The joys and sorrows of working remotely

Although I  may have taken the idea of working remotely to an extreme (working on Australian projects from Germany) it is only recently that I realised that this is what I have indeed been doing. Up until a few days ago I was under the impression that all I was doing was carrying on my life in Australia at a distance. I have come to realise that, while that is in part true, it is not the whole story. Since I am due to have my first child in September I have begun to think about working flexibly and how to juggle work and family as many women (and men) do. This led me to think about the options available to me when I return to Australia as well as what I am currently doing. For all the hype about working remotely and using the wonders of the internet to break down borders, etc, etc there are both benefits and pitfalls – as with everything in life.

In the benefits camp it is hard to beat making your own hours and location in terms of where you work. When you work largely for yourself as I do this is quite an easy thing to do. When you work for an employer it is a little harder. In my experience and in anecdotes I hear from others there is still a lot of distrust in working remotely. There seems to be little problem in working from home occasionally but the idea of not being able to keep your team member under surveillance seems to strike fear into the heart of many Managers. Why is this? Wasn’t technology supposed to free us from having to work in one location? Like the myth of the paperless office I think this one has turned out to be nothing but an urban myth. This is something that Managers will need to grapple with more as workers increasingly ask for flexibility and companies finally do the sums and work out that it’s cheaper to employ someone at home than pay for office space for them.

On the downside, for there always is one, the remote worker must be very self-directed. Even then there are days when it can be incredibly challenging to motivate oneself to get to the desk and get moving. This can result in more stress for feeling behind and like you “should” be working than if you had to dress up and go into the office for the day.

How can we know in advance whether we have the personality to work remotely? How can our Manager’s know? The simple answer is that they can’t and it all boils down to trust. The big question here, and one that I wish I had an answer for, is how do we as L&D professionals educate Managers to the point where they are prepared to trust staff to work autonomously and out-of-sight? Definitley something to think about as I motivate myself out of bed and onto a Sunday morning Skype call 🙂

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