The Biggest Benefits of Remote Work for College Students

The Biggest Benefits of Remote Work for College Students
portrait of Ciera Graham, Ph.D.
By Ciera Graham, Ph.D.

Published on March 3, 2021

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COVID-19 has forced many employees and companies to embrace remote work. Before the public health crisis, about 5% of full-time employees with office jobs worked primarily from home. Now, well into the pandemic, over half of U.S. workers are working from home, either part or all of the time.

College students must navigate a completely different professional landscape. Current students are finding virtual internships and employment opportunities, while student employees are learning to manage the demands of their traditional on-campus jobs in a remote environment. With the flexibility of working from just about anywhere, students can explore the depth and breadth of remote work.

Flexibility on the job is not a foreign concept for millennials and Gen Zers. In the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, half of millennials and 44% of Gen Zers identified flexibility as "very important" when considering a job.

In the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, half of millennials and 44% of Gen Zers identified flexibility as “very important” when considering a job.

Flexibility entails not being tied to strict hours or even a location. For millennials and Gen Zers, having the freedom and autonomy to complete work outside of traditional hours or from anywhere leads to greater enjoyment and work-life balance.

Today's college students must balance the competing demands of school, work, family life, and extracurricular activities. As such, having workplace flexibility can create space and demand for other priorities in life.

It's also important to realize that college students possess multiple identities, so flexibility is especially important for student parents, low-income students, and students who are traveling or studying abroad. Below, we introduce five ways remote work can benefit college students.

5 Ways Remote Work Can Benefit College Students

Technology Encourages New Forms of Engagement

One myth about virtual jobs is that they negatively impact creativity and innovation. In reality, remote work allows us to engage with one another and our projects in a variety of ways.

For brainstorming exercises, for example, you could use online collaborative tools like Zoom's built-in whiteboard, MURAL, and Miro. For collaborative projects, Google Docs is an excellent platform that lets multiple people work on the same document and even look back at other users' changes. And for team engagement activities like scavenger hunts and Pictionary, you can use video conferencing software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

For brainstorming exercises and group projects, you can use online collaborative tools like Zoom’s built-in whiteboard, MURAL, Miro, and Google Docs.

Slack, Asana, and Microsoft Teams are also fantastic project management tools that let you track the progress of both individual and team-based projects. Notably, these platforms enhance workplace transparency, since members can view colleagues' projects. The channel feature in Microsoft Teams also gives you the opportunity to develop specific channels for special projects or committees, which can help employees differentiate work and prioritize tasks.

While the number of virtual platforms to make remote work more engaging and organized can feel overwhelming at times, it's important to avoid stifling your own and other workers' creativity. Traditional in-person meetings and conferences can now include more innovative methods for engagement. For example, you could use breakout sessions for more focused conversations or create a Zoom poll to gauge colleagues' opinions.

Flexible Work Environment and Hours

Who doesn't love the flexibility of getting to work anytime and anywhere? The beauty of remote work is that employees can set their own hours and work around other commitments and priorities in their lives.

Zoom's record feature allows teams to record meetings or training sessions so others can view them later. This tool is especially useful for international students, parents, and employees in different time zones. Many working parents have struggled during the pandemic to balance the demands of homeschooling, work, and online classes, but being able to watch lectures and other recorded videos can ease the burden somewhat.

Many traditional jobs for college students require shift work, which can be difficult to balance alongside a full-time course load and extracurricular activities. If students need to take time off from work, flexibility is essential.

Working from home allows students to have more autonomy over their schedules and teaches valuable life skills like self-advocacy, discipline, and time management.

You Can Save Time and Money

According to a recent study from FlexJobs, people can typically save about $4,000 a year by working from home. The average commuter travels 5-13 miles for work, with some commuting as far as 47 miles. The high cost of gas can drain an already stretched college student budget.

But by working from home, many of the costs people must address for in-person work, like car maintenance, gas, and car insurance, are no longer necessary.

Financial challenges are the key reason why many college students fail to graduate. With the rising cost of college tuition and decreased state funding, many students struggle to afford higher education. In particular, unmet need, or the amount of need not covered by financial aid, remains high at community colleges, particularly for low-income students.

Depending on the job, some students may earn more money through freelance writing and social media management roles than on-campus positions that pay minimum wage.

Online Engagement Tools Make Networking Easy

College students are at a pivotal point in their lives — they're learning to form meaningful relationships with friends, mentors, and working professionals that will have an immense impact on their personal and professional aspirations and achievements.

Online engagement tools and social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok provide unique opportunities for people around the world to connect. On work-oriented sites like LinkedIn, college students can connect with employers and industry professionals by sending connection requests, while building up their online portfolios by asking for colleagues to endorse their skills and write recommendations.

With LinkedIn, college students can connect with employers and industry professionals by sending connection requests while building up their online portfolios.

LinkedIn also offers a handy alumni search tool, through which students can search for specific alumni and research companies that have employed graduates from their institution. This is an excellent strategy for students looking to expand their networks, start their job hunts, or conduct informational interviews with industry professionals.

Although COVID-19 has limited in-person meetups and conferences, virtual networking remains a viable option. You can check out online meetup groups based on your professional interests, academic major, or other personal attributes. By joining a virtual group, you can build up your network and maintain social connections with others as you continue to work remotely.

Many professional organizations are also holding virtual conferences and meetups. Look for organizations by industry using this list on JobStars.

Remote Work Can Sharpen Entrepreneurial Skills

Remote work requires critical soft skills like attention to detail, focus, confidence, and excellent communication skills. Mike Swigunski of Entrepreneur believes self-motivation is one of four essential traits that all great remote workers must possess.

As a remote employee, you must learn to manage work and deadlines independently with little to no supervision. College students must manage the competing demands of school and work, so you will also need to be self-disciplined and know how to organize your time effectively.

Focus and self-motivation are especially critical if you're working as a freelancer or starting your own business. Entrepreneurship can be intimidating, so it's important that you remain focused on your goals and on honing your skills.

Additionally, as a remote worker, you'll learn the value of maintaining consistent communication. Remote workers must work well with multiple modalities of communication, such as group conversations, one-on-one communication, written communication, and text and email.

Remote Work Offers Students Distinct Advantages

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to contend with remote work. While remote jobs aren't for everyone, and can be challenging for college students who must navigate a variety of pressures and time demands, it does offer several benefits when it comes to saving resources, flexibility, and career skills development.


Feature Image: Five / Moment / Getty Images

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