More than 45% of people say they want to work remotely some of the time and nearly one-third are looking for flexible working hours, according to our Talent Ignition Report. It’s a different working world out there. Being “at work” is now about owning your schedule, concepting in your PJs, and having a barista for a cubemate. Let’s look at why it’s so popular and how you can crush it remotely as we catch up with a top recruiter and a remote freelancer with over 1,000 projects under her keyboard.
Sure, part of the rise of remote work can be attributed to the gig economy, but a 2017 Gallup survey found that organizations are reconsidering how to manage employees “in a time when the very essence of how, when, and where people work—and the value they place on work—is shifting.” Employees are demanding change and companies are recognizing that to attract and retain top talent, they better make some big adjustments.
Veteran NYC Vitamin T agent Amanda Fett is definitely seeing this shift. “Flexibility is probably the number one thing I get asked about. We get a ton of remote roles. I’m working on multiple positions right now, including one for a social media manager at one of the ‘big three’ educational publishers who told me, ‘If someone is a rock star and sits in another state, let’s just do it!’”
This is one of the top three benefits from a hiring perspective: geography. When you’re willing to have remote employees, you remove borders. You open up the role or the project to the best qualified person anywhere, not just in your zip code. The second reason? Real estate, or lack thereof. Many companies, especially startups, don’t have extra room to spare if new employees are hired. In 2018 alone, one study showed that U.S. companies saved $5 billion by allowing remote workers, thanks in part to less office rent and food preparation.
The third is the most obvious: employee retention. A recent Stanford University study found a 50% decrease in attrition rates in companies that allow employees to work from home. Scott Mautz, a former Proctor & Gamble executive says, “More and more companies are realizing that this is now the cost of doing business. It's not just a nice-to-have that sounds sexy in a company brochure. This is going to have to be a part of the way we're getting work done moving forward.”
Amanda agrees, “Many companies are doing it proactively. They’re not waiting for talent to request it, they’re adding it to their job descriptions—especially startups and smaller companies.”
So what makes someone a great remote resource? We went right to the source, Lynn Butler Bradford, who has tackled hundreds and hundreds of remote projects for both Vitamin T and Aquent clients all over the country. Her specialty is designing high-end PowerPoint and Microsoft Word templates for all kinds of clients, especially those in the oil and gas industry. It makes sense that Lynn has been able to keep a steady stream of work over the years, as today Amanda says that 9 out of 10 PowerPoint designers are remote. So, what has kept Lynn smiling all these years from her home office?
“Time is our most valuable commodity,” she tells us. “Working remotely has led me to build the career I want.” When she’s not whipping PowerPoint templates into shape, Lynn focuses on her training as a classical violinist. Because she makes her own work hours, she can leave free time to do a concert with an out-of-town orchestra when she needs to. And she has even has time for hobbies like pour painting, buying antiques, and designing clothes. Having time for such passion projects is huge. Google famously requires its employees to dedicate 20% of their time to side projects, one of the main reasons it remains one of the world’s most innovative companies.
And because she’s not commuting Lynn has even more time. Living in Houston, she tells us the commute can be brutal. Lynn’s not alone. In 2019, Americans spend an average of 26.9 minutes one way per day and 225 hours a year commuting, and in the 15 largest cities in the country it’s way worse.
Like many remote workers, Lynn works from a home office. She says it’s important to have a lot of light and make the space as relaxing as possible. For Lynn, this means it’s got to be kitty friendly.
Okay, so there’s the flexibility, the lack of gas, more time, the you-can-wear-your-pjs, the lack of annoying co-workers. But is there anything that remote workers are missing? “Some clients can be a little insecure when you are working remotely,” Lynn said. “They want to have constant phone or email updates.” Additionally, she says, money can be different every week if you are a project-to-project freelancer like herself. “You have to be able to forecast your income and keep reserves. There will be slow weeks,” she warns, “that’s why a side gig is a good idea.”
What are the biggest keys to success as a remote worker? Lynn says it’s all about building relationships, which can be especially tricky if you don’t ever get that face-to-face time with clients. She makes sure to ask people questions beyond the work, to make it personal—and suggests sharing nuggets from your own life. “Repeat customers are your bread and butter,” she says. “I have several major companies that I have worked with for 15-20 years. Clients want to know that you’re easy to work with and have the skills to do what they need.”
Like Amanda, Lynn also stresses that communication is key to the relationship. Check in early and often and follow up with emails and phone calls in a timely fashion. And be prepared for anything. Things are always changing and you need to be able to keep up. “Push yourself to be better by learning new skills, but don’t promise something you can’t deliver,” she warns.
A final thought Lynn shared: “A wide range of skills is very helpful but a niche area where you are an expert will bring the kinds of jobs that you want. Position yourself as the expert.” (Once you are an expert, check out how you might use social media to further advance your personal brand.)
With 70% of people working remotely at least one day a week, we’re all becoming a little more flexible–employees, companies, and of course, yogis. Remember these pointers from Lynn: 1) Be human 2) Keep clients in the loop 3) Never stop growing. Then hit up Amanda for your dream remote job.