Working remotely: Where the office is doesn’t matter

The internet and advances in technology has allowed more Americans to work remotely than ever before. Illustration by Nathan T. Wright

Sam Schmidt can’t walk into his bosses office but his bosses can still see him.

Schmidt works remotely as a Technical Consultant for MagGrow—an AgTech company—with bosses headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.

He lives in Clive.

“It’s made me a more efficient employee and more focused on accomplishing tasks quickly,” Schmidt says about working remotely.

And it’s becoming a trend.

According to a story a story on Forbes.com earlier this year, 50 percent of the U.S workforce work remotely. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of workers who do at least half of their work outside of the traditional office setting, grew by 115 percent.

In Iowa, nearly five percent of the workforce 16 years old and older work from home. That’s roughly 74,425 people, according to the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Schmidt says MagGrow has employees throughout North America, Europe and Africa so they use technologies like Skype for Business, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Hangouts and WeTransfer to stay in constant contact.

“It allows a small, yet global company to function as an aligned team,” Schmidt says. “It takes a specific person to be able to be productive in a remote working environment. There aren’t people huddled around keeping you accountable daily.”

Vault Coworking
Nick Longbucco rents a desk at Vault Coworking in Cedar Rapids. Longbucco works as a Cedar Basin Freshwater Manager for The Nature Convervancy.

The business of remote working

According to a story in the New York Times earlier this year, 43 percent of workers say they spent time working remotely in 2016.

A four percent increase since 2012.

To serve that audience, coworking spaces like Gravitate in Des Moines, Mill Race in Cedar Falls, the CoLab in Fairfield and Vault Coworking in Cedar Rapids are companies designed to provide entrepreneurs and remote workers with office space to rent.

Vault Coworking in Cedar Rapids provides all members access to podcasting equipment and a prototyping lab with 3D printers, virtual reality equipment lab and laser cutters.

“We don’t push anyone, anywhere. We just want to provide as many resources as we can to entrepreneurial people,” John Foster, Vault Community Manager, said.

As a software engineer for bay area-based PayPal, Derek Brooks has says he rents a desk at Gravitate.

“You can be flexible about where you live in the world, what your personal office environment is like,” Brooks explains. “Who you work—and don’t work—around and often time, even what your schedule is.”

He’s worked remotely for nearly seven years.

“Often times coworking spaces have other remote employees building awesome things that you never knew were being built right in your own neighborhood,” he says.” “It’s fun chatting with those folks”

Be sure to unplug

Elizabeth Adams works as a Client Communications Manager for California-based Cornerstone on Demand from her house in Omaha.

Adams says working remotely has made her a more efficient employee, but she schedules times to be away from her computer.

“It’s easy to spend too much time working because there aren’t any natural bookends where the day starts and stops,” Adams said. “You have to figure out where your boundaries are and work to maintain them.”

She started working remotely in 2008 and said she would mask her phone number so people didn’t see the Nebraska phone number and start asking questions.

“I felt I had to prove I was working just as hard as those in the office,” Adams says. “Now it’s much more common practice and I know lots of people in more traditional roles that work from home at least a couple days a week. It’s become one of the perks that organizations use to be competitive when recruiting talent.”