Remote Jobs Finding Remote Work

It's a brave new (working) world. Remote work is on the rise, with about 5 million Americans, 3.6% of the workforce, currently working at home half the time or more. 43% of employees work from home at least some of the time, regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, and more people than ever are clamoring to get in on the remote lifestyle. With better and better systems in place for utilizing technology, the need for in-office employees is slowly dwindling.

But before you jump on board the remote worker train, it's important to know what working remotely entails, what industries and positions are most likely to support remote workers, and whether or not working remotely is a good fit for you. If it is, you'll also need to know how to land a remote job so you can start celebrating casual Friday every day of the week.

Defining the terms - What is a remote job?

In the following sections, we provide you with a set of remote and work from home jobs you can apply for. We also let you know about online platforms that hire freelancers and contractors quickly in case you need to start making money right away.

What is the definition of remote work?

“Remote work” is an all-encompassing term that simply refers to any job where you don’t have to commute into an office. All you need is a stable internet connection and a computer. It doesn’t matter if you get your work done at a home office, a coffee shop, or a beach in Thailand; if you’re not surrounded by your coworkers, employer, or clients, it’s a remote job.

While this is quite a broad category, remote work can be broken down into more specific elements.

What is telecommuting?

A somewhat dated term, telecommuting refers to a job where you’re working some or all of your hours from home, but you live near your company. You don’t have to show up to the office every day, but you may turn up now and again to attend in-person meetings with clients or coworkers.

There might be legal, tax, client base, or travel reasons that a company wants its remote workers to live in the same city or state as the company. If you’re looking to be 100% remote or have the option to get your job done from a beach on a far-off island, this may not be your top choice. But if you like having personal contact with your coworkers and don’t want to be totally cut off from water cooler antics and company happy hours, this might be the best fit for you.

What does work from home mean?

Pretty straightforward here – work from home means you, well, work from your home. It doesn’t matter if your company is 5 or 5,000 miles away from your living room – you’re not going to the office.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from using a shared coworking space, a coffee shop, or anywhere with a stable internet connection and an atmosphere that allows you to get your work done effectively. Just because a company bills a job as “work from home,” doesn’t mean they’re going to put a tracking device on you to ensure you’re literally working from your residence.

What does it mean for a company to be fully distributed

A fully distributed company doesn’t have a central office and all employees work remotely. This model works best for businesses whose products and services are entirely online to begin with. Think online marketing, web design, or software companies. Workers typically communicate using solely online platforms.

Most of these companies hit the ground running as fully distributed operations, meaning they’re more likely to have a top-of-the-line onboarding practices for new hires. That’s one of the big draws of a fully distributed company – they have more experience managing remote workers and are, therefore, (usually) better at it.

Partially distributed

Any company that has at least one remote worker can be described as partially distributed. These are typically companies that started as traditional businesses with offices or those that require a physical presence for one reason or another. The company has a centralized office where some proportion of the workforce gets their work done, either all the time or also partially.

Just because the position you’re applying for is 100% remote, it doesn’t mean there’s no difference for you between fully and partially distributed companies.

Onboarding for remote workers in a partially distributed company might not be as sophisticated as a fully distributed one for starters. Also, expect a different company culture where there might be some friction between the core team going into the office and the remote team. Remote workers might feel more like outsiders, and as such, remote employee retention is typically lower for these companies.

That being said, do your research and find out how dedicated the company is to remote worker onboarding and fostering a successful remote work culture.

What is a flex job?

A “flex job” is a position where the employee has freedom regarding when and how much he or she works. While “remote” refers to your workspace, “flex” refers to your work time. Not all flex jobs are remote, but every remote job is a flex job. Before applying for (and definitely before accepting) a “flex job,” confirm that the position is as remote as you want/need/expect.

What is the definition of a freelancer

While all of the above types of remote work involve being a permanent employee of a specific company, working as a freelancer truly means that you are your own boss. A freelancer chooses what contracts to take, what clients to take on, and what hours to work. With extra freedom comes extra responsibility; you’re also in charge of billing clients, paying personal and business taxes, buying necessary equipment/software, and getting health insurance. There’s also less security as a freelancer. Some months you might be flush with projects, while other times you might go weeks without anything to do.

Is a remote job right for you? Pros and cons of working remotely

99% of people answered yes to the question “would you like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of your career, so it seems like working remotely is super appealing for the vast majority of people. But just because you like the sound of getting your work done in your PJs with your dog at your side sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t mean that the remote lifestyle is for everyone. What are the big draws to remote work?

Pros

  • Flexible schedule: The #1 benefit workers see to working remotely is a flexible schedule. Millenials especially appreciate flexibility, even more than student loan or tuition reimbursement. Don’t feel like waking up at 6 in the morning? No problem! Have to bring your child to a doctor’s appointment? No need to ask anyone for a few hours off, just get any time-sensitive work done ahead of time and you’re in the clear, no permission needed. Your time is your own, and for those that can manage themselves effectively, this aspect of remote work is incredibly satisfying.

  • Work from anywhere: Not only does remote work free up your time, but it also allows you to work from (basically) anywhere with a stable internet connection and space for your hardware. If you want to spend a week at the beach, go for it; just don’t forget about the work you still have to do while you’re working on that tan. Aside from vacationing, remote work allows you to move freely around the country (or even to other countries) without having to worry about job stability. Note that not every remote position will offer total geographic freedom, so be sure to see specific company's policies regarding this perk.

  • No commute: Pretty self-explanatory – if you’re working from home, your commute time just got cut down to however long it takes to walk from your bed to your workspace. Even a half-time telecommuter saves 11 workdays per year in time they would have spent commuting. Depending on how long your commute used to be, those time savings could be up to three times as high. The elimination of stressful 8 a.m. traffic jams or bustling subway rides is great on its own, but the lack of a daily commute brings up the financial perk of remote work.

  • Save money: Even taking into consideration additional energy and home food costs, it’s estimated that working from home just half the time saves employees between $2,500 and $4,000 a year. If you’re fully remote, those estimates double. Not to mention that some states offer cash incentives for remote workers that move there. Who knew that working in sweatpants could be so economical?
    To get an idea how much you’d save in your specific situation, I recommend taking a second with our work from home savings calculator.

  • Higher productivity: 77% of employees report greater productivity when working off-site compared to at the office. Interruptions at work can cost up to 6 hours a day, and when you’re working from home, nobody’s dropping in to ask those “quick questions.” The bottom line is remote work is more focused on results than time spent at a desk. Meaning you can get into a deep 4-hour work session at home and complete a higher quality project than would’ve been possible at an 8-hour day in an office.

Cons

  • Tough to unplug: The #1 issue reported by remote workers is the difficulty of unplugging. That flexible schedule we were touting before is a double-edged sword. While it’s great that there’s no official start time for your workday, there’s also no official end time. Going into the office every day might be stressful, but at least when 5 o’clock rolls around, you can forget about it until the next day. Of course, even on-site workers might struggle with putting work out of their minds during their free time, so this one really depends on your personal relationship with work.

  • Isolation: Loneliness and difficulty collaborating or communicating with one’s team are big struggles for remote workers. Nearly half of remote workers feel less connected to their in-office counterparts than they would be if they were in the office. This might not be as big an issue if you’re working for a fully distributed company, where cooperation and communication are typically front and center in the corporate culture.

  • Staying motivated: While being your own boss sounds ideal, there’s a chance that you won’t make a very good boss. Remote work is typically results-oriented; as long as you can hit your deadlines and turn in high-quality work, everything should go just fine, regardless of how many hours you put in. But some people need an authority figure looking over their shoulder to get that shot of extrinsic motivation

    I know I was touting fewer interruptions at home than the office a second ago, but your home comes with its own distractions; a TV, a video game console, a snack pantry, pets, roommates, children can all represent serious threats to your productivity. Making sure you have a set-up that allows you to separate your home office from the more appealing parts of your home is key to successful remote work.

Who's hiring? The top industries and positions for remote employees

Seeing as remote work is made possible by the internet and computer technology, it’s no surprise that the tech industry is hot for aspiring remote workers. However, you shouldn’t look at that fact as a non-techy person and think that the remote life is out of reach. There are plenty of industries that hire remote workers for several different positions. That being said, being tech-literate is crucial to any remote job.

  1. Information Technology

    No shockers here, IT is a booming field for remote employees. Whether you’re writing code, collecting and organizing data, or working on cloud computing, these jobs aren’t going away any time soon. Don’t be put off if your lack of experience is keeping you from landing a job; there are plenty of freelance opportunities available to help beef up your portfolio and get you some hands-on remote experience at the same time.

    • Growth outlook: +12% over the next decade

    • Median salary: $86,320

  2. Healthcare

    This might come as a surprise, but the medical and health field has the largest number of remote jobs in the country. This covers a wide range of positions, from insurance and billing to working as a nurse that provides call-based service to patients. With an aging population, jobs in healthcare are certain to keep growing.

    • Growth outlook: +14% over the next decade

    • Median salary: $29,740 for support, $66,440 for practitioners

  3. Management

    Management is a broad term, so we can break it down into the two most common subcategories of account and product management. Account managers help customers get the best experience with the company’s service after they’ve purchased it. Project managers make sure a company’s initiatives are well organized and fully functional. Project manager positions are more numerous in IT, but pretty much any industry is going to have projects that need to be, well, managed.

    • Account manager growth outlook: Little growth over the next decade

    • Median salary: $59,082

    • Project manager growth outlook: +31% over the next decade

    • Median salary: $75,474

  4. Customer Service

    For years, customer service has been seen as a good candidate for outsourcing. But as clients’ needs have grown more complex, so has the need for customer service reps who know the company’s products and services intimately. This position will exist at virtually every company, and the same logic that led it to be outsourced applies for making this an excellent position for a remote worker.

    • Growth outlook: Little growth over the next decade

    • Median salary: $33,750

  5. Education

    From elementary schools to universities, more educational institutions are looking at ways to increase their reach and ability to connect with students online. There are loads of freelance opportunities for tutors as well. Program and curriculum directors are also natural candidates for remote jobs. Don’t want to commit to a full-time job? Teaching English to students in foreign countries is a great part-time gig. Many of these companies are based out of China, and while VIPkid is the most popular company, do a bit of research and you’ll find plenty of companies offering $15+/hr.

    • Growth outlook: +5% over the next decade

    • Median salary: $49,700

  6. Writing

    Writers were really the pioneers of remote work; I don’t think Hemingway went into an office from 9-5 every day, after all. These days, just about every industry has an online presence and therefore needs writers to beef up their blogs or develop content for marketing. Of course, you could also be a more traditional writer (books, magazines, screenplays, etc.)

    • Growth outlook: Little growth over the next decade

    • Median salary: $62,170

  7. Financial

    Typically dealing with data and math, jobs in finance are another natural fit for going remote. Perhaps no better job is suited for introverts than accounting; couple that with working from your home and you’ve got a recipe for success. Handling accounts, processing data, and working on taxes are just a few other remote options available in the financial industry.

    • Growth outlook: +7% over the next decade

    • Median salary: $68,350

  8. Sales

    Just because salespeople are natural extroverts, doesn’t mean that the role doesn’t fit in the remote model. On the contrary, being a next-level communicator over the phone, video calls, and email is what it’s all about as a remote sales rep. A great position for entry-level applicants with virtually no income cap for experienced players.

    • Growth outlook: Little growth over the next decade

    • Median salary: $28,180 (includes cashiers and retail workers – so expect a remote salary to be significantly higher, especially with commissions)

  9. Honorable mentions

    Consulting, translating, HR, non-profit, QA, research, admin, marketing

Where and how to find the perfect remote job

Finding a remote job has never been easier. Zippia’s tool for narrowing job listings down to remote jobs is a good place to start. Remember that glossary of terms at the top of this article? Be sure to keep that in mind during your search – if you’re not sure if a job is fully remote, there are geographic limitations, or what proportion of the company is remote, be sure to ask at some point in the application process.

Not all remote jobs are created equal, and it's important that you get just what you’re looking for and that you don’t waste time applying for roles that don’t suit your situation.

Set a goal

For starters, ask yourself what you want out of remote work:

  • Do you want to be a full-time remote worker, or are you okay with (or more interested in) going into the office sometimes?

  • What benefits are must-haves for you?

  • Do you want a permanent position or freelance work?

Once you’ve got that sorted, figure out what position you’re interested in. I know this sounds basic, but narrowing down your search with specific keywords will save you a lot of time out in the weeds of less-than-desirable job postings.

Network

Just like a traditional job hunt, making good use of your network is a great way to land a job. Having a solid "elevator pitch" might not seem as necessary for a remote job search, but you never know how or when an opportunity will present itself, so be prepared with a quick spiel about what makes you extra special and why you’d make a valuable employee.

If you’re in the early stages of the job search, consider reaching out to any other remote workers you know and ask them how they got their gigs and what skills they felt were essential both to land the job and perform well in it.

Get Creative

To be even more proactive, think about ways to get in touch with a company you’re interested in. It might feel weird directly emailing a team lead of a team you’d like to join, but remember that taking this initiative might help you get noticed. Especially if you’re emailing them something that they could potentially use right away, like a redesign of the company’s logo or a blog post that shows you’re an industry expert.

This demonstrates precisely what you’d bring to the table if hired. It might not directly lead to a job offer, but it might just move you to the top of the stack when they’re looking at a later date. In any case, look at this project as a way of building a body of self-directed work to show off down the road.

The Basics: Resumes, Cover letters, and communication tips for remote applicants

You should look at applying for a remote job as your first remote project for that job. Some people rely on their winning charm and charisma for landing a job; being a people person, so to speak. But with remote jobs, outside of a video interview (more on that later), you must rely on your online (written) communication skills to sell yourself. If you can’t properly format a resume or write a coherent email, hiring managers aren’t going to give you the time of day.

  • Adapting your resume and cover letter for remote job applications: Like all job applications, your resume for a remote job should be tailored for the specific position. I.e., don’t include that summer camp job when applying for an IT role. On the other hand, any remote experience you have should be listed. Even if it’s not directly related to the role, the mere fact that you worked in a position where you successfully managed yourself is a big deal. Any experiences you have that highlight your self-motivation, solid communication skills, time management, and fluency with technology are going to look especially good here.

    Mention any general software you’re comfortable/proficient with, including remote-specific video conferencing or collaborative tools. Even those without remote experience probably have a lot of the skills necessary for the job – take an inventory of these and present them in a way that makes you look like a candidate who’s more than comfortable with the remote aspect of the job. Giving examples of self-directed projects or instances of completing projects with little or no oversight also work well here. More specifics on that later.

    As for the cover letter, don’t harp on how much you want to work remotely. We know you’re psyched about the prospect of working in sweatpants every day, but that shouldn’t come off as your primary motivator for applying. Like all cover letters, focus on your excitement for what the company does and what value you’ll add to that. Communication is a crucial part of being a successful remote employee, so your cover letter should be a home run.

  • Correspondence: In any application process, keeping up a good back-and-forth email chain is important. Maintaining clear and concise communication is even more valuable when applying for a remote position. For any and all emails, keep it short and easy to read. No run-on sentences, no huge blocks of text, and no hyper-formality. Obviously, no typos or grammar mistakes.

    You want your personality to come through, but you also want to match the vibe of the company. How does the company bill itself on its website? Do they have a blog where you can try to suss out the general tone? Maybe the founder is an avid poster on LinkedIn or Twitter – figure out how these people write about their field and their work and copy it. Adjust once you get a back-and-forth going with the actual hiring manager or your future boss.

    You want to get across the message that you get how things are done at the company and that you’re a natural fit. To be safe, err on the side of being over-formal, to show that you’re still a serious individual who respects the fact that you’re still in the try-out stage.

How to stand out: What employees are looking for in remote employees

  • Show, don't tell: Building up a portfolio of self-directed projects is the best way to demonstrate to employers that you’re capable of being creative, building something awesome, and managing your time effectively without oversight. This is especially important if you don’t have any formal remote experience.

    If you’re trying to be a web developer, post some sample code. If you’re a graphic designer, work on some fun projects in your free time. Writing a blog on topics related to your field is an option for just about anyone trying to show off their remote work skills.

  • Establish an online presence: Depending on your field, this is good advice for any applicant, remote or otherwise. But for a remote applicant, it’s especially important that you’re not an internet ghost. This works well in tandem with the above advice of making a portfolio of self-directed projects. You don’t necessarily need to have a blog and a stellar personal website to get the attention of a company (although it can’t hurt).

    The easy answer is to ensure that your social media (especially LinkedIn) lets potential employers know who you are. At a minimum, complete your profile with genuine and well-thought-out information about your professional life. Don’t just set it and forget it though; post an original status or share articles relevant to your field regularly. Oh, and have a snazzy profile picture.

  • Beef up your credentials: This is especially important if you’re just breaking into remote work or you’re an entry-level applicant. Not only can you work remotely, but you can get a lot of helpful (or downright essential) training right from your home as well. Online classes exist for everything from coding to TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. Research what sort of programming languages, software, or certifications are required knowledge in your field and do your best to fill in any gaps you might have. Not only will you be more qualified, but you’ll also feel more confident that you speak the same language as your future coworkers after you get hired. For almost any remote applicant, it’s crucial to find out the most commonly used video conferencing programs that you’ll be using, so you can practice with them beforehand.

How to nail your remote interview

  • Create A Distraction-free environment: You want to conduct your interview in a quiet room where you can focus.

    1. Distractions: Eliminate external noises like radios or television. Also, make sure that your phone is set to silent if you are conducting a video interview and that you turn all of your notifications off.

    2. Children If you have children, make sure that someone is looking after them. If they are old enough, explain to them that they have to be quiet and cannot bother you unless it is an emergency for the duration of the interview.

    3. If you have a pet, try to keep them distracted during your interview. An excellent way to do this is to give them a treat before your meeting starts. For dogs, try to eliminate their barking.

  • Interview Backdrop: For video interviews, creating a professional backdrop is very important.

    1. Clean: Make sure that the room you are in is clean. There should be no stacks of loose paper, dirty dishes, laundry, garbage on the floor, or unmade beds in the background. You should also eliminate clutter in the room.

    2. Decorations: The decorations in the room should be appropriate. For example, make sure your wall art does not have any curses in it and that the images are fitting for an interview.

    3. Lighting: The room you choose to conduct your interview in should be well lit so that the interviewer does not have trouble seeing you. If your interview is by a window, make sure that you are not backlit or that the light is too bright, creating a glare.

  • Test Your Tech: Make sure that everything is working ahead of time.

    1. Camera: Test the camera that you are going to use ahead of time. You do not want to discover at the beginning of your interview that it is broken.

    2. Microphone: Make sure your audio works and that the sound quality is good. The interviewer may get frustrated if it is hard to hear you.

    3. Internet and Service: For video interviews, double-check to see if you have reliable internet. For phone interviews, make sure that there is adequate service in the room where you are going to have your interview.

    4. Video Software: Test the software you are using ahead of time. Many recruiters use Skype or Zoom, which allows you to test the platform, camera, and microphone ahead of time

  • Interview Attire: Dressing to impress is not just important for in-person interviews. Even if it is a phone interview, dressing a certain way can give you confidence and put you in the right headspace.

    1. Top: For video interviews, your interviewer is most likely only going to see your torso. Make sure that you are wearing a professional shirt that is wrinkle and stain free.

    2. Best Colors To Wear: Look through these six common colors that individuals wear to interviews and what they convey.

    3. Patterns: Avoid busy patterns for video interviews. They can be distracting, especially on camera.

  • Video Interview Tips: Here are a few helpful tips for video interviews.

    1. Eye Contact: Making eye contact does not necessarily mean that you have to look directly into the camera. Make sure that your eyes are focused on one thing. If you are looking at different parts of your screen, the interviewer will notice and might think you are uninterested or distracted. If you are choosing to focus on the interviewer, make sure that their image is close to the webcam. So if your webcam is in the middle center of your screen, do not have the interviewer in the bottom left corner.

    2. Handwritten notes: Taking handwritten notes may seem a little strange since you are on your computer where taking notes is easier. However, your interviewer can hear you typing, which can be distracting. They also may think that you are doing something other than taking notes.

    3. Interview Cheat Sheet: Interviewing on your computer gives you an automatic advantage. You get to have notes handy in case you need to reference them. However, you do not want to be scrolling through endless pages and have your eyes looking at different things. Instead, have a few key points in a document as a backup.

    4. Webcam Placement: Make sure your computer is in a good position. Some computers have a built-in webcam on top of the screen and others on the bottom. If your camera is on the bottom, make sure that it is not angled strangely. External webcams often work best if you place them on the top of your screen in the very center.

  • What If Something Goes Wrong: No matter how much you prepare, you cannot control everything that will happen. What if the internet cuts out, the power goes out, or your kid comes rushing in with an emergency?

    1. Stay Calm: Do not panic. When you maintain your composure, you can think more clearly and act more rationally.

    2. Look at it as an opportunity: Take advantage of the situation and use it to show the employer how you act under pressure and deal with problems when they arise.

    3. Have a backup: Have backup plans in case your internet cuts out, or the power goes out. For example, you can use cellular data to email the interviewer if these things happen.

    4. Apologize: Say you are sorry once and then move on. Your interviewer can sense if you are panicked or calm, and if you apologize profusely, again, and again, they might get annoyed.

  • Questions Your Interviewer May Ask Specific to Working at Home: Your interviewer is going to ask you several questions to determine if you are the right candidate for the job. Here are five specific questions targeted to work from home positions.

    1. Have you worked at home previously? If you have great, this gives you an advantage. You can show that you are experienced and versed in dealing with the challenges of remote work. Talk about how you communicated effectively, especially with coworkers in different time zones. If you have not worked remotely, explain the attributes you have that would make you a good remote worker like being good with communication, organization, time management, self-motivation, and technology.

    2. Do you have a home office? Where will you be working? Do not answer this question by saying that you do not have one. Instead, say that you have a designated space at home where you can work productively.

    3. Are you a good communicator? Give examples. Give concrete examples of times where you excelled at communicating with others while working remotely. If you have never worked remotely, give examples of times that you communicated with others in your office or with remote clients.

    4. What do you think your biggest challenge will be as a remote worker? How will you address it? Do not say that you will not have any challenges. Be honest. You can talk about staying focused, avoiding distractions, and staying motivated throughout the day. Once you address these obstacles, explain how you can overcome them.

    5. How do you stay motivated? Explain the tools and strategies you use to stay focussed and get your work done. Maybe you make a handwritten list at the beginning of each day and cross off things as you go through them. Perhaps you installed software that blocks distracting applications and websites like Instagram and Facebook.

  • Questions to Ask Your Interviewer: At the end of most interviews, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them. Having questions ready to ask shows that you have done your research and are interested in the position. Here are a few questions that you can ask.

    1. Are employees in different time zones. If so, what does communication look like? How do you deal with the time differences?

    2. Do you use a specific platform to communicate? Do you have virtual meetings? If so, how often?

    3. Who would I report to? What does the communication between that person and me look like? How often will I get feedback?

    4. Are work hours strict or flexible?

    5. What does a successful remote worker look like at your company? How do you measure the success of your remote employees?

Remote work in the COVID-19 and Post-COVID World

At the start of April, around 16 million U.S. knowledge workers began working remotely because of Covid-19. As more states rolled out stay-at-home orders, that number surely rose even higher. That means at least one-quarter of all knowledge workers were/are working remotely. According to a survey by Slack, about two-thirds of respondents who were working remotely were doing so because of Covid-19 concerns. Newly remote workers made up more than half of all remote workers.

Of course, most of these remote freshmen are heading back to the office when it’s safe to do so, but the pandemic has doubtlessly sped up a shift in work culture that was already underway. A Gartner CFO survey conducted in March revealed that 74% of CFOs plan to move at least 5% of on-site employees to remote to permanently remote positions after the pandemic. It’s becoming clear that more and more roles can be performed remotely and that companies willing to invest in fostering good remote work practices are going to be well-situated in the future. So shake off the idea that securing a remote position is a fantasy because it’s only going to become more and more normal.

Expert Opinions

Chris Dyer

Chris Dyer is a recognized performance expert. Constantly intrigued by what makes some businesses and individuals more successful than others, Chris has dedicated years of research to uncovering what drives productivity and profits.

What do you see as the biggest advantage of working for a fully-distributed company? Are there any shortcomings to this arrangement?

From the perspective of the employee, if they’re fully-distributed, you’re getting the best of what was intended for that structure. Often a lot of people are brought on and they are remote or partly remote, or maybe a lot of their other team or company is in a physical office. If you’re in a fully remote organization, everyone is on that same level playing field as you, and it gives you all the things that you can take advantage of [being] fully remote – when you work, how you work, where you work – and gives you that complete flexibility. Although I’m a big advocate for having a steady place for you to work if you to go work for a few weeks and help out a grandparent or a sibling or something comes up in your life, you’re not having to take time off, you can just easily switch gears and end up in a different location and continue to work. That flexibility component is great.

Additionally, having the deep time to think and not be distracted by other people, of whatever’s going on in an office, is often one of the biggest things that remote employees or newly-remote employees mention as an advantage. They didn’t realize how much more work they could get done if they had deep time to think and to work.

Certainly, there are [positions] where if you need to be collaborating or working together, it’s more ideal. In a lot of those situations, then this can be a shortcoming. If you want to make a plane, you need to be in a plane hangar, if you want to make wine, you should be in a vineyard. There are these situations where remote is not really applicable.

To counter what I said earlier about having that deep time to think, you also need to be very disciplined that you’re not overworking, that you’re not bleeding through the lines of work-life balance. Have a home office. Come up with some sort of boundaries, some sort of plan on how you’re going to deal with that, and that’s going to be different for every person.

What is the most important thing for a person to consider before he or she commits to a remote job?

So if they’ve never done it before – do they have a dedicated space? You can’t use the kitchen table, you can’t be using a desk in your bedroom. You need a really dedicated space that hopefully has a door that can shut. You need to have the physical structure that you’ll be in for most of the time when you work and not be constantly on the road or constantly gone, unless it’s a part of your job, like a salesperson or something. I have known people that try to just travel all the time while trying to work and it was really difficult for them.

If you’re a person that needs a certain amount of social outlet or you’re an extrovert, or having deep connections with people is a really important part of your life (which for most people it is). If you’ve used work, in the past, as a place for that social engagement, remote work is going to feel very lonely. Remote work can’t be the place where you get most of your social interaction. Now, if you have a great company culture, you may, as a bonus, get that, but I find most people need to have that social interaction somewhere else. It needs to be in some other part of their lives and not be at work.

What qualities are hiring managers looking for when they hire a fully remote employee? What is the biggest “red flag” that could hurt an applicant’s chance of receiving a job offer?

Certainly, responsibility, self-discipline, that they can manage themselves and don’t need someone standing over them telling them what to do all the time. We definitely want people who set goals, set clear KPIs, and know what’s expected. And they can go and do it. We’re happy if they ask a lot of questions, but they need to be able to learn, they need to be able to evolve into that position, and be able to start to manage their time, and be able to figure things out

If someone says to me “oh, work from home, it’s all about working from home” – that the reason they’ve applied for this job is just because it’s work from home and they know nothing about the company, they know nothing about the job, they know nothing about what they’re going to be doing – it’s all about just being remote; that for me is a red flag. They often don’t know what the job entails, and really if someone is ultimately looking for a good fit, they should be worried about “what is the company like,” they should be worried about what is their job going to be moreso than the fact that it happens to be remote. And I often see that people will go down that path.

Additionally, if they have challenges technically, in being able to get on a Zoom call with me or schedule time to talk, if they are inconsistent in their communication – that’s a big red flag. If they can’t handle that stuff well while they’re on the job-hunting phase, then how are they going to do that as an employee?

What’s the most common mistake people make when attempting to land a remote job?

Again, I think that they overly focus on the remote part and not spend enough time on the job and the company. Also, they need to make sure that the job they’re going to be in and the people they’re going to be working with are not too many time zones off. I find that three time zones is about the maximum you can really be collaborating.

Now, sometimes the work is continuous and that’s different, but if you have to be collaborating with a team and they’re like “yea, your team is going to be in South Africa,” and you’re the only other person not in South Africa, that’s really, really hard to do. It’s too many time zones. To be effective, you want to make sure you understand who you’ll be working with and are they in the same country as you, the same continent as you. Assuming that it’s all going to work isn’t necessarily true.

If it’s continuous work, it’s fine that you can keep going from time zone to time zone. People can just keep picking up a project and keep working on it. But if it’s collaborative, and you’re in some sort of service type situation, more than three time zones tends to be pretty unmanageable.

For new remote workers, what one piece of advice is most crucial for success?

As much as you can get your training materials in video format, if they will give you videos, if you can record videos of people doing things as you’re in training. There’s a big program called Vidyard, where a manager or somebody can go in and record themselves doing the thing, then send it to you. That way you’re not overly taxing other people when you come on, constantly asking them for help.

We don’t always learn things until we’ve done them a bunch of times, but someone tells us one time and then they expect us to know it. But if you have a video, you can go back and watch it and not feel guilty that you’re wasting someone else’s time, when you can rewatch that video a couple of times and then really understand what you need to do.

Really, capture video as much as you can, ask your company for help, ask them to help you take videos. When you get on a Zoom call with your boss, a coworker, or someone who’s training you, - record it! Whatever platform you’re on, record it and keep it! Because when you need to go back and you don’t remember exactly what was said or exactly how to do it, then you’re done.

Cheryl Cran

Cheryl Cran is a future of work expert and founder of nextmapping.com. She is the author of 9 books including the second edition of "NextMapping - Anticipate, Navigate & Create The Future of Work" with companion workbook.Cheryl has been named as a #1 future of work influencer and is an international award winning consultant. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Huff Post, Metro New York, CBS, Fox News and more.

What do you see as the biggest advantage of working for a fully-distributed company? Are there any shortcomings to this arrangement?

Remote work or distributed work allows for remote workers to have the autonomy to work in a less distracting environment. It also provides less expense for the company.

Some of the challenges/shortcomings include ‘out of sight out of mind’ which means leaders can get antsy about tracking workers productivity or out of the loop of knowing which workers are doing what.

Workers can struggle with working remotely, can be easily distracted, less productive and juggling family obligations along with trying to stay focused on work.

Overall remote work is providing opportunities for workers to work for any company in the world and for companies to expand their hiring pools.

What is the most important thing for a person to consider before he or she commits to a remote job?

A person will want to do a personality assessment so that he or she knows their strengths. Assessments such as DISC or StrenghtsFinders help individuals to match their strengths with the requirements of the remote job.

Not everyone is suited for remote work - some people struggle with staying focused when working alone and others actually find themselves more productive when working remotely.

A person will also want to consider having the right technical tools, advanced communication skills and the ability to work well alone.

In addition, there needs to be clear expectations and guidelines from the employer on work to be done, expectations of performance and how to measure key performance indicators.

What qualities are hiring managers looking for when they hire a fully remote employee? What is the biggest “red flag” that could hurt an applicant’s chance of receiving a job offer?

Hiring managers are looking for skilled employees who have autonomy, critical thinking skills, decision making skills, leadership skills and the ability to solve problems.

A red flag that could hurt an applicant is not being able to demonstrate the ability to work well alone, to make decisions or an applicant who cannot perform in a remote work environment.

What’s the most common mistake people make when attempting to land a remote job?

Most common mistake would be when a person seeking remote work does not do his or her research on the company they have applied to, have not looked at how he or she can add value to the company or who have not prepared for the interview discussion.

For new remote workers, what one piece of advice is most crucial for success?

For new remote workers, I would say build the skills that employers are seeking such as future ready skills of thinking like a leader, the ability to think like a change leader and more. At NextMapping we have a series of online courses that help remote workers to increase his or her ‘future ready’ skills that employers are seeking.