Podcast 2: Remote Working Pros and Cons

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In our second podcast, we’re talking about remote working pros and cons.

Continuing our comparison of remote working and freelancing, this week we focus on remote working. Specifically this means working remotely for a single company. 

This appeals to many people because it can mean still receiving a regular pay-check and all the security and benefits of a full-time job. However, it falls a little lower on the “freedom scale” that working for yourself.

Included in this podcast:

  • What is remote working? (0:36).
  • Why remote working is not as mysterious as people seem to think (1.01).
  • Remote working pros and cons (2:16).
  • Where to find remote jobs (3:53).
  • Which skills are important? (7:20).
  • Does working from home restrict your career prospects? (11:00).
  • Just HOW flexible is remote working? (14:00).
  • How important is your technical setup? (15:40).

Supplementary Links and Information

Remote Working Pros and Cons: Full Transcription

Please note that some repeat words or unclear passages have been edited to enhance readability.

ALEX: Hello, and welcome to the HomeWorkingClub podcast. I’m Alex.

BEN: And I’m Ben.

ALEX: Hello Ben! We are talking about remote working today?

BEN: We are.

ALEX: We’re gonna find out why remote working is perhaps not as mysterious as you thought is was: Places to find jobs “in plain sight,” and how to get those remote jobs.

So, first of all, Ben, pretend I’m an idiot.

BEN: Pretend? <Laughs> You did set yourself up for that!

ALEX: So, what is remote working?

BEN: Okay, For the purposes of the podcast today, remote working is working for a single company, but working remotely…working from home. So, still having a boss, still having a contract. Still having that traditional job, but working from home.

ALEX: Excellent stuff. Well, that the whole point of this is I think some people think it’s a bit difficult, and mysterious to do this. IS it difficult or mysterious?

BEN: No, It’s no difficult or mysterious, no. But I think, as you rightly said, some people think it is.

I think people go on the internet night after night looking for remote jobs, as if they’re going to find some sort of secret place where they all are. It’s not like that at all, it’s just like finding any other job.

More and more companies offer remote and home based positions nowadays, so no, there’s not some dark art to finding these jobs.

ALEX: So I suppose the first thing is, if you’re currently employed full time and you want to work from home in that current job, you could look at the options of perhaps working from home more in that role

BEN: Absolutely, and I think we touched on that bit in them in their previous podcast as well. And I think it’s always worth asking…worth putting it out there if it’s something that you’d like to do. And I think you’ll find that increasingly, bosses are amenable to the idea.

ALEX: I suppose that comes down from the point of…actually….what are you looking to do in terms of working from home, and why do you want to do it? Is it a work life balance thing? Or if you currently love your job but hate your colleagues, perhaps…?

BEN: <Laughs> Well, I think if you’re gonna work from home, you might avoid having to actually see them face to face. But you will still have to work with those colleagues. So I’m not sure that actually hiding yourself away at home is gonna make an enormous amount of difference there!

ALEX: So I suppose that takes us on to the upsides and downsides. Obviously I think if you’re listening to this, you will think it’s something for you, but what are the downsides of remote working?

BEN: Well, one I always have to mention his social isolation. It’s something that doesn’t bother me at all, but I see survey after survey about the downsides of remote working and the thing that always comes up is people feeling isolated…people feeling lonely….away from an office environment. And I think it’s definitely worth doing some soul searching as to whether that would apply to you or not.

I think to some people, work is an element of their social life. And I think if you’re gonna miss that side of things, maybe hiding yourself away and home working isn’t gonna be right for you.

ALEX: Yes, it’s interesting isn’t it? We talked about the move to open plan offices, and the way that different companies structure. And actually, I was reading a thing saying that for extroverts, open plan offices can be quite a bad environment, because you’re very easily distracted – always popping up from your desk like a meerkat to see what’s going on!

I’ve actually found, you know, I find having a place where I can be by myself and work quietly makes me much more focused, and able to work better.

BEN: Oh, I do as well. I mean, every now and then I do find myself in a client’s office – working in a normal office – and it’s fun for a bit. But when I actually sit down and need to achieve something, I do find myself really struggling with the level of distraction, and thinking, “if I was just at home by myself, I would be so much more productive.”

ALEX: Yes – and of course you don’t have “Terry from accounts” coming over and bothering you about stuff all the time!

BEN: Well, yes!

ALEX: So, if I’m in a position where I’m looking to apply for a job remotely, perhaps not considering my current one, how do I find remote jobs?

BEN: Okay, well, there’s several ways: Probably the most effort is going straight to companies’ websites and looking on their careers pages. And there are plenty of jobs like that, but obviously there’s a bit of leg work involved in finding them.

You can also go to normal job boards like Monster or indeed, and just type into the search box “home based: or “remote” or anything like that. You’ll find lots of jobs. We’ve actually just added a remote job board to the HomeWorkingClub website, so I’ll put a link to that in that in the show notes.

So, yes, just doing normal job searching for “home based” and “remote.” You will find plenty of options and from companies that you will have heard of.

ALEX: Well, okay, cool. And is there anywhere you can go just to find remote jobs?

BEN: Well, you’ll find one thing we’re finding with the job board that we put on HomeWorkingClub. It’s because it’s fairly basic, how it’s looking specifically for “based” or “home”…those words. Sometimes it will throw up jobs that aren’t actually home based – it’s just got those words somewhere else in description.

But you will find that if you look on the job board for “home based,” you will find options there. There are also services like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations, both of which are reviewed in huge detail of the HomeWorkingClub website. What they do is specialise in finding all of these home jobs from various different places – be it job boards or companies’ own websites – and putting them all in one place.

FlexJobs home page

They charge a small subscription fee. It’s about price of a cup of coffee, really. So I see that as a convenience thing – just to have lots of lots of home and remote jobs all in one place.

ALEX: That’s another advantage of working from home: coffee’s cheaper!

BEN: Well, yeah, there is that. That Starbucks bill does add up when you’re going into work everyday!

ALEX: So, are there any sort of pitfalls? You mention FlexJobs and some other reputable places, but I know that in other areas of HomeWorkingClub you say there are lot of cowboys out there. Is there anything you have to avoid in terms of looking for these things, such as paying big fees?

BEN: Oh I think so, yes. I mean, obviously, with things like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations, you’re paying a subscription for the convenience feature of having all the jobs in one place. But what you will find is that there are a lot scams out there. If you have to pay to do a job, that’s that’s a big, big, bad sign, and that should make alarm bells ring.

Those things do exist. If you have to pay a large amount of money for access to jobs – run a mile from anything like that.

Yeah, I think also be aware of anything that looks like it’s too easy…Anything that’s promising you a huge amount of money with no experience required or anything like that. The chances are, that’s a scam.

ALEX: Yes, we’ve all seen those ads haven’t we.

BEN: Yeah, but I do still get plenty of emails from people saying “oh, is this legit?” And it’s like, “well, no clearly not!”

ALEX: Yeah, I think that’s something to be aware of. Am I allowed to plug HomeWorkingClub?

BEN: I’d love you to!

ALEX: There IS a huge amount of work to go through. But the point of HomeWorkingClub is that it helps you to learn from other people’s experiences in the area, isn’t it?

BEN: I hope it does!

ALEX: Ah, typically British bashful and shy about the whole thing! It’s really very good!

So we’ve talked about some of the upsides and downsides. What sort of skills do I need to work remotely?

BEN: I do always think technical skills are important. You need to be quite self reliant with the technology because you’re not going to have some IT person coming to fix things for you it doesn’t work.

I do think people recruiting for home working jobs are often on the lookout for people who have already worked remote. That’s not to say you can’t get into it and do your first ever remote job. Otherwise, I mean, what would be the point in site?!

But obviously, if I were recruiting for a home-worker, it would be a big plus for me if someone had already done it. That’s not just about technical self-reliance. It’s also about the fact that someone’s actually tried working remotely and liked it.

Because, as I said about the social isolation and that kind of thing, well, not everyone is actually going to take to it. And the fact that someone’s already worked remotely does show that they know what it’s like. They know the ups and downs.

They know that they worked well that way. They don’t get lonely, they don’t get distracted, which can be a big one. And I think you also need the motivation to actually get out there and look for the jobs.

Um, I think people….again, this is about it not being as mysterious as people might wonder. At the end of the day, you’ve got to find a job that’s suitable for you. You’ve got to have the right skills. You’ve got to have the right experience. You’ve got to put together a very good resume, and then you’ve got to perform very well at interview.

Well…guess what? That’s exactly the same as for any other job, and that’s why it is no different!

Resume for the right job

I do hear from people who signed up to something like FlexJobs. They say, “well, I was a member for a year and I didn’t get anything!”

And it’s like, “well, yeah…there were seven spelling mistakes in that comment…and, did you actually apply for things that you were qualified for?”

It’s really no different to that. So, yeah, you need to be motivated enough to find the jobs because you are looking for something specific if you want to work remotely. There are fewer jobs – remote jobs – than there are traditional jobs, obviously. So that means you might be looking longer to find that dream job.

ALEX: Yeah, I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it? You hit on the fact that you are still employed, will still be part of the company structure. Is there anything you need to be aware of the in terms of that? If you’re looking for these jobs. Can you expect less in the way of benefits, or employee rights, even?

BEN: I think…not if you find the right jobs. But you do have to be alert to one thing, which is that quite a lot of jobs advertise as work from home work. or remotely. But then, when you get further down the description, you’ll see that you’re actually being taken on as an independent contractor. Really that’s more like freelancing, which is what we talk about in the next podcast.

If you get a bonafide proper remote job, you’ll get the 401k, you’ll get the health care, and you’ll get all the benefits. But there is a difference…a big, BIG difference between being an independent contractor and being an employee.

ALEX: And I suppose if you’re not set up to be an independent contractor and you find that, then that could be a bit of an issue, if you’re not looking after your own finances or set up to do that.

BEN: Yeah, absolutely. So you need to be alert to that. It might not be immediately clear when you’re looking at job about whether it is actually an employed / employee job, or whether it is actually freelance, but not marketed quite as such.

ALEX: So you talked about the fact that obviously you need to know what you’re doing. So if you’re currently employed in, say, a marketing role and you go for a job in IT then you’re not likely to get that job just because it’s home working job!

You need to kind of know what you’re about. Is there a same similar sort of thing where you need to be really, really clear about what you want for your future career?

BEN: I think so, Yeah. I mean, I don’t think it would be right to say that by choosing to work from home, you’re restricting your career prospects. A company that springs to mind here is Dell.

Dell is very well known for recruiting lots and lots of home workers. And I mean, we’re talking from basic support people right up to really senior leadership team type jobs. So I don’t think it needs to stifle your career, the decision to work from home.

But obviously some companies have a culture that really actively encourages remote working, while others don’t. Others aren’t quite as into it, and you do sometimes hear high profile stories where such and such a company has decided to stop doing home working.

And it’s often because there’s some new Chief Executive, new CEO, who’s decided, “we want everyone in the office now.” It can happen over the space of five years that a big name company can completely change its model around letting everyone work from home, and deciding they’re not gonna do it so much anymore.

I think Google was one that actually changed its approach to home working. So you will find…it may well be, if you’re really determined to work from home, that one particular company is off limits. And so if your dream is to work for Google, you might not be able to say, “well, I want the same career, but I want to work from home.” It might not be an option.

ALEX: So, a rare case of Google is not your friend?

BEN: Haha, don’t get me started!

ALEX: So we’ve touched on a few things there. We’ve talked about skills, self motivation, you’ve got a bit more flexibility, clearly. Is there less risk, would you say, with working from home?

BEN: There’s less risk than there is with freelancing. We are going to talk about freelancing next time. I have already said that! Yeah, you’re still employed, you’ve still got a contract. You’ve still got all of those things that give you the security of a traditional job, if you’re working for a single company.

ALEX: But you still have a boss?

BEN: You do still have a boss. You probably have a set time frame that you got to do your work in as well.

To get the ultimate work / life balance and flexibility, I always nudge people in the direction of freelancing, but that has plenty of downsides of its own, which we will talk about next time.

ALEX: I suppose you’re still involved it to certain extent in in office politics as well?

BEN: You are. And having worked, not necessarily myself as a remote worker, but as a consultant to companies that employ a lot of remote workers, there are certainly plenty of politics. You can still feel part of the politics at the end of a Skype or a Slack conversation!

You don’t need to actually be in the office to feel the politics.

ALEX: That’s the other thing, talking about Skype and Slack. I certainly know a lot of people who work remotely but are still employed. They often have the sort of thing on a chat function where they have to mark themselves as there, so that people can effectively do the virtual equivalent of “looking across the office” and see who’s there, you know?

BEN: Yeah, absolutely. Something really interesting that I saw over the weekend on CNBC was that FlexJobs has done a study that showed that 95% of remote roles are still actually tied to one specific location.

So that essentially means that, yes, you’re working remotely. You’re working from home, but you might have to be in a specific state in order to apply. Certainly almost always will have to be in a specific country to apply.

ALEX: Well, I guess language is important?!

BEN: Haha, well that too. But it is not really this dream scenario that here’s a list of jobs and everyone can apply to them. In fact, you may need to be in a specific state to apply. That might might be for bureaucratic reasons…tax, insurance, stuff like that.

But it could also mean that they want you to attend meetings once a week or once a month – actually, in the in the office.

ALEX: Sure, which isn’t so bad, really. I mean at the very least, it can remind you why it is that you like working from home if you have to go into the office!

BEN: Haha, well yeah. But I think it does make me feel a bit sad for people in….Obviously, I would say America is the land of milk and honey for remote working jobs. There’s a lot here in the UK as well, but I get a lot of emails from people in Africa and India saying, “how can I get a job with this company?”

And all I can really suggest to most of those people is to go the freelancing route, because a lot of it is really about the bureaucracy. If you’ve got payroll set up in the US, you can’t just suddenly take on somebody in Germany. So that’s why it works the way it does. Freelancing is always an option.

ALEX: So just in terms of the basics, you touched on technical skills, and we will recap in a minute. But is it worth having the technical set up? A good fast broadband connection of your own? I mean, a lot of companies presumably will provide you with with laptops and that kind of thing…But is it worth mentioning when applying? Will that be something people consider? What your set up is at home?

BEN: It could be, I think, that the bigger the company, the more they tend to take responsibility for the tech.

So, it could well be that you find you’ve actually get a complete, dedicated broadband connection that the company puts in. And they’ll usually supply the IT kit.

I know that Apple employ “At Home Advisors,” I think they call them. They give you an iMac and all of the equipment, and you use entirely their equipment. But then if you’re applying for remote jobs with smaller companies, it could be a benefit to say, “well, I’ve already got this high speed connection…”

It’s certainly worth highlighting, and making apparent your technical competence and your ability to do the job. Obviously there is a bit of a downside there for people who live deep in the country who may not have fast broadband connections. That can actually, sadly, be a bit of a disadvantage for some of these jobs.

ALEX: Yeah, I know I have certainly found that with, with some companies, that I’ve ended up carrying three laptops around with me because they want to make sure if you got sensitive information, they want to make sure it’s on their own kit. and it’s encrypted and everything.

BEN: Yeah, it’s not a complete rule, but I think the general rule is the bigger the company, that more control they will take over the tech stuff.

ALEX: Good stuff. So just just a quick recap of what we’ve been through so far:

It is not all as mysterious and difficult as you might think. But there are some pitfalls as well, in that you still have a boss, the office politics. But on the plus side of that, there’s the security of having a structure, a company behind you, all the benefits that you get as well.

You do need to be self motivated. You need to be able to make sure that you can work from home and not have the constant desire for a water cooler moment It really is up to you.

And the most important thing is that the jobs you’re applying for are jobs you can do.

BEN: Yes. It seems ludicrous that we have to point that out! But I think it’s almost like people see home working as like this…different type of work. It’s not. It’s doing the work the company needs. It’s purely the location that you’re choosing to work from or being allowed to work from.

It’s NOT mysterious. If you want to work in Tech, you’re gonna be looking at companies like Apple and companies like Dell and stuff like that. If you wanna work in finance, you’ll be looking at companies like American Express and so on.

You’ll do the same training, have the same past career experience, and a very similar or almost the same interview processes and stuff like that. So don’t assume that it’s different. It’s not. It’s just getting a job.

ALEX: And of course, there are certain jobs that don’t lend themselves well to working from home. Like fireman or bartender.

BEN: Yeah, home-based waiters aren’t very good at their jobs…

ALEX: Not many tips in working from home if you’re a waiter.

Good stuff. So the first thing really is…I imagine people are raring to go. Now where do they go now, to find out what to do?

BEN: Well, I would say, why not just go straight to the new job board that we’ve added to HomeWorkingClub site…

ALEX: I’m surprised! That’s totally out of the blue!

BEN: No, I mean it’s a good way to get an idea of what’s out there. Just to go in there and type in “home based.” I’d like to think people would be pleasantly surprised by just how many recognisable company names they see and how quickly.

I think if you’re really determined, I would recommend something like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations if you’re willing to pay a very small subscription fee – just because you see a lot of jobs all in one place, and you don’t have to filter out the things that aren’t actually remote.

Or, if you have got a really strong desire to work for a specific company, actually research that company. Look on their careers pages. And don’t be scared to phone or email human resources departments and actually ask: Do they allow about working? or “is it worth me applying for this job?”

You don’t even have to work remotely all the time. It may be perfectly acceptable to you to go into the office two days a week and work from home for three.

ALEX: Fantastic. So I think there’s loads of options there. Is there anything else that you’d like to add before we sign off?

BEN: Only, really, that next week in the podcast we are going to talk about freelancing, which obviously has a whole different set of pros and cons.

But going back to that statistic I spoke about earlier about how 95% of these jobs are tied to a specific location. If you want to get away from that, maybe freelancing worth giving some thought to. So tune in next time for that.

ALEX: Tune in? Well on that very 1950s note, thank you very much for listening to the podcast. Please do like and subscribe. It does help other people find it. And,why not gonna visit HomeWorkingClub.com and start your home working journey?

BEN: Thanks very much!

We hope this podcast helped you learn about all the key remote working pros and cons. You can find more of our podcasts here.