My eight-year-old niece, Esther, asked me “what would be your dream job?” Without wanting to lose my audience with specifics, I quickly came up with a visual of what my broader answer would be: Living in a rustic cabin on the side of a mountain lake, writing. This satisfied Esther, even though it did not involve wearing a tiara, so I didn’t have to qualify it with what kind of writing I would be doing, how often, for whom and whether I could earn a living (I can listen to those questions in my head, in my father’s voice!). But my response touches on an interesting topic – working remotely.
Recently, Microsoft was inspired to connect with a group of working women to jump-start a conversation on remote working preferences. Microsoft’s ultimate goal was to obtain some strong conversation topics across its social networks to support the marketing campaign of a new product, Microsoft Office 365.
The product, Office 365, is a package of cloud-based email, web conferencing, file sharing and web apps. The group Microsoft collaborated with was 85Broads, a global women's network whose mission is to generate exceptional professional and social value for its members.
What Microsoft learned through a survey with 85Broads, is that remote working increases productivity and job satisfaction. I definitely see the value of an effective remote working arrangement, much more so now that I am a working parent. Microsoft was wise in selecting 85Broads as their collaborators since a large percentage of working women prefer remote working arrangements in order to balance work and family. So here is my case for working remotely, intertwined with my case for working mothers:
The WhiteHouse.gov recently published a study on remote work that found “Almost one-third of firms cite costs or limited funds as obstacles to implementing workplace flexibility arrangements. However, the benefits of adopting such management practices can outweigh the costs by reducing absenteeism, lowering turnover, improving the health of workers, and increasing productivity.”
Those four benefits of adopting workplace flexibility arrangements are significant, especially because they represent a set of problems good management spends a great deal of resources analyzing and addressing, but finds itself unable to control. The opportunity to reduce absenteeism, lower turnover, improve health, and increase productivity should be major attention-grabbers for all organizations.
Besides being motivated by financial obligations and self-esteem, what I and many women bring to the remote working arrangement table is gratitude; being grateful for the opportunity to achieve an important balance.
What remote working mothers give back is substantially beyond the average employee: Employers discover contributors who are not only self-motivated to succeed, but also mature in their abilities to prioritize tasks, natural collaborators, and community builders.
Maturity: As mothers, our limits have been tested in ways we could never have imagined before children. The leveling experience of motherhood allows us to see the world through new eyes, discovering and appreciating our attributes and flaws, sympathizing with others’ struggles, celebrating each others’ successes, and eliminating previous separators such as popularity, income level and employment history. This translates to workers who design a remote work environment with minimal distractions to get the most done, decision-makers who understand their strengths and how to apply or mold them to the tasks at hand, judges who effectively sift through their work and objectives to identify what is most important at any particular time, and realists who know their limits, seeking help even from a remote location in order to stay on course without wasting time.
Collaboration: Parents involved in their children’s education bring a great deal of value to school systems that rely upon the skills of these parents to supplement the learning experience beyond school budgets. Management, communication, creative, organizational and people skills are applied and honed in parent organizations as well as civic involvement. This translates to workers who – previously stationed at their kitchen table, computer desk, or community gathering place -- developed or improved valuable skills used in identifying issues, performing needs analyses, designing creative solutions, tapping new resources, and building consensus.
Community-Centric: Social networking and collaboration tools provide remote workers with lifelines to the communities they need in order to succeed. These tools also empower remote workers to foster new communities to take their business to the next level. Most parents quickly recognize the value of community in the raising of their children. This appreciation of fellowship carries into business through online and offline communities. Today’s gadgets make it almost impossible to disconnect. By efficiently and methodically applying smart phones, tablets, laptops, webinars, video conferencing, and cloud computing, remote workers design effective remote working structures, suitable for meeting and exceeding their professional obligations.
While it is not all about working in yoga attire – although, for me, that certainly helps! – I bring the sum of my experiences to a remote working environment, feeling grateful for the opportunity to contribute to an organization’s success and to earn income, all while soothing my soul in small acts of “being there” for my family.
Remote working environment is definitely my preference. What is yours?