Is Working Virtually Right for You?
Virtual work as a career choice is a decision that requires thought and planning. Although at first it may seem daunting to make the switch to working remotely, it can create a fulfilling and rewarding work experience for both the employer and the employee if done with care, clarity, and intention.
These sections discuss why virtual work is popular, how virtual work can affect on your life, and some questions you can ask yourself to discover whether virtual work is best for you.
For many people, the benefits of working virtually are obvious — no commute, flexible schedule, focused productive time to work, and of course, working in your PJs. But if you’re considering switching to a virtual work model, take a closer look at the benefits you may not have considered. Here are six benefits for why you may want to work virtually:
Time management as a virtual team member
Working virtually provides you with more personal time throughout the day. Because you’re cutting down on the daily commute, you have more time to exercise, walk your dog, meditate, sleep, cook healthy meals, get your kids to school, enjoy hobbies, connect with family and friends, and do whatever else you like to do.
Virtual work also gives you more control over your schedule. To some degree, you can set and customize your work hours. For example, if you start work at 4 a.m. to connect with colleagues from Hong Kong and London, you may take a break from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. and then begin working again at 3 p.m. Virtual work arrangements enable you to meet other demands for your time during the day. If you find you do your best work at night or early morning, you can find a virtual opportunity that fits your schedule.
Self-direction for virtual workers
You can thrive in a virtual working environment if you’re most engaged and plugged in when you’re able to direct your workflow, plan your daily tasks and priorities, and hold yourself accountable for accomplishing your goals and your team’s. The ability to control your schedule is a powerful opportunity to grow professionally and personally.
Money made on a virtual team
When you work virtually, you can make a decent living working from home, no matter where you’re located. Based on a special analysis of U.S. Census data conducted for FlexJobs by Global Workplace Analytics, the average annual income for most telecommuters is $4,000 higher than that of workers who don’t telecommute.
Even if you live in a rural area of the country, with the right set of skills and technical savviness, you can work virtually in a role that compensates you well. You can also cut down on your personal expenses such as gas, auto maintenance, clothing allowance, and meals when you don’t have to be in an office environment every day.
Happiness from working virtually
Virtual workers report a higher level of job satisfaction and overall happiness and lower levels of stress when working from home. Due to a flexible work schedule and less time commuting, you have an ability to incorporate more things into your day that are joyful and fulfilling.
Virtual work eliminates much of the politics of working in an office so you can focus on doing the work without all the distractions. In addition, virtual work provides the opportunity to work in a more diverse team culture. You can work with teammates spread across the United States or the world. You can discover more about different cultures, work ethics, beliefs, and values. Diverse teammates share novel life experiences that can expand your awareness and appreciation of others.
Phase into retirement as a virtual team member
Every company I work with is concerned with the real issue of brain drain in the workplace, which happens when you’ve been with a company for a long time and carry around years of institutional knowledge that hasn’t been documented, written down, or captured anywhere and now you’re ready to retire. If you’re in this position, a phased approach to retirement, such as working in the office two days a week and at home three days a week, then going part-time virtual two to three days a week is a smart way to help you glide into retirement. More importantly, it helps your company transfer the cultural knowledge that you’re carrying around in your head through opportunities to train, mentor, and coach others and gives you the chance to solidify your legacy.
World travel as a virtual team member
If you’re planning on being a virtual work freelancer, you have a lot of interesting options available, including choosing where you want to work. Depending on your role, traveling around the world while you work on various projects and teams is completely possible and thousands of people do it successfully every day.
Jobs that align nicely with virtual work and world travel include web designer, developer, online marketer, copy writer, blogger, digital director, data manager, engineer, SEO analyst, technical writer, account manager, sales, web hosting, marketing manager, customer success manager, grant and proposal writer, editor, and many more. These jobs represent an opportunity to see the world while working remotely, and to you this may sound like a dream come true. Certainly, this type of work situation is rich in benefits including:
- Being able to relocate anywhere
- Controlling your work schedule and the hours you work
- Needing only a laptop to make a decent living
- Never having to step foot in a corporate office setting
- Meeting people from all over the world
- Being able to immerse yourself in a different country with different customs and ways of living
- Having more balance in life
The personal impacts of working virtually
Despite the benefits of working remotely, being a virtual team member isn’t short of struggles. Your mom will call and text you at all times of the day because she doesn’t think you actually work. Friends not working will ask you to take the day off to go shopping or out to breakfast. Neighbors will politely ask if you can let their dogs out while they’re away or drive them to a doctor appointment when their car breaks down because you’re obviously not that busy. These requests will happen, and your success depends on how you handle them.
As a 17-year veteran of remote work, my daily struggle of working virtually is real. While writing this, my daughters are screaming in the background while competitively playing video games. My new puppy is trying to scratch his way into my office, whining and barking for my attention. Kids from the neighborhood just rang the doorbell, and because I hesitated for a moment to finish a thought, they peered into my office windows, forcing me to stop what I was doing to answer the door and address them.
Losing focus can easily lead to multitasking and pull your attention away to deal with low priority items, which makes time management a challenge. The daily life of a virtual worker can be difficult and frustrating at times, but the benefits still far outweigh the challenges. Here are some ways being a virtual team member can impact you: