Remote working is a popular and growing trend now that high speed internet connections are the norm. It offers exciting possibilities for employees, employers and contractors - however it comes with its own challenges. Here at Iteracy we have experience of working remotely in a number of different countries over the last decade, and wanted to share our thoughts.
Remote working allows people to work away from a centralised office, either in their own home, a shared office or co-working space, or anywhere with a WiFi connection - even a cafe or public space. The benefits for employers are that they do not have to maintain office and desk spaces for all their employees and contractors. They can employ or contract staff from all over the world without requiring them to relocate.
For workers, remote working offers flexibility and freedom. You can fit work around your personal life better, work in an environment you're more comfortable in, and even live wherever you want in the world. Several home workers have remarked to us that they find it easier to concentrate without the distraction of phone calls or conversations, and few miss the commute.
Most workers find that they prefer this to more traditional working arrangements. A survey published in Forbes in May last year found that overall, remote workers feel happier, more valued and feel they're more productive. However the downsides are that it can be isolating to work this way, and maintaining relationships and managing communication can tricky.
We've found that it's almost always easier to discuss requirements and understand needs in face-to-face meetings. It's harder over the phone or by email, but not impossible and we have worked with a number of clients that we have rarely or never met in person. Skype and video conferencing are very useful tools; being able to share screens and knowing that you're looking at the same thing is invaluable if you are discussing a design or describing how a web page works. Our advice would be to make sure you have regular contacts arranged over video or voice calls - don't rely on emails alone.
Working on your own is great for concentration but it can be lonely too. Having someone else to discuss a problem with, answer the phone or bring you a cup of tea makes the world of difference. Using a co-working space is a good way to get out and be around other people, or even a casual arrangement to meet local freelancers every now and again. When we lived in Cornwall, we found it useful to be part of communities like Software Cornwall to connect with others. In Valencia we're delighted to have come across Wayco.
Being in the same or a similar time zone to your employer, coworkers or clients is a good idea, and a good internet connection is, of course, imperative. Having a VOIP phone (Voice Over IP - a phone that is connected to the internet not the phone network) is very handy, so you can take the same number with you wherever you go.
Once you've figured out how to deal with the challenges, the sky's the limit for remote working. At the end of 2016 we relocated to Valencia, Spain from Cornwall, UK and it's working out brilliantly for us. For the ultimate remote working experience, what about Remote Year? This company will take you to a new country every month for a year, providing accommodation and workspace along the way so you can continue your day job. That sounds too extreme for us (we'd need to trade in our desktop computers for laptops for a start!) but it shows that if you have the will, there's no limit to the possibilities remote working offers.