There’s no question that the digital revolution has transformed the world of work today, and that the COVID-19 pandemic only served to accelerate that change. Now, more than ever, workers are building long, satisfying, and highly successful careers from the comfort of their home offices.

And because of the increasing prevalence of the virtual office space, employment opportunities for previously marginalized persons are greater than they have perhaps ever been. The digitization of the workforce has meant that persons who are unable to work outside the home, such as those with disabilities, parents and caregivers, and those who live in remote areas are now able to access stable, lucrative employment.

However, it is older workers who may, in fact, derive the greatest benefits from the digitalization of the workforce. Contrary to popular belief, the digital workplace is by no means a young person’s game. Middle-aged and senior workers are expressing growing interest and enjoying immense success in virtual work environments.

This article explores the opportunities the digital workforce is opening up for older workers and describes strategies these workers can use to prepare for a successful mid-to-late-career transition to the digital domain.

Finding Remote Work

When you’re considering making the leap into remote work, one of the first and most important issues to keep in mind is that not all telecommuting jobs are created equal. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fraudsters out there who are eager to exploit the tremendous demand for well-paying work-from-home opportunities.

For this reason, it’s imperative that you do your homework before committing to a prospective employer–and most certainly before sharing your personal and financial information with them. When you’re looking for an online job, it’s best to go through established, and reputable, channels.

Platforms such as Monster, Indeed, and Upwork enable you to search specifically for partially and fully remote positions. Likewise, many recruiting platforms specialize in specific industries and interests, so by identifying your particular niche as a remote job seeker, you will be better able to at once expand and refine your search.

The key, above all, is to confine your search to reputable channels while at the same time exploring multiple reliable platforms, rather than just one or two of them.

The Perks of Remote Work

There are lots of potential advantages to remote work, particularly for older employees. For one thing, remote work can be less costly and less stressful, both mentally and physically. You don’t have the expenses associated with commuting. You don’t have the costs of a daily cafeteria or takeout lunch. And you don’t have to invest in a business casual wardrobe.

But, perhaps best of all, if you are the caregiver of a child or an elder, you don’t have the often prohibitive costs of securing outside care. Indeed, the financial savings of remote work relative to in-person employment is enabling many low-income seniors to rejoin the workforce at last.

In addition to the cost benefits of remote work, though, there are numerous mental and physical perks. Remote work offers tremendous flexibility, allowing you to tailor your work life around your home and family schedule. This makes it easier to see to essential business, such as transporting aging parents to medical appointments or grandchildren to school and sporting events.

Even more importantly, this flexibility enables you to attend to your own needs, rest when you need to, and decompress when home and work stressors become overwhelming. The flexibility of remote work, in other words, allows you to tailor your work life to your particular needs and goals. That, in turn, can help you maintain a healthier and more satisfying work/life balance than would have been possible in a traditional job.

Potential Disadvantages of Remote Work

The reality is that remote work isn’t for everyone. While many people thrive in a home work environment, for some, the lack of daily face-to-face interaction with colleagues and supervisors can be lonely and isolating.

Some remote employees may find that the virtual environment increases their stress rather than decreasing it. They may feel anxious about using the necessary technology effectively or they may feel unclear about remote work goals and expectations.  

In addition to the mental health challenges of the virtual office, there can also be physical challenges as well. For example, you are likely to find yourself spending enormous amounts of time staring at a digital screen. Over time, this can lead to significant issues with eye health, some of which may even require eye surgery or other aggressive treatments.

You may also find that you are less physically active when you’re working from home, which can increase your risk of developing a range of health conditions, from cardiovascular disease to obesity.

Skills Required To Be an Effective Remote Worker

When you’re making the transition to the digital workplace, it’s often not enough just to be good at your traditional day job. You’re also going to want to acquire, or hone, a particular set of skills required to thrive in the virtual workspace.

The most obvious, of course, are the technical skills remote workers need to be productive, efficient, and secure when working from home. At a minimum, this should include knowing how to set up, use, and secure your home office network.

You will also need to master certain productivity tools, such as the Microsoft Office suite, email and instant messaging tools such as Gmail and Slack, video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Google Met, and project management software such as Asana.

There are also a number of soft skills you will want to cultivate in order to build a long and thriving remote career. This would include effective time management, creative problem-solving, and strong written communication. Above all, you will need to learn to be a self-motivator, to find the initiative and self-confidence to get things done, even when there’s no supervisor peering over your shoulder.

Using Remote Work to Usher In Retirement

As noted above, among the greatest advantages that remote work offers is its accessibility and flexibility. When you work remotely, you can take your office pretty much anywhere. Remote work also often means that you can set your own schedule and control your own workload.

For this reason, remote work is often ideal for retirees and for those preparing for retirement. It can, for instance, provide supplemental income to add to your retirement savings or to build your income post-retirement. Best of all, it gives you the tools and experience to ensure that you have access to work when you want or need it, no matter where your retirement lifestyle takes you.

The Takeaway

The digital workforce has opened up a world of opportunities for older workers. Not only can remote work offer the flexibility and accessibility older workers need, but it can also be an enormously beneficial pathway into retirement.