Remote work? hybrid? Careful what you ask for… – Twin Cities

I hate to be a party-pooper, but is everyone absolutely sure about wanting to work from home?

Amy Lindgren

This is very un-scientific, but I’d say that about 20 percent of the readers and clients I’ve spoken with are completely committed to working remotely. These folks say things like, “I don’t care if I never go back to an office again.”

Another 20 percent or so are focused on returning to the workplace, and the sooner the better. They talk about needing the structure or the regular human interaction or just a better separation between work and home lives.

And the other 60 percent? Well, since I’m ballparking these numbers anyway, I’ll say those are the folks who could live with most scenarios, including a hybrid of home and office. What I hear most from these adaptable souls is, “Wherever I work, what I really need is flexibility.”

When it comes down to it, flexibility might be more important than the location of the work. If a parent knows she can arrive an hour later sometimes to accommodate her children’s schedules, or that she can leave in the middle of the day and come back, or that she can leave early and take work with her … with this kind of autonomy over her schedule, the physical location of her job may not be as critical in her decision-making.

That’s just one example of how a job that is not virtual can still be appealing to someone who needs to balance multiple responsibilities. But what about the other side of the coin — what about work-from-home jobs that offer almost no flexibility? Aside from losing the commute, what advantage is there in a virtual role that requires a defined log-in each morning, or one where computer key strokes are being tallied by a bot that reports on “low productivity” if your cursor isn’t constantly moving?

In truth, some of my remote-only clients would take that job over a more relaxed position at the employer’s location. It really is a matter of personal taste.

If you’ve been mulling over the decision whether to go remote or hybrid as your next step, it may be helpful to weigh some of the advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a brief analysis to provide you with more food for thought.

Positive aspects of remote work

One of the most commonly noted advantages of going virtual is the ability to work from anywhere (provided there’s adequate broadband). Eliminating a morning commute also ranks high, as does the ability to reduce the family chaos that comes with everyone trying to get out the door at the same time. Working in casual clothes, being able to manage household chores during breaks and having the opportunity to nap or exercise during the day also make the list for many people.

Negative aspects of remote work

Those who don’t enjoy working remotely talk about feeling cut off from their co-workers, having less access to managers, feeling less attachment to the company overall, and missing the structure provided by a daily routine of commuting somewhere to work.

Risks inherent in working remotely

While the positive and negative aspects of remote work are largely a matter of taste, there are some actual risks to navigate as well. For example, many people report working more hours than they used to, and having to do more things on their own (such as tech support and ordering supplies) that used to be part of the office structure. That may not seem risky, so to speak, but it’s easy to overlook the expense and mental fatigue that come with being a one-person shop.

At the same time, home-based workers may be incurring un-reimbursed expenses, and they’re certainly giving over part of their home to meet their employers’ needs. Beyond these logistics, the real risks might be to the career paths of home-based employees, who can find themselves evolving into task workers with an ever-narrower set of duties. This might feel comfortable, but it’s also a formula for being laid off or disregarded for promotion. The more narrow your contribution, the less essential you might seem to your boss.

I said I didn’t want to be a party-pooper, but I can’t seem to help myself. Come back next week and I’ll give a fuller treatment to the career risks of working off-site, along with some strategies to help balance them out. Remote work can be a remarkable opportunity, but you want to go into it with your eyes open.

Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at

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