With the rise of more and more people who work remotely—otherwise known as “open-collar workers”—comes the need to revolutionize the traditional work space and the boundary between work and home. According to The Economics Daily (TED) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 24 percent of employed people worked from home. Additionally, The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report (FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics) findings showed that 3.9 million U.S. employees—2.9 percent of the country’s total workforce—work from home at least half of the time; this is up from 1.8 million in 2005, a 115 percent increase. Essentially, the U.S. workforce is increasingly becoming remote, meaning the work-from-home culture is on the rise and with it, a whole new set of data to monitor exploring the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting.
Some of the benefits for both the remote employer and employee, according to Global Workplace Analytics, include saving a business about $11,000 per person annually, while remote workers might save between $2,000 to $7,000 a year. More importantly, telecommuting also means the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the Earth’s ozone layer, not to mention rush-hour traffic becoming a thing of the past.
The New York Times (Feb. 2017) reported on a Gallup survey which found that remote employees are more likely to put in longer hours, increasing their productivity. An earlier NY Times (2014) article covered a telecommuting experiment conducted by Stanford University and Ctrip (China’s largest travel agency) in which 50 percent of those who worked from home asked to return to the office due to the lack of promotion and interaction with co-workers. The so-called “sweet spot” seems to be a combination of working from home and on-site, to remain active and a part of a work community.
At first glance, working from home can afford one the possibility of having a flexible schedule. There also is the assumption that remote work is ideal for those who have childcare responsibilities, or even frequent travelers, who can work on-the-go. Actually, according to Global Workplace Analytics, the average non-traditional worker is just as likely to be male or female, and is typically 45 or older with a college education; may or may not have children, and earns about $58,000 annually. And while those who haven’t had the opportunity to telecommute might consider all the benefits of telecommuting to outweigh working on-site, today’s wired workers also deal with the pitfalls that come from constantly being connected—especially when it comes to work-life balance.
In The Hard Truth About Telecommuting (Monthly Labor Review), researchers found the average telecommuter to be college-educated and in leadership positions. Their study compared telecommuters to non-telecommuters and found on average, telecommuters worked five to seven more hours per week and were less likely to work between 20 to 40 hours per week. In fact, due to the technological revolution’s promotion of constant connectivity, remote workers are more likely to put in overtime. Wired workers are taking less and less time off, since some were reported to work while even on vacation or on sick leave. While employers benefit from productive remote employee, for some telecommuters, the blurred boundary between home and office is contributing to an erosion of normal working hours. In other words, the world of telecommuting creates a nebulous line between home and work—when office hours begin and end—which may add to work-family conflicts and encourage employers to increase work expectations.
While home-offices, cafes, and public libraries are the most common go-to spots for remote workers, this guide explores some other less obvious work spaces. Those in the virtual or telecommuting industry have the ability to work on-the-go, which also means being creative with and breaking free from their home-office, the overcrowded café, and silent libraries. And based on the findings above, the average telecommuter may be in need of re-balancing their work-life hours, while taking advantage of their mobility. For telecommuters who need to breathe new life into their home and work life, or for those who need a break from the home-office, café and library scenes, read on to learn where to begin setting up better work and off-time boundaries.
In addition to breaking free from the standard remote atmosphere, the list below may also be helpful for those who don’t have productive home-offices and must seek out other wifi-connected places to work. Keep in mind: the list below is just a starting point for telecommuters to revamp their work week and may help with distinguishing between home and work. Remember, the world is filled with spaces that can be the next best “office.”
To change things up from a regular WFH routine, the buzzing, whirling academic energy around a college campus can enhance any workflow. Working at a college campus can also be a diverse place to spend a full work day, since there generally is regular public transportation, ample space, and a variety of facilities and landscapes to choose from. Although the wifi might require a student or faculty account, there is usually guest access for the public and plenty of quiet spaces to make a phone call. Another benefit of taking up an office for a day on campus is that the student center or food court may have a wide selection of restaurants and cafés for breakfast and lunch breaks.
More and more public spaces are becoming wired, or one can also create a personal hotspot on a smartphone and find the perfect bench or table to work at. For those who enjoy working outdoors, the dream to work at the beach can come true. In addition, many cities throughout the U.S. are also providing free wifi in public spaces, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. While working at the park or beach might be season- and weather-dependent, this non-traditional office just might be the perfect place for people-watching and to get a dose of sun and fresh air, providing a break from the home-office, busy café or too-quiet library.
An often-overlooked place to work for the day is at a local hotel lobby. While hotels usually provide secure wifi and a business center for guests, some hotels may have public wifi networks within the lobby. In addition, those hotels with a business center may include printing services and a quiet place to take a phone call. Some also might have a restaurant or bar inside for a convenient place for a break or after-work drink.
By far the most creative space for open-collar workers is within a museum. Surrounded by inspiring spaces to work, one can also stay up to date with the latest and current trends in art. In addition, art galleries may also provide one with a cultural and artistic education while on the job. In fact, public health research shows being in a museum for prolonged periods of time can enhance emotional well-being and cognitive function—helpful for everyone, especially while working.
For a more relaxed, fun indoor or outdoor atmosphere, working from a local brewpub can be the best place to generate ideas. Most bars and pubs also serve food, desserts, and non-alcoholic drinks, and for those who work at a bar until the end of the work day, it’s easy to celebrate some much-needed time off with a drink or dessert. Although, the bar scene is generally not the best work environment for everyone, some telecommuters thrive at the lively bar-office.
Co-operative work spaces are popping up throughout the U.S, including in smaller cities. Although some may require a fee to join a community of other freelancers, the beauty of coworking spaces is the opportunity to have a working community to network with. Coworking spaces usually provide high-speed, secure wifi; comfortable work desks; and other member perks. These spaces are ideal for those who are local professionals itching to collaborate, rent conference room space and for business travelers.
Even for those who don’t have a plane to catch, airports—even waiting areas before security checkpoints—generally have secure and reliable wifi. Airports are another high-energy space to spend some work time, watching planes and passengers flow in and out of town. There is also not an obligation to purchase anything and there are usually comfortable seats to sit and answer emails.
For those who may need to send a quick email (and when a personal hotspot is not available), most of the nation’s top retail businesses will more than likely provide free wifi. These businesses include: