a benefit since being able to accomplish loads of work whenever needed, builds trust between the worker and the workplace.

The bad (or not so good)
When you are working remotely and your coworkers know this, you are available all the time. Sure you may keep the same hours, but if your cellular phone is the primary way to contact you, it is likely that you'll get called more frequently since your phone is presumably always with you.

This doesn’t account for emergencies, when the mail server is down and you are responsible for it, your phone will probably blow up no matter where you work.

Your employer will expect more availability from you when remote work is allowed. This is just the nature of the beast as your phone and laptop are available to you more places than at a desk. Therefore you must be more productive or working longer, simply because you can.

The balance
Generally managers and consultants are expected to be available all the time, by phone or email or other means. Smartphones are some of the most requested pieces of technology today, and they allow a lot of accessibility. In my day job, I do not mind if someone has a smartphone (company or personal) but they do need to be aware that once they get their work email on their phone and people get replies that way, this method of communication becomes expected.

Because phones (and tablets) make things convenient for the employee they should be encouraged, but if they become an expectation, they should be provided. This way both sides win. However organizations need to understand that their workers need time with family or just to be away from work. If this cannot be accomplished because remote availability can happen, the employee may turn the device off after certain hours.

The in between
Remote work can also save on expenses for the organization if the employee works remotely all the time. No office to maintain or computer to manage in the facility. Remember, these things may be gone or may just be moved to the home office of the worker. I am not sure if this one is a pro or a con, it seems to sit more on the line between the two as it isn’t perfectly clear who benefits and loses here.

So, be fair when working with remote workers (or workers who wish to go remote) they will accomplish more some days than others, but generally the organization will be better for allowing it. There just needs to be a balance between work and play of which both sides need to be aware.