I love my job. I log in to my computer in the quiet predawn from my comfy couch with a steaming mug of black coffee and get to work tout de suite.
Admittedly, I work for several employers, but it’s all virtual.
Working remotely is not new, but it’s steadily gaining a head of steam for workers of all ages. Over the last five years U.S. workers working remotely grew 44% to around 4.7 million, according to research by job board Flexjobs.com in partnership with Global Workplace Analytics.
In a study conducted by Condeco Software, 41% of global businesses surveyed say they already offer some degree of remote working. Upwork’s “Future Workforce Report” predicts that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028. And some cities and states such as Tulsa, Vermont and Massachusetts, are also grasping the economic appeal of remote work.
For thoughts on how to find a great remote job and what you need to do to succeed, I recently sat down with Sara Sutton, founder of FlexJobs.com, and Remote.co in the chic lobby of The Line Hotel in Washington, DC. I will share some of our conversation shortly.
For older workers working remotely can be a sweet solution to staying on the job. As I wrote in this column, a recent LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute surveyed recent retirees and preretirees (ages 55 to 71) who’ve retired within the past two years or plan to retire in the next two years and had at least $100,000 in assets. Among the preretirees, 27% said they plan to work part-time in retirement and 17% said they expect to gradually reduce their hours before stopping work entirely. Among the retirees, 19% are working part time and 17% have reduced their working hours.
In addition to the income, there’s also the pull of working for the mental engagement and desire to stay relevant and have a reason to get rolling in the morning. An AARP survey of 3,900 people 45 and older found that among the top reasons to keep working were “Enjoy the job or enjoy working” (83%) and “It makes me feel useful” (77%).
The top four reported reasons people seek remote work, according to an analysis by FlexJobs.com: work-life balance (75%), family (45%), time savings (42%), commute stress (41%), Other high-ranking factors for seeking flexible work options included: Avoiding office politics and distractions (33%), travel (29%), cost savings (25%), being a pet owner (24%), having caregiving responsibilities (18%) living in a bad local job market (15%).
“Workers want to retire from the office, not the job,” said Sharon Emek, founder of Work at Home Vintage Employers (WAHVE), a site for professionals 50+ who work from home for over 300 insurance and accounting firms. Meantime, employers are looking for people they do not need to train.
And one of the easiest ways to stay in the workforce is to have a great pajama job, as I like to refer to working remotely. This has been my mode of work for many years now, albeit not always clad in pjs. And I admit, I’m far from retired at 59, but I find the autonomy of working outside of an office environment suits my lifestyle.
The remote workers over 50 who I know have all told me that it takes discipline, but the time flexibility to do things with grandchildren, nonwork hobbies, volunteering, or simply the joy of working with their dog nestled under their desk, (as I often do with my Labrador retriever, Zena) is what makes it work.
One key feature to chuck into the pro column. When you work remotely, your “age” is not necessarily the deal breaker it can be when you’re front and center face-to-face. Truth.
Here’s some job-seeking advice from Sutton (and me) on how to land a remote job.
Do the inner soul-searching. Not everyone is hard-wired to be a remote worker. “You need to be honest with yourself,” Sutton said. “Are you self-disciplined, focused, organized, skilled at time-management? You must be able to set boundaries around your work environment with friends, family, neighbors, or working in a co-working space and not being distracted all the time.”
Are you tech-savvy, open to learning new tools, and comfortable fixing minor technical problems? They will arise.
Do you thrive off of the stimulation of office colleagues buzzing around you? One of the biggest hurdles for remote workers is loneliness. “If it’s going to be a real con for you, and you can feel it in your gut that it will be hard for you not to have that interaction and action environment, than don’t consider remote work,” Sutton advised. “Part-time or a flexible schedule might be better.”
Connect, connect, connect. The very best remote workers will reach out to co-workers and managers regularly. “A key skill companies who hire remote workers are looking for is communication,” she said. “You need to be able to say, hey, I’m a little confused about this. or hey, can you help clarify this for me? You have to take responsibility and speak up. If you’re not visible, it’s hard for your manager to know something’s wrong.”
Network with people you know at remote-friendly employers where you’d like to work. UnitedHealth Group UNH, +0.22%, Kelly Services KELYA, -0.82%, Kaplan, Amazon AMZN, -1.24%, Robert Half International RHI, +0.27%, GitLab and Dell are among the leading companies regularly hiring for remote jobs.
You might go straight to a company you would like to work for, maybe it’s even your current employer, and see if it hires remote workers. A good place to start is the career section of the company’s website.
Take the time to research. There are online job boards like FlexJobs.com, Remote.co and WAHVE.com that connect employers with workers are focused on legitimate work-from-home jobs and prescreen each job and employer to be certain they aren’t scams. Other popular remote job boards to check out are Rat Race Rebellion, Working Nomads, We Work Remotely, Skip The Drive, Jobspresso and ZipRecruiter.
The most common career categories for remote jobs, according to Flexjobs’ analysis of their job boards: sales, medical and health, education and training, customer service, and computer and IT.
Job titles range from customer service representative to program manager to teacher, accounting (bookkeepers, CFOs, Controllers, etc.), admin assistants, virtual assistants, medical transcriptionist, remote nurses, pharmacists, radiologists, data entry. Pay ranges from $18/hr. to $40/hr. or more, depending on the level of the job and the experience.
“Search on the job boards for skills you have and passions outside of titles,” Sutton said. “Be a little experimental with it. If you’re in data analytics, but also love biking, type in those words and see what comes up. With remote work, it is really helpful if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, and it’s not just punching a clock. That will keep you motivated when you are working solo.”
Focus on a few employers. “These remote jobs are increasingly competitive,” Sutton said. “I encourage job seekers to put out fewer applications, but for jobs they really feel strongly about. Instead of doing 100 applications, do 10 for the ones you really, really want. Thoroughly investigate the company. Write in the cover letter, that you admire x, y, z things they are doing. You can find these newsy items on their website press page, or company culture page. This is your first impression, and you want to show you care. And if you know someone who works at the firm, toss out their name there, too.”
Watch out for scams. There are a variety and abundance of jobs that are all career categories from entry level to executive, Sutton said. “But for every legitimate work-from-home job, there are dozens of job scams. Google the company name and the word scam and see what comes up, she advised. “That’s not proof, but you will see if there is chatter about the quality of the company.”
Now about that dog walk.