How to Find Remote Work as a Sysadmin
Global interconnectivity is changing the very fabric of the economy, and there's no clearer example of that than the increasing number of people who work remotely. According to a recent survey by FlexJobs, telecommuting increased by 22 percent between 2017 and 2018 — and that's just a small part of a larger trend. The number of remote workers has increased by 44 percent over the last five years, by 91 percent over the previous ten, and an astonishing 159 percent since 2007.
It's no wonder why when you consider the numerous benefits that accompany telecommuting. More than 70 percent of respondents to a poll of 25,000 workers said that being remotely employed helped them achieve a better work-life balance. Increased productivity, decreased stress, and avoiding a commute round out the top reasons people choose this non-traditional employment option.
If you're reading this, you're likely very positive toward the concept of working remotely. The question then becomes how you can do this as a sysadmin.
Identifying How You Work
There are two primary ways to be a remote worker. The first involves traditional employment with a company; the only difference is your physical location. The second is freelancing, where you work for yourself and hire out your services to various clients or customers. Each offers different pros and cons, which you decide is primarily a function of preference.
As an employee, your workflow is more consistent, and you'll spend less time looking for contracts. Additional benefits (e.g., health insurance, retirement packages, and paid time off) are likely, which is rarely the case as a freelancer. You'll probably have a more stable employment situation, and the nature of your work will be less varied.
The coworkers and bosses you deal with today will be the same teammates and supervisors you deal with tomorrow — depending on who that is, you might find that to be a good or a bad thing. If you're the type of person who prefers stability and predictability, this may be a better avenue for you.
Freelancing, on the other hand, offers less stability but far more flexibility. The nature of your work can change from client to client, and sometimes day-to-day. You typically have fewer restraints on scheduled working hours and other typical employment requirements, such as routine meetings. You can let clients go if they're not the type of people you enjoy working with.
You'll spend more time looking for jobs, but can charge a much higher rate since your clients aren't playing employment taxes or any of the benefits mentioned above, allowing you to tailor your work to your lifestyle.
Ask Your Employer to Make Remote Work an Option
Particularly if you were already remote while the covid-19 stay-at-home orders were in place, you've got a good leg to stand on now.
Readers who are in a traditional 9-to-5 job and working in an office don't necessarily have to go looking for a job or career change. Pitching the benefits of working remotely to your boss might give you a good chance of gaining at least a split schedule, where you work part-time in an office and the rest of the time from home. Here are some of the advantages you should make known to your company:
Remote Workers are Stable Employees
Remote workers indicate that they're more likely to stay in their current job for the next five years 13 percent more often than on-site workers, and 76 percent of employees said they'd be more loyal to their employers if they had more flexible work options. Put these two together, and companies that allow employees to work remotely experience 25 percent less turnover than businesses that strictly work on-location. Because the cost of turnover can be up to twice someone's annual salary, this can save a tremendous amount in the long run.
Remote Workers are Productive
Employees who work remotely at least once a month are 24 percent more likely to be happy and productive in their roles. A productivity leap this substantial directly translates to increased profitability, and you can point out that this advantage is primarily demonstrated by hybrid workers. It isn't limited to those who work remotely full-time.
Remote Work is a Great Perk
Many supervisors have indicated they aren't sure what millennials want in the workplace, often opting for trappings like ping-pong tables, free coffee, and beanbag chairs. This might be the wrong direction, though: 69 percent of millennials would trade other work benefits (that typically cost the employer money) for flexible workspace options (which companies don't usually pay for).
Unless your job requires your physical presence 100 percent of the time, the chances are high that you can increase productivity, profitability, and overall job satisfaction while decreasing employer costs by working remotely part-time. If you're not sure whether working remotely full-time is right for you, start by asking to do so one day a week and try it out.
Preparing for Full-Time Remote Work
If you decide to make the leap to working remotely, the first thing you need to do is make yourself as employable as possible. From a hard skills perspective, packing your portfolio with the most valuable skills sets you can find streamlines the process of finding work, regardless of whether that's as an employee or a freelancer.
Certifications like the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) can raise your rate of pay by up to 35 percent over other sysadmins, and your employability increases correspondingly.
Companies look for independent, responsible, and disciplined employees or freelancers, and one of the best ways to showcase this is to show initiative after hours. This can take numerous forms. For example, if your current company doesn't prohibit you from pursuing side jobs, consider freelancing for a few hours each week to test the waters. Another advantage is that you'll also be able to compare both freelancing and traditional employment side by side to find out which is a better fit.
While being a systems administrator is well-suited for a full-time position, you can offer multiple services on a part-time, freelance basis. These roughly fall into four primary buckets:
- Hands-free: In this role, you'll recommend and possibly supply equipment, training, and maintenance on an as-available basis. You are not on-call and only charge for services and supplies that are actually provided.
- Handholding: Here, you can provide all the services mentioned above while also being on-call for advice, input, and dealing with relatively minor issues. While you're more available to a client, how much time you dedicate to resolving a problem is still your call.
- System maintenance: When you agree to be on-call (typically involving a retainer or decreased rate of pay for the hours you're available but aren't working), you commit to PMs on equipment and resolving issues as they manifest. For the first time, you're dedicating yourself to a client and promising to work until a problem is resolved.
- Full system administration: This role involves all of the typical duties of a sysadmin. You install equipment, provide training, execute regular PMs, and repair or replace entire sections of the system on an as-needed basis. You can do this as a freelancer, but you'll likely be limited to a single client with some smaller side jobs.
Freelancing doesn't appeal to everyone, and that shouldn't keep you from finding part- or full-time remote work. Numerous top-tier companies regularly hire for full-time positions that aren't required to work on-site, and these include sysadmins. If you're more focused on a tech company, you can find a score of quality employers looking to employ IT personnel full-time for distance work.
Making the Switch
Whatever route you choose, go into it with a plan. If you're going to pitch a hybrid approach to your boss, outline both general principles (as mentioned above) as well as creating a business case that's specific to your situation. Map out your career and decide what skills, training, and certifications would be most beneficial to you, then pursue them to increase your employability.
When you're ready to venture into the unknown, try freelancing on a part-time basis. Not only will you be able to compare traditional employment to independent contract work, but you'll also gain experience pitching your skills to companies who want to hire remote workers.
There's never been a better time to take charge of your career and build it around the life you want to live.