This article is sponsored by Camaloon, the Barcelona-based start-up that specializes in creating high-quality customized products, made especially for you.
Even in 2015, working remotely remains an elusive reality for most employees with demanding, full-time jobs. In fact, at first glance, it seems exclusively reserved for people who use Instagram to make friends jealous – those lucky few who manage to wing “jobs” writing blog entries while lounging on a beach in Antigua.
The truth is that fine white sand in your USB port equals an expensive repair bill. And that, contrary to popular belief, working outside the office doesn’t necessarily offer the stress-free lifestyle that many might imagine.
To learn more, I caught up with Lino Uruñuela, SEO manager at Barcelona-based start-up Camaloon, that specializes in personalized products – and an old hand at working the corporate life over 500km from his office.
You’re employed at an office in Barcelona and live in San Sebastián. Hardly anyone on your team sees you regularly. Do you ever work in your pajamas?
No! It’s really important that before starting work you have a morning ritual. In my case, I get up, have breakfast, and take my dog for a walk. If you just roll out of bed and open your laptop, you’re not going to be mentally alert.
Working remotely is usually a privilege for freelancers. Do you think it’s going to be the norm for regularly employed people in 10 years’ time?
Not in 10 years’ time, nor in a 100. Some jobs are impossible to do remotely. But anything related to communications, like marketing and journalism, sure, these people could all be working remotely by proxy one day in the near future.
Does working remotely mean having a stress-free life?
Not really, to be honest. Maybe there are companies out there where the workload is lighter, but with my profession, the stress levels are about the same – if not a little higher because you have to consistently make your work visible to your team and show them you’re actually doing the job
Some people argue that if you work remotely, the quality of your work goes down. Do you think this is true?
It depends on the person! In general, people working remotely have an extra responsibility to ensure the quality of their work is always made visible to others and therefore maintain the “privilege” that has been accorded to them. They also know that if they can’t keep up, there will be consequences.
These days, companies are still reluctant to make working remotely possible as bosses are unsure whether working remotely will compromise employees’ productivity. But I think productivity has much more to do with whether an employee actually enjoys their job, not where they are based.
When I read people’s emails, sometimes the emotion doesn’t come through correctly. Does it bother you that you connect with your colleagues uniquely through text?
I’d agree that communication by text tends to be very cold, emotionally speaking, and if this is your primary way of keeping in touch with colleagues, you’ll definitely need more time to establish relationships with them than if you were working in an office. This is why my team and I regularly have videoconferences. By “showing my face” regularly, I try to combat the impersonality that comes with email communication.
I also recommend being physically present at important team meetings, perhaps once a month. Certain ideas and topics are best talked about in person rather than by any other means.
Do you end up working less, more, or about the same number of hours when you work remotely (compared to working in an office)?
I think that, ultimately, I work the same number of hours. If in the office, you have to stay late to finish a task because it’s for that day, well, exactly the same happens to you when you work remotely. But with one crucial difference: your hours.
With many jobs, when you leave the office, you know you won’t be back until the following day; therefore you are “obliged” to keep working until you’ve finished an urgent task. However, when working remotely and your workload swells, you can organize your time much more effectively – as well as reconcile your working life and personal life a lot better. And there’s no commute!
Co-working spaces seem to be the trend right now. What’s your opinion of them?
It depends a lot on the people in the co-working space. Maybe there are experts in your sector whom you can learn from. But maybe you ended up sitting beside the most annoying person in the world, and you have to spend your working hours exercising manners and patience…
Could you ever go back to working in the office?
I don’t know if that day will ever come, but if it does, I will try not to get depressed and think of what I have to do to get back to working from home!
Author: Kate Busby is a British writer whose work focuses on issues of contemporary culture, environment, and new technologies. She lives and works in Barcelona.