In this episode, Daphne discusses the pros and cons of remote work, including flexibility, commute, and work-life balance.
Pros and Cons of Remote Work
According to a Forbes article in late 2022, 97% of workers desire some form of remote work, whether that is hybrid or fully remote. Now, as someone who’s worked remotely for about five years outside of the classroom, I get it. When I first landed my remote position in 2017, it was not the norm. So many people were completely envious of me for finding this position where I was able to work from home. We’ve heard from so many transitioning teachers that remote work is a non-negotiable in whatever their next career is. I wanted to make sure that I made a podcast about it, because like everything else in regards to a career change, this really isn’t going to be a one size fits all answer.
In this episode, I am going to share the pros and cons of remote work, but I’m not just going to share from my own experience. I wanted to make sure I talked to a wide variety of other people with their own unique factors that wade into this decision or into how they feel about their remote work environment. We surveyed 400 former teachers for the information that I’m about to go over in this podcast. Their roles include customer success managers, UX designers, marketing associates, learning designers, instructional designers, project managers, SDRs, recruiters, HR generalists, software engineers, and this is just to name a few. Many of these are Teacher Career Coach Course graduates as well.
Now, there are many pros that come with a remote work environment. There’s increased flexibility, there’s no commute. You don’t have to drive to and from work. You just roll out of bed and basically when it’s time for you to log on, you start your workday. This can save so many hours off of your life, and from someone who lives in Los Angeles and at one time was commuting over 90 minutes one way to my position as an instructional designer, my life was so much better on those days when I did not have that really extreme commute. There were days that I was bawling just because I was in traffic and it was really wrecking me emotionally to have such a long commute. I know not everybody lives in a city with a commute that bad. But this is something that really can be a huge perk for remote workers, especially those who do have those longer commute times.
Daphne discusses travel requirements of some remote positions
While we’re talking about commute, one thing that I think is a misconception of remote work is that remote work can still involve travel. It doesn’t mean that five days out of the week you are guaranteed to be sitting at your desk. Sometimes if you’re a remote customer success manager, the majority of your work may be at your desk, but they may expect you to actually travel within your city limits to go and talk to the people that you’re working with, your clients, or as a professional development trainer, they may ask you to go to different states and stay overnight.
Often, if there is travel expected with the role that you’re doing, it will be listed in the job description itself, but it will be pretty normal for some of these roles for them to expect you to actually travel for your position. If that is a non-negotiable for you, you may want to make sure that you’re really paying attention to the job descriptions themselves. I personally, for my educational consulting or learning consulting position that was remote, had to travel about one to two times within my city limits. Then, about four times per year I went to different states to speak at large national conferences on behalf of the company that employed me, and I really enjoyed that.
I liked going for drives and being able to listen to podcasts and still talking to people and having somewhat of a social interaction. I actually really enjoyed the times that I spent almost traveling for free and being put up in these really nice hotel rooms. This is going to vary from company to company. What I want you to do is just make sure that you don’t say it’s a non-negotiable, if you are actually open to it as an opportunity. Next, for a pro is the higher productivity. You can get a lot more done if there are fewer distractions. If people aren’t bothering you every single moment of every single day. No matter the position that you get in, you’ll probably find yourself feeling a lot more productive than you were as a teacher.
Daphne talks about the positives of being home more with a remote position
Because as a teacher you are constantly being pulled in a million different directions with a million different tasks that were being asked of you. When you’re in this new position, you should have something that’s a very clear goal for the day or the week that you’re able to sit and focus and feel really productive on. But especially at home, you find yourself with fewer distractions. You may also find that you have a more comfortable work environment and also improved health. There are people who have answered the survey who have talked about what a game changer actually being able to work from home was, especially as someone with a chronic illness.
They said that their quality of life and their health have improved exponentially just based on the ability to work remotely. That’s something that I don’t want to downplay, is there are some people who really are going to thrive in a remote work environment and this is going to be a game changer for them. For many, they find that it is less stressful. They have more time to exercise. There’s a cost savings, because there’s lower expenses for your car, your transportation, if you were taking a train or a bus to your work. There’s less money that you’re spending on eating out because you’re able to just eat your own groceries. Many people find that there’s improved mental health benefits of working from home as well.
Lastly, they have this greater sense of autonomy and empowerment. This is so crucial for teachers who are leaving the classroom, because we were micromanaged and we were discredited. Constantly our expertise was devalued even though many of us had masters or we have all these credentials. We went to school to prove ourselves as professionals. Then, we had every single person telling us we weren’t allowed to make these decisions. We needed to do step-by-step exactly what it said in this curriculum program, or we needed to change something based on what one parent’s suggestion and we just had no autonomy in that position.
Being put in this remote work environment where someone says, “I trust what you are doing. Here is the job that I expect you to do, and I trust that you’re able to do that,” is really crucial for us, for our self-worth, to realize that we are valuable career professionals and that we’re able to deliver on what people are expecting of us. It really is something that so many people find so much value in, is being able to actually own their own process, own their own productivity, and just do what they need to do to get the job done. It’s just completely different than what we’re used to as a teacher. I’m going to spend a little bit more time on the cons of remote work.
The reason why is because I think that it’s pretty obvious what the pros are. Many people have thought about the pros of remote work. If you’re listening to this, you’ve probably done a lot of research or a lot of thought about how excited you are about these exact bullet points that I just went over. I want to spend a little bit of time going over what the possible drawbacks of remote work could be, so that you are able to anticipate any roadblocks that you may have or just to help educate yourself on the realistic expectations of what you may face if you get one of these positions.
Daphne breaks down TCC’s former teacher remote position survey
Before I get into that, I want to talk a little bit more about the audience members that we surveyed. Because not all of them are 100% remote, 60% of them are completely remote while 40% of them were hybrid. The hybrid schedules really varied from company to company. Sometimes they were one to three times per week, and then some of them were as little as once per month, where anytime they just had a big meeting. Maybe it’s a quarterly meeting or meetings for KPIs or one-on-ones. That was the only time that they were expected to go in person.
Fifty-six percent of them actually said that they enjoyed the days that they went into the office on these hybrid work schedules. They missed being around people. They liked being social, they liked their coworkers, and they liked a little change of scenery. Forty percent of them said that they were neutral. They didn’t dread it, but they weren’t really excited about going into the office on the days that they did Four percent of them actually said that they dreaded it.
Now, the reason why I’m saying this right now is I want to make it clear these are all completely different people. While they’re former teachers, some of them are introverts, some of them are really excited to be around coworkers and find teamwork and collaboration to be exciting. They actually really love going into the office. Not every answer is going to be aligned with what you know about yourself and how you work. It’s important for you to start listening to what I explained during these possible drawbacks to find which ones are more aligned with what you know about yourself.
Then, you can ignore the ones that don’t sound like you, because these are all very different people with different needs. It’s really important for you to take it through the lens of what you need in your career and what you need as far as a work environment goes.
Daphne explains that remote jobs can vary widely when it comes to flexibility
The very first thing that I have to address is that flexibility piece. This is not going to be a one size fits all answer, and remote work can offer increased flexibilities, but flexibility is relative. To some, a 15-minute dog walk and going to the restroom whenever they want means that it’s a super flexible and great working environment even if the expectation is sitting down and having eight hours of scream time built around that. Coming from teaching, that is flexible to some people.
Some people found that they were actually really disappointed to find that there was this check-in time every morning or an expectation to stay online for a certain amount of hours every day. While remote work can and offer this increased flexibility, 85% of our surveyed audience members said that they experienced it, and 15% said that it was actually not as flexible as they thought it was going to be when they were going into it. This is also not just on the person. Some people are at companies that have much stricter policies around expectations on working hours, and where you can even work. I’ve heard that some companies require you to work from your desk and you are not allowed to travel or go to coffee shops or do anything during your working hours.
Those companies with stricter policies, whether or not I personally agree with them, have made those decisions for a variety of reasons, or because of things that have happened in the past with other remote workers. If it is a startup, you may find that it’s a little bit more chaotic, where you may be expected to stay around to put out these last minute fires. If you leave to go to the grocery store in the middle of the daytime and you’re not there when someone sends you a Slack message, it may be a much bigger deal and that’s going to be very dependent on the company culture. It’s going to be very dependent on the job that you do. If you’re in charge of putting out last minute fires, then you’re going to be sitting at a desk potentially all day.
If you’re in charge of putting together a weekly training program once a week and you know it’s not due until Friday, you may have a lot more flexibility in that role. Once again I have to always address the elephant in the room. I do think that there’s an unrealistic expectation of what remote work is, because there are a lot of people who are selling you snake oil packaged as a remote work. Maybe they’re selling you a resume writing service or a bootcamp, but sharing these photos of people working from the beach or traveling to different locations living their best life because they’re working remotely in these types of positions. For some workers, that really may be true, but that is usually just the highlight reel and not the everyday expectations.
Some companies are going to be more flexible than others, where they don’t need you to even put it on your calendar if you leave for 45 minutes just to go to the grocery store, or they even actually encourage you to take an hour out of the day to go to the gym and they don’t ask you to use your pay time off for it. Really, work is going to always be work. If someone is paying you a salary for a full-time position, they usually have some guidelines in place to ensure that they do get work out of you and that you’re still productive and an efficient employee. In the same Forbes article that I quoted earlier, 12% of leaders and human resources professionals are confident that their workers are being productive when they’re at home.
If what you were thinking of was all of these trips to the grocery store, sneaking out to get hour-long massages, or to do your chores or homeschool your kids, the leaders are also aware that that is what people are trying to do within their workday and they’re a little wary of it. They’re trying to put guardrails in place to ensure that they’re not getting taken advantage of as well. Some companies are going to offer far more autonomy and flexibility than others just depending on the culture of the work environment and the trust that they place on their workers. During Covid, many companies had no idea how to create a remote work environment. Some companies managed the expectations and like the classroom management of it better than others.
Some became this big brother type of company that is going to be watching your keystrokes and making sure that you are constantly typing for the eight hours, where the others are just generally aware of the fact that you should be online for a certain amount of hours per day, but they’re not really going to check in that often. Many people find that they do have daily check-ins, maybe it’s a Zoom call or multiple meetings, to make sure that they shared what they worked on during the day. But the rest of the day, they’re just left to their own devices and trusted that they’re working. But those big brother type companies may potentially be monitoring you, and they might even send you a message or a call if you’re not doing what is expected during specific times of the day.
Daphne shares how differences in remote job flexibility affects child care and multitasking
I know I talked about homeschooling your kids very briefly, but I wanted to make sure that I address this in this podcast episode, because when I asked transitioning teachers why remote work was important to them, I received so many responses that indicated that they wanted to spend more time with their kids. They wanted to save money on childcare, and even a few of them did say that they were excited to homeschool their children while they were working remotely. In my own personal experience working outside of the classroom, I’ve had multiple colleagues that had adorable babies on their laps in meetings. Also, there’s dogs, there’s cats. It’s your home, and so these things are going to pop up on your Zoom calls.
I’ve also had coworkers who were picking up their kids on these work calls that we had, and they were pretty transparent about, “Hey, I’m not going to talk for about 15 minutes because I’m in this loud environment, but I’m listening.” Then, once they’re back in a quiet environment, they’re able to follow up with their response to what was going on during the call.
Once again, this is going to be company to company on their work culture and their expectations. It was pretty flexible, but once again, this was not on every single call in either of the jobs that I’ve had. I’m pretty confident with both companies that I worked for, if this was an everyday occurrence, there would probably be a call from their manager informing them that it was probably distracting others or distracting from their own day-to-day operations.
For those of you who are looking to work with your children at home or even homeschool your children at home, I don’t doubt for a second that you’re not a rockstar who could figure it out. But I want to let you know that it’s not easy, and it may be impacting your ability to do or keep your job.
I talked to the former teachers in the survey as well and asked this very specific question, and so 70% of them have flexibility where they said that they could sometimes have their children around distracting them, but not all of the time. Twenty percent of them said that there was zero way that they could juggle their role and have their children around distracting them at all, or the expectations of their work environment was that it was a distraction free zone. Ten percent of them said it is actually very easy for them to have children home full-time in the role, they do it or they see their colleagues do it.
I wanted to make sure to bring that up and it is something that you really need to consider. If you are wanting to do something more flexible with your children, you may also want to look into freelancing, because freelancing is completely on your own schedule. You’re not going to be set with other people’s hours, but it’s also building up your own client base. There’s a lot of things to learn about freelancing. If you have not listened to Episode 13, where I interviewed the amazing Jay Clouse, and he talks all about freelancing and getting started freelancing. You may want to hop over and listen to that episode after you finished this one.
But for those of you wanting to hear directly from a former teacher working as a remote worker, who is also a parent, this is one of the quotes that really stuck out to me that I thought was really important to show that it’s not a one size fits all answer.
She said, “I may have had unrealistic expectations about how much time I’d be able to spend with my son. Although I appreciate that I have flexibility in the morning and I don’t have to commute, I still need to work all day and I have to have childcare in place. But from the pro side, as long as I have childcare, my son has had some really cool vacations and I’ve had some really great work views because we actually can travel whenever we want in this role.”
There are not going to be one-size-fits-all answers. Every company is going to be different. I always recommend that you look at Glassdoor for the reviews of what other people have said about working for that company as you are going through the interview or application process. You can also usually find some company policies on their careers page.
There’s going to be companies, like I said, that are all over the place. Some companies allow for healthy life hours, that’s appointments for haircuts. There’s no questions asked on whatever they’re doing. While other companies have messaging services, sending them messages for lack of visibility. If they can’t physically see that you’re working or busy, you’re going to be getting some notification. There are companies that encourage you to work wherever you want, in a car, in a coffee shop, in your home, where you can talk to different coworkers at different times of the day and there’s not really a set working hour, or there are places that really expect you to be clocked on at the exact moment you are supposed to be online.
Daphne discusses the challenge of a more isolated work environment
Moving from flexibility to the next con would be a lack of social interaction. This is big and I’m not going to dwell too long on this, but we are used to being in this high energy classroom with so many students. We do get to see our colleagues at lunchtime and vent about different things. Then, when you get a remote work job, you’re practically sealed off from others for indefinitely. Unless you’re putting a lot of intentional social time into your calendar, it can become really isolating really quickly.
One of the words that I saw over and over and over again on the survey was people didn’t realize how lonely they would become. This is just something to know about yourself, of whether or not you really thrive off of the energy. If you really do thrive off of the energy, hybrid may be a better fit for you or an in-person role, or making sure that you have something social built into your weekly schedule so that you don’t start to feel lonely.
Daphne talks about the specific challenge of work-life balance and working remotely
The next con would be difficulty maintaining that work-life balance, and like teaching, starts to take over your entire life. Remote work can also lead to burnout or overworking because it’s really hard to separate your work from your personal life. Especially if you start building these habits of checking your emails or Slack every time you get on your computer. You may find yourself checking emails at nights or on weekends or never really truly being able to unplug. Next is health. We talked about how remote work can lead to better health by reducing stress and providing more time for exercise, but it can also potentially lead to sitting down a lot, isolation. It leads to potential health problems if you’re not building in regular exercise and activity. Personally, I do try my hardest to make sure that I’m wearing glasses that help with the headaches and staring on a computer screen all day.
I’ve also developed some pretty bad wrist pain after five years of working remotely. You may want to make sure that you put different things in place to stay healthy and make sure that you get up throughout the day to go on walks or to exercise when you’re able to. It’s easier than I would like to admit to wake up and just prioritize work over going for a mental health walk, especially in these positions where you’re really passionate and happy about what you do. It’s far too easy to fall back into this routine of just working and not taking care of yourself. Next is the increased need for self-discipline and self-motivation. Many teachers that I talked to just said it was a learning curve for them to go into these positions that had a lack of structure.
It just showed them that they really actually needed discipline to make their own schedule. They had to get into gear to become productive and make sure that they filled up their time efficiently. They also said that it was sometimes difficult to set up their own equipment. You really have to be technology savvy and figure it out on your own because you don’t have that IT team with you to come over and plug everything in.
There are also a lot of comments about needing to become independent problem solvers. Some people really thrive off of that, but some people who are struggling with low career self-confidence found that it could be intimidating that there’s no one sitting next to you ready to help if you have this question or you need assistance.
You have to make it feel like a big deal. You have to schedule a call or send an email and say that you’re struggling with something instead of that casual, “Oh, hey, am I doing this correctly?” That can become overwhelming depending on your personality type.
Daphne discusses communication challenges that come with remote work
Last, there can be a difficulty with understanding what’s going on, especially when you’re in this new environment. You may find that you thrive off of more robust onboarding, and you wanted a little bit more handholding when it came to figuring out how to do your job. If you’re a self-starter and you love learning on your own, being a remote worker is a great fit, but there’s always going to be some context that you may be missing because you’re new to this environment.
There can also be challenges when it comes to just communicating and collaborating with others in text. I went into my remote work field with very low career self-esteem and I was really struggling that first year. I had two or three colleagues that I trusted that I would drive crazy with my constant questions of, “Am I going to get fired? Someone said this to me, does that mean that I’m in trouble? I don’t really understand what that means.” Even if someone’s sending you a message and saying, “You’re doing a really great job.” When they follow up with, “Next time, make sure you send your signature a certain way because it’s in the guidebook that you were supposed to have your signature set up.” You might spiral.
You may think it’s a bigger deal than it really is because you’re not hearing the context of how it’s being said. You’re used to this environment where you are constantly being told that you weren’t doing enough and that you weren’t doing a good enough job. Just know that there is going to be some room for miscommunication and misunderstanding based on the fact that you’re not going to be always face-to-face with people.
If you are newer in your position and you’re listening to this, and they are not giving you face-to-face once a week calls, I would ask for one and just say, “Hey, I want to make sure that I have a space where I can just, for 15 minutes once a week, I just ask questions and make sure that we’re on the same page and that I’m meeting your goals for me.”
This is not just for teachers. In a Harvard Business Review, there were notable differences between the responses of end person and remote team members when it went to thinking that they were potentially going to get laid off. Remote employees are 32% more likely to feel anxious about being laid off than people who are in person. I think that that does have a lot to do with not understanding what’s going on and not being in an office and being able to see the behind the scenes conversations or the mood or tone of what is going on in your work environment.
Daphne shares the importance of knowing your specific needs when considering remote work
To sum up everything that I said is, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to what is going to be the perfect job. There are going to be cons that come with every pro. I wanted to make sure that you’re aware of those cons as well, especially if remote work was a non-negotiable for you and you weren’t thinking about doing an office positions or hybrid positions. Because being open to hybrid or an office positions is going to help you, especially if you were on a shorter timeframe. Because as we said at the very beginning of this podcast episode, 97% of workers are desiring some form of remote work. Whether that’s hybrid or office positions, which means that these roles can get very competitive. That does not mean that it’s impossible. We’re getting success stories from former teachers on a daily or weekly basis that are landing fully remote positions, but it is more competitive and it is more challenging.
I really do think that the biggest factor of happiness at work isn’t going to be necessarily remote or in office. It’s about the company culture. It’s about the role that you’re actually doing. It’s the values of the company that you’re applying for and the people that you get to work with and learn from. Some people do have fewer options. Remote work may be their only option. If you don’t live near a large city like I do, you may not have the amount of hybrid or in-person opportunities that align with what your future career goals are. Or, if you have chronic health problems or know that you need the accommodations of being remote.
This episode really isn’t trying to scare those of you into thinking that it’s impossible to find. It just was made to help try and bring awareness for some of you that were on the fence or not sure if work from home was right for you. Then, also, to help educate you on the roadblocks that you may face once you do get a remote role, so that you can anticipate them and try to build some solutions that are right for you. You have to be a very self-motivated and autonomous individual to work from home, but when it is right for you, you cannot imagine going back. It really did surprise me how much I love about remote work. It opened up my mind to other things that could potentially be possible.
But I did underestimate how much I would be infected by it mentally and physically at times. I wanted to make sure that I was honest with you about my own experiences with this as well. For those of you who are so excited about finding remote positions, but you are struggling on how to really stand out for these types of roles, we have added a new video in the Teacher Career Coach course that can help you land a great remote position. We’ve always included companies that are hiring remotely on our list of companies inside of the course, but inside of this video, you’ll also find strategies to find less competitive remote positions and information from behind the scenes.
From hiring managers on what is truly red flagging transitioning teachers from landing some of these positions, and how to make sure that you’re not making the same mistakes on your resume or in your interviews specific to remote positions. You can find out more at teachercareercoach.com/course if you are looking for more information on helping you find these types of positions. Thank you so much for being a listener of the Teacher Career Coach podcast. We’ll see you on the very next episode.