Remote Work Creates a Fairer World

We all know the big inequality we have on earth. Your chances in life are highly different depending on your place of birth. Remote work will lower that on a large scale. Have a look how that will work out.

Birth Lottery

The biggest disadvantage on earth is based on the birth lottery. You have less possibilities in life, if you are born into a poor family. The education is worse, the motivation to go studying is less and the connections to good jobs are missing. That is common everywhere on earth and we know it from our western communities.

But the birth lottery is even worse at developing countries. If you are born in a rural area without internet access and maybe without electricity, the way to a middle class life is very, very hard. You have to start real work underaged, have to get kids in your twenties or earlier and cannot even think of university.

The good news is, that it is getting a little easier to improve your standard of life with every year. Electricity and internet are on the rise, i.e. with photovoltaic power generation, in every region on earth.

Remote Education

With the higher availability of the (hopefully neutral) internet comes the better access to education. Everyone who is a little self-motivated can receive free high level education, i.e. from Udacity or other MOOCs (massive open online courses) of high schools and even well-known universities.

This is a big chance for talented, young people in the developed and in the developing world. No matter if you are a young African software developer or a German mom and likes to restart your career without leaving your kids alone too long.

Well-paid Work

And then comes remote work! Because all the education doesn’t help without well-paid work. Electricity, internet, laptop and education are the only ingredients, what a motivated woman or man needs today to increase their standard of living fundamentally.

Take the example of tunga.io a remote startup run by a Dutch founder. They are working together with BITS ACADEMY with sections across Africa, which are training IT skills to students. Tunga tries to link these trained developers to worldwide software projects.

A little bit more on the side of entry level jobs is Sama Source from San Francisco. Their mission is to lift people out of poverty with remote jobs like data entry or data enrichment. If that all is working on a large scale, this will improve the life of whole communities, including better sanitation, increased health, less hunger and a reduced number of children in families (which slows overpopulation).

The possibly increased standard of living is the same for underprivileged people everywhere. A disabled person who can work on a computer but is not so mobile thrives with actual remote work options.

Better Than Development Aid

Nothing bad about good development aid! It saved an amazing number of lives and helps the people who are mostly unblamable for their situation. And it is old news that education is the key for helping developing regions. But a sustainable development starts only if there is enough work.

It is not the best solution for the local people, to bring them work through the big enterprises, with was common for production work in eastern Europe and China, moved through India and looks for its luck now in Indonesia and the Phillipines.

Much better for every country is, to enable a diverse and strong economy. This works not only with international teams, where workers of developing countries are part of the team, it works mostly through the huge number of better trained and experienced young people who will start new endeavours by their own. Remote work can be more sustainable than development aid in this way!

That all is not naturally given, so a stable, democratic political framework is important. An affordable, unrestricted access to an uncensored internet is crucial. A government, which thinks it is better to keep the people stupid, will not help itself in the long run, because a strong, independent economy is the better choice everytime.

Summing Up

Remote work creates exactly the opportunities, which were missing in the past. It gives well-paid work to so many disadvantaged groups of job seekers. Disabled, underprivileged, formerly undereducated, part-time, young mom, rural or remote living and relative caring people have much more possibilities these days. The worldwide inequality between poor and rich countries, between metropolitan and rural areas and between high and low educated people will be lowered dramatically by remote work!

Other opinions? Interesting additions? You know similar initiatives like the above mentioned? Please write that in the comments!

Want to be part of the movement? Want to do something good – better than development aid? Please contact me via the contact page.

What Remote Work is Doing with You

Remote work has so many benefits. Did you know that remote work is so much healthier for you than office work? Let’s discuss the influence what remote work has on your body and soul.

Less stress

Not having the daily commute saves not only a lot of time and money, but also a lot of stress. Many studies are showing that commuting makes you nerveless, groggily and even fat. Doctors are diagnosing sleeplessness, stomach troubles, back pain, overweight, mental illness and frequent infectious disease more often at commuters than non-commuters.

The second point what reduces your stress is the absence of the cubicles. This big open offices with their constant loudness harms you. It is clear that it distracts you from work, but it affects your health in fact. Also the distraction can increase your stress level, especially when you have a deadline.

More motivation

You have certainly heard about good stress and bad stress. I can work more than 12 hours a day and feel happy and not stressed, if it is the right work. With ‘right’ I am talking about encouraging, self-reliant and meaningful tasks. The setup of remote work creates self-guided work and freedom by itself. That means, you are more or less free to switch tasks and projects and also the time to accomplish the work. And exactly that is the reason why most remote workers are more motivated than their office peers.

More time and flexibility for sport and healthy meals

Without commuting you have more time available and with above mentioned time management by your own you have more flexibility for exercise. The other big point for our health is our nutrition. Is your cantine also packed with greasy dishes? If you work from home, you can cook your lunch with the ingredients you like. That both is the reason why remote work is healthier than onsite work.

Risk of isolation

The biggest danger for remote workers is the risk of isolation. This loniness can lead into depression as worst case. It is very important to have hobbies, which pulls you away from your laptop. This can be everything what is not including to watch on an electronic screen, be it art, playing an instrument or any kind of sport.

If you live alone, it is particular important to meet other ‘real’ people on a regular basis. You can combine that with a hobby, go regularly to the local store or simply feed the ducks at you next park.

Risk of to less exercise

If you don’t have to leave your home for work and have no dog or other responsibility like bringing kids to school, make sure you are leaving your home on a daily basis, even at bad weather! Be it for a walk, to get lunch or for one of the points mentioned above.

If you work at an office, you have to go there and have to walk normally between different offices, meeting rooms and the cantine. Home office workers have much less exercise, so please make sure you are compensating that with some other action.

Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss an important point? Please let us know at the comments!

Why Remote Work has Not Exploded yet

All the requirements are given since several years. The hardware with phone, internet, video chat and collaboration software is ready since years and the work, which is possible to accomplish remotely is there since decades.

So, why is remote work still niche instead of normal?

1. Fear of managers

Liz Ryan wrote a great article for Forbes this March: The Real Reason You’re Not Allowed To Work From Home.

The best statement of the post is: “The real reason you’re not allowed to work from home is that managers at all levels are fearful of change and especially fearful of change that requires them to step out of their comfort zone.”

She explains further, that fearful management is the key problem in organisations. To not allow staff to work from home is one action that exposes this fear. The managers are often talking of trusting people, but who’s actions are reflecting that? I know middle manager which even fuel the rumors that the remote working collegues are not really working at home.

2. Missing leadership skills

So, the first major blocking point is the managers fear and their trustless behaviour. The second point is the need to rate team members with looking at the work results instead of counting hours at work which is indeed much easier. This type of measurement needs more time and knowledge, what the managers do not want or even are not able to spend.

Commonly that worker, who made technically a good job and was nice to his boss, will be promoted as team leader in the companies I attended so far. That lack of leadership skills is a big problem, but it is logical if the ability to lead is no part of managers selection process.

Key solution: Select managers with good leadership skills and train them on managing remote teams!

3. Companies struggle with organizational changes

All companies I know, are struggling hard with organizational changes. And it is no surprise that it is even harder if the company is big. But also companies with a few dozens employees and a few years in the market have lots of written rules and processes and many unwritten ones in addition.

It is easy for workers to follow these rules and it gives them security even if the rule is stupid. After realising that, the company will start an organizational project to fix that glitch – enabling remote work is only one example of many. The main problem of such projects (next to the workers fear of change) is, that always the operational / customer projects are winning over the strategic ones in the everyday competition about resources.

We have many organizational projects in our 780-people-middle-sized company right now, because lots of processes should be adjusted, after the company tripled in the last 10 years. As the head of project management I’m involved into a lot of them and believe me – you need month or years to change even smallest things in a middle-sized company.

Is the change coming nonetheless?

My hope is, that the situation will change when more millennials are reaching C-level positions. The remote work possibilities seams to be much better at startups – probably because of the younger executives. The risk with millennials climbing the corporate ladder at bigger companies is, that they have learned the ‘benefits’ of onsite working and collecting teams in cubicals from their mentors.

But the circumstances for the big companies are changing recently, too. Years before, there were only the remote work benefits of saved money on offices and more productive employees. Now they have to deal with exploding housing prices in every metropolitan area worldwide.

What I am experiencing in southern Germany, where we have a very low unemployment rate, is, that so many vacant jobs cannot be staffed over month. This huge financial loss due to open positions and the cost of recruiting would justify every effort into remote working. Even with this highly different employment situations in Europe, the workforce is not so flexible to bring enough workers to my region.

Short example: the district office hold a small job fair in my next town Lindau 4 days ago. Attendees were representatives of 13 local companies and only 30 (!) students of two German universities.

Exploding cost of living in cities and skill shortage will drive the movement to remote work drastically. A major factor of success of companies is already the adaptability to the future of work!

What do you think? Are there other reasons? Let us know in the comment section below!

Prepare for the Remote Work Tsunami

The digital nomads, who are portraying themselves in the internet these days, are only the spearhead of the movement. Most of them are internet marketers, travel blogger, self-taught digital nomad trainers, WordPress experts or organizers of coworking retreats.

But this is only the beginning, they are only the first row of the protest march. The already raising big mass behind are the silent ones, who do full- or part-time telecommuting or are part of the worldwide freelancing force, which feeds big companies. See details in Diana Mulcahys book ‘The Gig Economy‘.

Why is remote work an incoming tsunami?

Latest since 2011 we all know the characteristics of a tsunami. Small waves out in the ocean are indicating the problem, but you cannot imagine the impact, they will have at the coast. Only next to the coastline, where the water is shallow, the waves will pile up and get their disastrous force.

The remote work movement is in the phase of the small waves out in the sea. The big wave will hit companies and workers in the near future. The obstacle with that is, that humans are not made for fast changes. Mankind is highly adaptable, but only over generations and not in just some years.

What makes it even more complicated, is the raising automation of jobs. What started in the manufacturing industry decades ago, will continue there and will spread farther into assistence, administrative and even academic jobs.

Reasons for the shift to remote work

For companies:

  • get happier employees and increase productivity
  • get higher skilled employees, than the ones living nearby your offices or you can convince to move to your location
  • save money for offices and wages, because your employeers don’t have the expensive metropolitan cost of living

For employees:

  • create a healthy work environment with less stress (at home or on the road)
  • choose your employer worldwide for the best conditions, instead of comparing only the few in reach of your commuting
  • save money while living in a rural area or abroad, compared to an expensive city

See the complete list here: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons

The overall reason for the remote work tsunami is the skill-shortage at the places of the companies and the technical opportunity to work from everywhere.

The reason for the overcrowded cities all over the world is the former necessity to gather people to work together in large buildings. That is obvious for manufacturing processes, where a decreasing number of people work and is not further true for all office jobs.

The result

The economical advantage will be at the companies which adapt to this new work style quickly. The rural areas and small towns will thrive and the big cities will loose residents (although this is still unbelievable with their extraordinary housing prices today). The well educated techworkers from Asia, especially from India, and from Africa can participate quickly from the international business.

Old-style companies (‘what we are doing cannot be done remotely’) and the people who won’t or cannot adapt to the new work style will be on the downside. The last group is paired with the group of people who lost their job to automation and won’t or could not be trained into new professions.

How to prepare?

For companies:

  • implement a remote culture, switch the company language to English
  • send the staff home for some single days
  • adjust rules and agreements
  • send them home more days or 100%
  • employ new fully remote employees from anywhere
  • read: how to shift your company to remote

For employees:

  • check or enhance your technical skills for providing your profession in the remote way
  • arrage a home office
  • participate in remote trails at your company
  • ask your boss for some single days working from home
  • move to a remote position or start your own business (the later was never as easy and cheap as today)

Prepare for the remote work wave and you will not be washed away, but on the winning side of the movement.

If you are employer or employee, facing the above and need some advice, just contact me.

What do you think? Is the shift not as dramatic as I suggest – or even worse? Let us know in the comment section below!

Families are Loving Remote Work

Everyone benefits from remote work. But to share your remote work life with your partner or your family is even better.

Every experienced parent will tell you, that you should enjoy the time with your kids. But who is spending enough time with the kids? What is enough time? The overlap of your life and the life of the rest of your family is simply to small in the on-site office world. And that is not only right for parents – every couple loves to have more time together.

By far most remote workers with families are working out of their home offices or a nearby co-working space. But there are also some, who are travelling the world. We will look at both in this post.

Working from Home – Benefits

The No. 1 benefit is clearly the saved commute time which you get to spend with your partner, your kids or even your hobbies. It is really priceless to join breakfast and dinner with your entire family and be able to bring your kids to bed.

The flexibility is the second big benefit. You can return to work while the kids are sleeping in the evening. You can pick them up at school or attend a school event in a work break. You are flexible to organize the childcare – i.e. you split the time, the kids are at home, between both parents.

Michael Erasmus writes in his post ‘I found my ideal lifestyle by working remotely‘ how he is using the additional time and flexibilty for his hobby surfing. He lives in Cape Town and is checking the waves in the morning and during the day. If they are good and he has no meeting, he goes surfing and returns to the desk after a while.

All the other benefits of remote work are also present. Be it taking care for a pet (Why Many Remote Workers are Happy Dog or Cat Owners) or choose a productive work environment (The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons).

My personal favorite is the added time I have with my two 10 and 8 year old girls. Our daily routine is, that I’m taking them to their school bus stop and bring them to bed very often. Remember routines – they are essential for remote workers to be productive.

Working from Home – Risks

But there is always a downside. This is i.e. the risk of mixing up work and family time. I’m highly recommending clear boundaries in terms of space and time.

Define a corner for work, i.e. your home office and another for private internet surfing / gaming, i.e. living room or kitchen. To use even different devices is a good idea for not falling into the pit of looking at business emails in private time.

You should not be distracted by your kids in the home office. Think about the possibility to work in a café or co-working space for some hours. Normally the closed-door-policy works pretty well at home – just remember to lock the door while being interviewed by BBC…

Do not mix time for work and family. So make your schedule clear to the entire family. There is nothing worse than kids, who are expecting dad or mum at home means 100% play time and are disappointed all the time.

Please don’t think you can work and look after the kids at the same time. Use their time in kindergarden, school or bed for work. And if you need the time the kids are at home awake, hire a babysitter for some hours.

Tips from the Buffer team: ‘Working From Home with Kids: 21 Tips From Our Remote Team‘.

All in all your familiy life will thrive if one or both parents are able to work from home. Even all mums have the possibility to return to work part-time after giving birth whenever they want.

Digital nomads

Is the life as digital nomad conflicting with relationships or having a family? Despite most digital nomads are single travellers, there is a rising number of travelling couples and even families with kids. Well known examples are ‘Digital Nomad Family‘ and ‘Bucket List Family‘.

Travelling as a couple is really great, because it avoids the otherwise lurking loniness. Travelling with small kids is also nice, however special in some cases. I.e. you are looking for yourself constantly about the nearest available pediatrist.

You have to make a decision until your kids are turning into kindergarden or school age. Many parents decide to settle down then and allow the kids the routine of school, friends and building relationships, which is important for their development. Only a few decide that the travelling gives them more than that and start to ‘home’ school the small ones on the road.

What benefit is missing? What is the biggest impact of remote work to your family life? Please let us know at the comment section!