You may or may not work full time for an employer, and you usually spend at least some time during a workweek laboring from home or a nearby coffee shop. The key is that an employer connects with you via technology while you do the same work you would as if you were sitting in a cubicle at an office.
Sara Fell, the founder and chief of FlexJobs.com, says she's seen a 400 percent growth in telecommuting jobs in the past three years.
STORY: Your office doesn't have to be in an office
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Some of the reasons have to do with more employers seeking to cut real-estate costs by letting workers do their jobs from home, and by a desire of key talent to have more flexibility in their work arrangements.
Keeping critical employees happy is becoming more critical for employers. Workers have been given minimal pay raises — or none at all — during difficult economic times. And employers worry that their workers are beginning to show increasing dissatisfaction, which can affect productivity and efficiency.
A recent Corporate Executive Board Co. survey found that more than three-quarters of departing workers wouldn't recommend their employer to others, the worst percentage in five years.
Another reason remote work is gaining traction: Technology makes it easier than ever. While many believe only certain jobs lend themselves to working remotely, Fell says her company recently received a job posting for a neurosurgeon in Nevada.
"We were surprised at first," she says. "But then we learned that so much of medical work is looking at digital imagery, which can be done from another location. The physician would fly in for surgeries and just have to be licensed in that state."
U.S. Census data show that more employers are letting workers set up home offices to get work done with 61 percent more workers considering home their primary workplace in 2009 compared with 2005. A study from oDesk found that companies spent more than $18 million on online work in June. That's 93,000 new jobs posted and more than 1.8 million hours of work performed.
Fell says that jobs for remote workers can range from entry level to executive. Salaries sometimes run 10 percent to 20 percent less than working on site.
Many of those seeking remote work are willing to accept less pay for the added benefit of flexibility and working from home, she says. Still, many companies do offer benefits to remote workers, even those who only work part time.
If you're looking for remote work, Fell says you can get the attention of those hiring such workers:
• Spiff up your LinkedIn profile. While it can pay off to be active on other social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn is still a place where most recruiters will go to check out your professional profile.
Don't go overboard, she says. Stay "true to yourself" when participating in social networking.
"You can join groups that interest you on LinkedIn. Just choose those areas where you feel comfortable or those that are within your industry," she says.
• Show your independence. Your LinkedIn profile or resume should note experience working remotely or independently on projects. It's helpful if recommendations from others can laud your adaptability or your ability to be a self-starter.
• Sharpen your technology skills. No matter what your industry, it's critical that you show you're up on the latest software in your field.
Take classes or get new certifications to demonstrate you're staying current. Be prepared to show you know how to use online communication channels such as Skype or instant messaging, which will be critical in any remote-work situation.
• Write well and often. "It's really important for remote workers to be proactive in communicating with their bosses or other members of a team," Fell says.
An early indicator is your resume. "Your resume has got to be free of typos, and you need to avoid a form cover letter. Your writing shouldn't be too formal. When you apply for these jobs, it's your chance to prove that you're a savvy communicator."