Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you know that many employers have become more open to allowing their employees to work remotely. It’s one of the many byproducts of the pandemic. And if you knew that, you are also aware that many employers are pulling or have pulled) their employees back into the office. For some companies, this has been a challenge as they are finding it can be difficult to turn “an outside dog into an inside dog.”
I’d have to say that one of the more common questions we get at Alliance deals with the likelihood of working remotely. My sense is that some people see working from home as a benefit. Perhaps that is true, but here is a question I wish we would get more often: “Is it a good career decision to seek a job that is remote?” The reason I’d like to get this question more often is that some people have the mindset that they want a remote job without first considering all of the ramifications. It seems to me that they look primarily at the upside: independence, the ability to live where you want, flexibility, savings in transportation costs, etc. Clearly, there are some great benefits. But it’s also wise to look at the potential pitfalls of taking a remote job. While there are many, I’d like to highlight a few here for you to consider.
- Loss of camaraderie and sense of team. Let’s face it, in the military you have been part of some very close-knit teams where you worked hard together, sweated together, solved problems together, celebrated together, etc. I’d have to say that in the corporate sector, the sense of team is going to be a little different than what you are accustomed to in the military. I’m not sure if you’ll ever replicate the sense of camaraderie that you experienced in the military. And that’s for most jobs, not just those that are remote. When you add the remoteness factor, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the team dynamics that you enjoyed in the military.
- Lack of visibility. If you work remotely and primarily interact with others in the virtual meeting space (Zoom, MS Teams, etc.), there is a drop in visibility that works in two directions. You’ll be exposed to a lot less when you are working from home than in an office environment where you can roam the halls or campus to see what’s going on. Plus working from home may limit your exposure to the important but unspoken norms and informal rules of behavior that drive organizations and help form a company’s culture. Having that exposure can be tremendously rewarding for your professional development. Similarly, if you are only seen primarily in virtual meetings, then key leaders and decision-makers might not see you when you are at your best. In fact, they might not see you much at all. Think about all of the times in the military when you had impromptu encounters with commanders or other senior officers that proved very fruitful for one reason or another. Those things become less likely when working remotely. Consequently, you may get overlooked when important personnel decisions are made.
- Mentorship. When you talk with people who have had great career success, you’ll find many of them credit the mentorship that they received from key leaders within the organization. Sometimes those leaders are not necessarily even in your direct chain. When working remotely, finding and holding onto a mentor can be a much more difficult task.
- Communication. Let’s face it when your communications are limited to phone calls or pre-arranged virtual meetings, it can be challenging to deal with information that has urgency and importance to it. The opportunities for impromptu and spontaneous conversations also become very limited.
- Discipline. Naturally, the military instills tremendous discipline into a person. But the discipline it takes to deal with all of the distractions when working from home is a little different. I’ve seen this firsthand when my two sons and their significant others were staying with us for a few weeks while working remotely. I consider all of them to be very conscientious hard workers. Nonetheless, it was easy to see how everyday distractions at home can affect productivity.
- Remote work doesn’t always last forever. It’s hard to believe, but even 3+ years after the pandemic, many companies are still taking a wait-and-see approach. But their signals are clear: they want to bring their workforce back into the office. If you are working remotely and get called back to the office, it can be a major upheaval to relocate your family and adjust your lifestyle.
Am I suggesting that you shouldn’t seek remote work? No, but in making a decision you have to weigh the pros and cons. I think if you weigh them out, you’ll find the pros tend to be short-term benefits whereas the cons can have longer-lasting career impacts. And we always suggest that you make career decisions with the long term in mind.
One more point. there are certain roles that, by their nature, tend to be remote-based. The prime example is a professional sales role. It’s been that way since long before the pandemic. So in cases like that, it is a little more logical (and expected) to accept a remote position. Sales is such a metric-driven function, working from home may not have some of the negative aspects that other roles do.