Remote Work on the Rise
Remote work is steadily becoming more popular. But there is a theme: telecommuting and working remotely only work for certain types of jobs and skill-sets. For example, programmers and engineers working on products or services that require less involvement with other people, such as software applications. While some companies embrace remote workers, others find it difficult to manage virtual teams that do not share the same office space. The question then becomes: can any job be done remotely?
According to Shalom Lamm, founder and CEO of Operation Benjamin (an outsourced sales company), “there are certain positions where remote work works well – mostly those involving technology – but we don’t believe it’s right for all positions.” Lamm provides an example: “Customer service agents face a lot of challenges day-to-day, so it is tough to support them from a distance.”
In fact, most companies that have remote workers have limited the practice to their IT staff. This makes sense for remotely managed technical positions. But can other types of jobs be performed remotely? What are some tips for managing a virtual team?
It depends on the industry and type of position. Many industries – such as teaching or medicine – require constant interaction with people every single day. In those cases, it’s difficult if not impossible to do those specific jobs without being in an office space. In other words: no matter how skilled one is, if they work in one of these certain industries then working remotely is not an option.
In addition to the industry, one should consider his or her skill-set. Some people do better working remotely while others benefit from being in a traditional office environment surrounded by other employees. It all depends on personal preferences and abilities.
“Most of Operation Benjamin’s reps are very skilled at making their own destinies,” Lamm said, “and have to be self-starters who can work independently.” This is especially true for companies that hire telecommuting employees from staffing agencies rather than directly hiring employees. In many cases, the agency will not assign a recruiter until after the first 90 days on board because they assume it takes about 90 days to adjust to working remotely.
According to Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics, 60% of employees said they would choose flexibility over pay, and 50% said they spend time each day working remotely. This means companies should consider their remote-employee policy carefully to ensure it is the best decision for everyone involved.
“Remote work isn’t right for every company,” Lamm concluded, “but we do believe that more and more employers will offer telecommuting as a perk in order to attract top talent.” Why does Shalom Lamm think this practice is on the rise? One reason: there are several studies that show remote workers tend to stay with a company three years longer than those who work at office spaces (such as hospitals). Virtual workplaces can be difficult to manage but companies such as Benjamin make it easier.
However, there are still types of jobs that can be performed remotely with no problems. For example: administrative assistants, accountants and auditors, or customer service representatives who handle low-level issues at a distance (via phone or email). These workers deal primarily with data and documents; they don’t need to interact face-to-face with employees at all times during the workday. That was my experience in a former role: most of my work involved typing up documents and reports rather than interacting with other people on a daily basis.