A few decades ago, working remotely out of a home office was near impossible.
But in today's workforce, the number of Canadians “telecommuting” is on the rise, with an increasing number of people working from their homes.
Roberta Oliver has worked remotely for 11 years with United Healthcare in the U.S., as a senior claim adjuster, out of her home at Bear Pass, about 40 km east of Fort Frances.
She says working remotely out of her home office is much better than having to commute to and from work each day.
“It's good because you're not on the highway, having to do that drive all the way into town,” Oliver explained.
“It saves you on transportation, fuel costs, and wear and tear on the vehicle.”
Telecommuting also saves Oliver the time she otherwise would have spent on the road, she added.
Nancy Westover, a support analysis for a company in Toronto, has telecommuted for the past 18 years.
She agrees that working from home has its benefits, with the main thing for her being the work-life balance that working remotely provides.
“You can live in a part of the country that you otherwise wouldn't have been able to live in,” Westover noted.
She is happy to work out of her home in Emo instead of the busy streets of Toronto, where her office is located.
“Remote work allows some people to continue working in a job that they would otherwise not be able to have,” Westover explained.
She was in this very position when she moved to Emo and started telecommuting in 2000.
Westover made the move to be closer to her dad when he got sick. When she made the move, her employer was understanding and allowed her to do her job remotely.
“I was able to come back and be helpful to my father when he needed help before he passed, and I know a lot of people who are moving back to their hometowns or a new town to help out their parents as they get older,” she noted.
Remote working is great in this aspect. “You don't get that time back,” she stressed.
But she and Oliver also acknowledged working from home has its challenges.
“To be able to work at home, you have to have that mindset that you're at work now and have to concentrate on doing the work, maintaining the work flow you have and meeting the expectations of the work you have to do,” Oliver said.
“It's very easy to get distracted if you're not careful,” she warned.
“Some people can't [work remotely]," Oliver added. "They really need the interaction around people.”
For those who thrive in an office environment, Oliver recommends physically going into work.
“I think it would be very difficult to work remotely at a young age because a lot of your social contacts are built through people you meet at work,” she reasoned.
“Early in your career, I think you need more of that," Westover said. "It's important to be building your relationships, etc.”
This isn't an issue for Westover, who has been working remotely since 2000 and is well-established in her field.
“Once you've been in the industry for a while, you know how to work, you know how to find the information you want, and you don't necessarily have to have that day-to-day contact,” she remarked.
For her part, Oliver would advise people who can stay on task to try working from home, if possible.
“There are jobs that you have to physically be there to do," she conceded. "But there are plenty of jobs that can be done remotely just as well.”
People who work in e-mail marketing, web or graphic design, customer service, software development, and project management often can have the option to work out of their home.
Oliver said if you have good concentration levels, can stay on task, and treat your home as a workplace, then working remotely is a great option.
The only prerequisites to working remotely are a stable internet connection, sought-after skills, and the right mindset to effectively get work done.