By Lida Citroën
As business becomes more global in nature, so it is becoming more remote. Increasingly, employers are embracing the idea of virtual employees who work from home since these employees often bring unique and diverse skills, and use less workplace resources (e.g. a desk, office phone and parking spot). Today, 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time, and the trend is growing.
Between 2005 and 2012, the number of telecommuters rose 79 percent, and by 2020, some estimate that at least half of us will work remotely. This indicates a great opportunity for veterans who have decided that going into an office to do their work every day is not desirable.
As you consider your career after military service and possibly working remotely (also known as “telecommuting”) consider these advantages to virtual work:
1. Great work for parents and students. Many virtual, or work-from-home, scenarios allow you the flexibility to work around your own schedule. For stay-at-home parents, college or graduate school students, the opportunity to design their work projects around naptime or classes is ideal. Some jobs, however, require specific hours (such as daytime for telemarketing callers) and specific days for the jobs to be complete.
2. Less hassle with logistics. Many veterans making the civilian transition struggle with what to wear to work, how to interact with co-workers, and networking on the job. Virtual work takes all those challenges away. For a veteran who doesn’t drive (or want to travel to work,) or invest in a wardrobe, a telecommuting career removes the barriers of common work logistics.
3. Flexibility in lifestyle. Imagine being able to do your data entry work in your bathing suit from your cabana in the Bahamas. Many virtual jobs don't have requirements around where you work, provided the work gets done. For individuals who want the freedom and flexibility to work from home or a coffee shop, this can be a great lifestyle choice.
4. Multiple clients and accounts. People concerned about just working for one company often like virtual work which allows them to have multiple clients to work on at one time. The variety of companies and industries keeps the work and learning fresh and vibrant, and more interesting.
5. Short-term projects or long-term engagements. Similarly, if your arrangement as a virtual worker is on a contract basis, you can choose projects that are short-term (allowing for a timely change of company and project often) or long-term (providing you with stability and continuity of work).
Sounds pretty good to work virtually, doesn’t it? There are drawbacks, however, which should also be considered.
Before you accept a virtual job, know that the work typically involves:
1. Loneliness. Coming out of an environment as close-knit and team-focused as military service, you could potentially find virtual work lonely. This type of work has very little face-to-face interaction (will be by video call or infrequent in-person meetings.) The lack of interaction with others, being able to bounce ideas off your colleagues, and the social interaction can be problematic for some workers.
2. Maintaining professionalism. Just because you can work from home -- in your yoga pants with your Golden retriever at your feet -- does not mean you can be unprofessional. Anything you type or say into the phone or computer must represent the highest form of professionalism at all times. You cannot let your guard down just because you aren’t in the presence of your clients or colleagues.
3. Hard to separate personal and work life. For many virtual employees, the lines between personal and work life can blur. Your computer and your work is always right there, nearby, beckoning you to put in a few more hours of work. Similarly, when at the computer getting work done, it’s tempting to put a load of laundry in the washer, or handle other personal tasks while in the house. This can be problematic for less-disciplined workers.
Consider virtual work if the work you do can be done remotely, you are attracted to the flexibility and freedom of lifestyle, and you have the discipline to stay focused when you are working, and can unplug from work when you’re off the clock.