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The Marketing Unleashed Podcast – Does allowing employees to work remote from home benefit a company?

Joel: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of the Marketing Unleashed Podcast. I’m your host Joel, and today, we’re going to be discussing whether or not working remote from home is good for a company. Now, with me, I have Jerry and Nathan. What’s up guys?

Nathan: Hey Joel.

Jerry: Hello.

Joel: So all right, so Jerry and Nathan were perfect for the segment because both of them actually work from home for the most part. So guys, I’m going to go ahead and let you talk about your own experiences of working from home and then we’ll get into why is working remote becoming more popular, how does it benefit employers, and just some tips for actually working at home.

Nathan: Jerry, you want to get started or you want me to?

Jerry: Yeah, go for it.

Nathan: Well, I’ve been working from home now I would say most of the last probably 15 years. I like it a lot. There’s some drawbacks and there’s some advantages, but I think for the most part, for the company, there’s some advantages because you don’t have to have the physical space for one thing for each person because they’re working at home so you can almost have a smaller office footprint and then just have a meeting area for when everybody comes in. Although I do have space in the office that I can work at whenever I come in if we got really busy and filled up the whole building, then, you know, I might lose my space. But as of right now, I’ve still got room there.

Another thing for the company is they don’t have to usually have as much in terms of costs to get someone started. You don’t have to buy all the office furniture, you don’t have to necessarily even buy computers or anything like that. When I first started working at home, all of the stuff that I had, it was stuff that I owned. And so, I was just working remotely on my own equipment so that can save the company quite a bit of money.

And then there are advantages of course for the employees to work from home. I enjoy working at home because I can get things done whenever I, if I decided I wanted to start working at six o’clock in the morning and take off a little early, I can do that usually. If I want to work on a project late, I can do that. I’m not sort of tied to an office where I can only get things done whenever I’m there.

Of course, some of the big things are like, I don’t have to pay to commute every day. If I had to drive into work, I’m sure my gas and car maintenance would be a lot more expensive. And also, I get to be here when the kids get home from school. So, that’s a big advantage for me. I get to make sure the kids get home okay. And if there’s some sort of afterschool activity, I can make sure that they get set off to that without having to worry about hiring babysitters or somebody to get the kids where they need to go. So, those are some of the big advantages for me.

Joel: All right, so, Jerry, so Nathan’s got 15 years under his belt working from home. You’ve been at home for about two years, right?

Jerry: Correct.

Joel: Okay. So tell us about your experiences.

Jerry: Well, nothing really differs from Nathan’s experiences. I guess the thing that changed for me was location from the home office, or not the Home Office, but the place where you do work. I used to live 15 minutes from the full time office and I moved across the river where my commute went from 15 minutes to would have been probably an hour with traffic if I had to drive to and from during rush hour.

So, obviously working from home gives me the advantage to skip the commute and then at the same time still keeping work with certain places because if that wasn’t an option to work from home, I probably would have found something that was closer or had to go on part time or worked another arrangement. So, I guess that just goes with working from home. You can virtually work from anywhere, for anybody. And I think that’s a huge plus for employers as well.

Nathan: I think a lot of the work from home stuff, it works really well with what we do because we’re in so much involved in tech, you can pretty much do, software development, app development, website development, you can do all those things remotely, and it really in this day and age with the communication and equipment that’s available, all the tools that we have, you don’t really need to be in an office to make that work. You can still collaborate very well without having everyone there together in cubicles or something like that.

Joel: Yeah, I was actually going to say that that’s one of the reasons why working remote is becoming so popular is because it’s becoming so easy to do.

Nathan: Right, right. I would say, you know, some of the drawbacks for working remote would be, it takes a certain amount of discipline and you’ve got to trust the people that you work with because it could be really easy to just sort of let things slide and spend a lot of time doing other things than what you should be doing. I think it’s important to put the time in, even if you’re not on a billable project all day, you should be doing research into something that will, you know, another project that may be coming up. You should still be putting in the time. Some people I think don’t have the discipline to really put in the time.

If you’re only working eight hours a day at an office, that could be an advantage too because you can leave your work at the office. And whenever I, you know, I’ve been working for home for all this time and I will think of things at dinner and say, oh, I forgot to do that or I need to make a note of that. And then I look up and I’ve been sitting there working at my computer two or three hours in the evening. And so, having your work there at home can also be a little bit of a disadvantage because you might wind up spending more time than you normally would if you had to be in the office to get the work done.

Joel: Yeah. So, would you guys say that, you know, you almost have to concentrate twice as hard when you work from home than whenever you’re in the office?

Nathan: Yeah. I mean, once you get the rhythm down, it’s not as bad. I mean, at least for me, I don’t know how it is for you, Jerry. But once you kind of get the rhythm of just doing it every day, you know, it’s not too bad.

Jerry: Yeah, took a little bit just to stay disciplined, just to make yourself available at all hours. And while I’m not in an office, it seems like, well, I can go run an errand here and there or I can take a long lunch or I can watch a TV show over lunch break. But you always, no matter what, especially for our line of work, have to keep yourself available at all times just in case a website goes down or something needs an update immediately.

And so, I think that’s a drawback that not only you but like other people around you don’t really see. It’s like, oh, you’re at home, you can run this out to me or I can come by and do this for you or I need you to do this. But at the same time, it’s like, I’m working, I can’t. And that’s kind of hard sometimes because it doesn’t, some days you might not, four out of the five days you might not do anything, but that one day you decided to do something, you get an emergency call. And so, that goes back to the discipline. You just always have to kind of make yourself available or if you’re not going to be, make alternate plans, like keep a laptop on you at all times and your phone charged and ready to go at all times.

Nathan: Yeah. I’ve noticed one of the things that’s affected me on and off over the years is the social aspect. People see you at home and understand that you’re at home. And so, they kind of treat it like, oh well, they’re just at home kind of doing whatever. So, if I need them to do something for me, I can call them and know that they’re at home and they can go do this. Most people don’t treat it like, I need to be here and I have to be doing this work. I can’t just walk out of the house any moment that you call.

I’ve had situations where the kids get home at four o’clock and the neighbors send all their kids over. And I’m just like, okay, well, I’ve got an hour or two more work I need to get done here. I can’t watch your kids and my kids and do all this work. You have to sort of put the boundaries up on some of those relationships that you have just so people understand that you’re not working at home at just a job where you can just do anything you want. You’re working at home, you have to put in the time, you have to do the work. You can’t just take off at a whim and do anything you want. That’s been a problem I’ve run into.

Joel: Yeah, I can totally see that. You know, whenever people think like, oh, you’re at home, so, you’re the one that can clean up around the house or get dinner started or whatever it may be while I’m commuting home. Or you could be there waiting for the electrician or the cable guy or whoever it may be. But you’re right, I mean, you got to be working and doing what you’re supposed to do.

All right guys, so, do you think that remote working is, I mean, obviously, it’s becoming more popular, but do you think it’s actually going to become more of a normal thing for employees in not just small companies but also large companies?

Nathan: From my point of view, I would say it’s only going to continue to expand. I mean, I can’t see it going back to an office environment. There’s so many advantages for the company and for the employees. I mean, I would tell you that I would consider it a benefit, just like health insurance to be able to work at home. If I had a trade off, you know, if I was looking for a new job and I had one job that would let me work from home and one where I had to go into the office every day, I mean, I would absolutely figure that into the cost of the job and what I would have to give up to take that job. So I think it’s going to continue.

Joel: Yeah. And I think the open floor plan offices is kind of dying out because people are realizing or employers are realizing that it’s just causing more distractions. All right, so Jerry, you think, how else do you think it really benefits employers whenever they let their employees work from home? I mean, obviously, you save costs and space, but what else, what else benefits the employers?

Jerry: I don’t know, I’m not an employer. But-

Joel: Well, I mean, think about it. Think about it like, like, sorry, like better mental health or, you know, I mean, there’s all kinds of things that go along with people commuting. So, it’s hard for me to speak on these because I commute every day so I’m always white knuckled at the steering wheel.

Jerry: So in terms of mental health you’re talking about with the people who work from home for the employees point of view? Okay. It kind of goes back to, I mean, everybody’s situation is different. If someone has to do this, doesn’t have the benefit of let’s say childcare and you have kids at home all day while you’re trying to work, I could see where that causes a lot more mental stress, negative mental stress as opposed to just going to an office every day. So, there’s not a blanket statement if it’s good or bad. Some situations work better for others and others working from home doesn’t. I can see where a commute and eight hour office day seems beneficial for someone who wants to just put their head down and work without getting distracted from all the distractions we were just talking about.

Nathan: Yeah, I agree with that, totally. Sometimes it feels good to be able to get away from everything else and just concentrate on work. So yeah, I agree.

Joel: Okay. Well, I’ll tell you what, in my research, what I found was that a study done by the US Office of Disease Prevention found that in 2017 that remote workers actually took less sick days and had less annual visits to the doctor for viruses like the flu. And I think a lot of that is just because, hey, if you’re not out in the world interacting with people every day in an office, then you’re probably more likely to stay healthy.

Nathan: Right.

Jerry: Unless you have kids at home.

Joel: Right.

Jerry: They bring it in. It’s almost the same because they get it before anybody else does and they just bring it in. If you’re home all day and they’re here even for half the day, you know. But I know, I do, that does make sense because if you do work in an office building or even a floor that has 20, 30 people, yeah, your risks of catching something definitely goes up tremendously. So yeah, that does make sense.

Joel: Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, children are basically Petri dishes. They’re going to bring whatever illness that they can find home with them.

Nathan: One other thing to go back for just a second, one other thing that I had thought of in terms of will the trend continue, I think it works really well in our case, both Jerry and I had established longterm relationships with our employers before we went full time working from home for them. So, that makes it a lot easier. One of the big problems I think for employers is the trust factor. If you hired somebody sight unseen, maybe you just had one interview or two interviews and that’s all you’ve met them and then that person is going to work from home, then I just personally would be a little concerned that the work is going to get done. It would take some time to sort of establish the trust that that relationship wasn’t going to get taken advantage of.

Joel: Right. Okay. So, I also think that employers can attract talent from a larger talent pool whenever you offer the flexibility of working remote. There’s a lot of people that live far away from maybe a metropolitan area and, you know, like Jerry, he works an hour plus away from our office so it really benefits him. And we obviously didn’t want to lose Jerry whenever he moved, so we gave him that option. Kind of what I want to do is just ask you guys some questions that may help give some tips for working remote.

The first one is, do you guys have a designated workspace that you use?

Nathan: Yes I do.

Jerry: Yes.

Joel: Okay. Do you find that that helps you stay focused and kind of creates a work zone so you’re mentally prepared to work whenever you’re in that space?

Nathan: Yeah. And it helps to be able to close other things off. So, have an office with a door so that you can close the door when you’re having a private conversation so that you don’t get a lot of the house noise. That kind of helps. And it helps sometimes when you need to concentrate. Sometimes you can work in code and have music blaring and have all those kinds of outside things going on, whereas, sometimes there’s some work that you have to just concentrate and you can’t have those outside distractions. So, I think it helps me at least to have that sort of dedicated space.

Jerry: I’ll add to that. I agree with that. I also like, I do have a dedicated space with a full workstation. But I also, it depends on the week, depends on the weather, depends if it’s cloudy or sunny. Sometimes I’ll work in my office for four hours and if I need a mental break, I’ll go to the living room with a laptop or I’ll go to the kitchen table with a laptop and just kind of change it up. You can get that hour or two of extra light or extra, you know, I mean, everybody’s workspace is different. My office is kind of small but it has a lot of natural light. But if I go into the living room or kitchen, there’s a lot more natural light. So just breaking it up is an advantage that not a lot of places have when you go to a full time office. So I think that could be beneficial.

Joel: Okay. So do you guys keep a regular schedule daily or do you kind of work just off hours or whenever you want?

Nathan: For me, my schedule usually is around the same time. Sometimes I’ll come in an hour early, you know, maybe start at 6:30, seven o’clock and then maybe try to take off at four, 4:30 if I’ve got something going on. And then other times, I may come in and start at eight and then go to five maybe. And then sometimes I’ll break it up. If I’ve got something going on in the middle of the day, say I have a doctor’s appointment or something and I’m going to be out for an hour or maybe two hours, I may come in and work until noon, take off an hour and then come back and work until six.

So, I’m pretty flexible, but usually the standard work time, it’s important to be there just because you’re going to have calls during the sort of nine to five time periods. So for me, it’s pretty close to the same time every day but I’m a little flexible.

Joel: Now Jerry, I know you have young children that are in and out of school in daycare all day. What’s your schedule like?

Jerry: Yeah, it goes, definitely goes around that because yeah, one child’s in school eight to three every day, but the other one has definitely different schedules. Sometimes she only has half days and sometimes it’s full day. So I just go around that. But I mean, usually, I just have to set aside the half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the afternoon. But other than that, it’s full days. But yeah, it definitely changes on the day for me. But that goes back to, always keeping a laptop in the car and always keeping my Skype on just in case.

Joel: Now, do you generally work about the same hours each day but just maybe different, just different each day but like every Monday it’s about the same hours?

Jerry: Yeah. I mean, it depends on what is pressing, what projects are pressing. But yeah, it pushes back my day. If I have to go run and pick some kids up, that pushes me back an extra two hours. Sometimes I work till five, sometimes I work six or seven if it needs to happen. And same with Nathan. Nathan says he starts before 8:30. If I know I have to go do something the set hour and if I know something’s pressing, then yeah, my day has to start earlier.

Joel: Okay. All right. And not to sound creepy but what do you guys wear whenever you’re working from home?

Nathan: I wear pretty comfortable clothes. I’m not dressing up in dress clothes and then going and sitting in my office or anything like that. That’s part of the advantage is just being comfortable.

Joel: Well, that’s weird ne thing because whenever you show up here you’re always wearing a top hat.

Nathan: I try to dress nice whenever I go into the office, that’s the traditional-

Joel: I’m just giving you trouble.

Jerry: I do feel that I have to do something to myself though. Because if I just don’t do anything I feel like I’m just tired all day.

Nathan: You can’t just roll out of bed in pajamas and go to work. You got to do your daily routine and get, you know, like you’re getting ready for something. It sort of focuses the mind or whatever. If you just kind of roll out of bed and stumble into the office and sit down, you kind of wind up with a fuzzy mental state all the way I think.

Jerry: Right.

Joel: Do you guys keep the TV on, do you turn it off? Do you even have a TV in the area that you’re working in or radio or anything or, I mean, do you have anything entertainment wise going?

Nathan: Very rarely. I don’t have a TV in my office. I almost never, almost never watch TV. I’m now occasionally on the Internet, if I’m just taking a break, I might watch like a sports segment or a news segment or something like that, a video on YouTube or what have you. But I almost never watch a TV during work time at least. It’s too big of a distraction. If I turn on TV, that’s one of those things that’s really easy to just turn it on and then all of a sudden an hour or two hours has gone by.

Now, if I can get up and go grab some lunch, which I try to do out of the office, you know, I’ll go in the kitchen or go somewhere else so I’m not just sitting in the same chair all day, then I might watch TV during lunch or something. But for the most part, I don’t have anything like that when I’m working.

Jerry: For me, it was actually the same as when I worked in an office. I just had either talk radio, sports radio, podcast. It’s not TV but it’s definitely some type of audio. Sometimes it’s music, but a lot of times it’s just information or something like that up into lunch. Sometimes I’ll designate a lunchtime and I’ll either watch something or browse some more. But usually, it’s nothing more than a half an hour or an hour break and then it’s back to the grind.

Joel: Okay. So just something to occupy your mind.

Jerry: Yeah.

Joel: All right. All right. So, Nathan, okay, so before you were working with us, you were also working on your own deal. How did you handle whenever a client or a business associate of some kind wanted to meet? I mean, did you always have to go to their place? Did you use any coworking spaces?

Nathan: I tended to go to where the clients were. And actually, for the most part the clients never complained about that because they didn’t have to travel to come to my office or anything. I would probably, if they did want to go outside of their office to have it, I would probably just meet and do a lunch or something like that. I know some friends of mine that have a business in St Louis, they all work remote and they have a coworking space where they can come and have office meetings and do things like that. And I know that works really well for them. But in the 10 plus years that I was running my business, I never had a situation where I felt like I was missing something because I didn’t have an office space somewhere.

Joel: Okay. All right. Cool. All right, you guys have any final tips for working remote?

Nathan: No, I think we covered it.

Joel: All right, Jerry?

Jerry: Tips. It’s not for everybody. It works for some people and some people it doesn’t. And you know pretty, I mean, there’s some adjusting and you’ll know within six months if you get that option if you’re cut out for it or not.

Joel: All right.

Nathan: One thing before you go, one thing I would say that you can have trouble with is if you’re the type of person that requires a lot of feedback in your work and a lot of sort of bouncing things off other people to make progress, then that can be problematic when you’re working remotely. Now for me, I can get enough feedback remotely and I’ve learned the sort of tips and tricks and who to call and what resources to lean on whenever I need that kind of feedback and support. But people just starting out sometimes don’t have that. And so, it can be kind of isolating whenever you first start.

So I would say, you know, make sure you have some sort of resources, some people that you can talk to on a regular basis that you can throw ideas off of and work back and forth because you don’t, it makes it difficult to just sort of sit down, put your head down and work at a computer all day without having anybody to bounce ideas off of.

Joel: Right. All right. All right guys, well, I think we’ve said it all on the subject. I want to thank both of you for joining me.

Nathan: Thanks Joel.

Jerry: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Joel: And when we come back we’ll wrap it up with can’t let it go.