What is Remote Work, and Why is it So Popular?
Whether you call it telecommuting, distributed work, WFH, distance work, or “geographically neutral employment”, remote work is one of the fastest growing trends in the modern workplace.
It’s not just for digital nomads or tech workers either! Roughly half of workers do it once a week, and the trend is growing at a blistering pace. Remote work is here to stay, and it’s quickly changing the way business is done.
What is remote work?
So what do we mean when we say remote work? Remote work is a way of working outside of the traditional, centralized workplace, usually with the help of digital technology. Believe it or not, remote work started back in the 1970s, and even the U.S. government has allowed remote work for nearly 30 years. However, a lot has changed since then!
Remote work can take many different forms. Here are just a few examples:
- Education — With new, digital education and video platforms popping up, teachers are now empowered to work remotely and teach in many different settings, from individual to group sessions.
- Writing — From online-only publications to company content teams, writers are notably well-suited to take advantage of the remote work trend. Writing often only requires a laptop and WiFi.
- Call centers — Many call centers employees are staffed across multiple time zones, and it’s often inefficient to rent office space for multiple small teams. Fortunately, working from home is often the best option for all parties.
- Software development — Engineers and those with similar professions often prefer long periods of uninterrupted time to design, build, and troubleshoot complex solutions. Working remotely is a great option when a solid internet connection and headphones are the only tools necessary to build the next great app.
- Healthcare — Telemedicine is the wave of the future. Organizations across the world are using the power of the internet to bring healthcare professionals and patients together more efficiently than ever before. From answering questions to prescribing treatment, it’s never been easier to communicate with workers like doctors and nurses.
And that’s just scratching the surface!
Most of us now have access to reliable high-speed internet and smartphones, allowing us to work when it’s convenient. Flexible scheduling is becoming the new norm, and a whole range of tools makes remote work highly streamlined. In many industries, the ability to stay competitive and innovative requires remote work. Some organizations, like Zapier and Buffer, are even completely distributed!
Why is remote work so popular?
The option to work remotely is very attractive to many workers. 34% of American workers said they would reduce their wages by 5% in order to work remotely. There are clearly advantages to workers, from better work-life balance to improved productivity. Remote workers generally save on food, commute, and other expenses they might otherwise incur at a traditional workplace.
As an added bonus, working remotely allows employees to spend more time with family and furry friends! 🐶😺
That’s not all! There are plenty of benefits for companies with remote workers. With high degrees of satisfaction and the ability to work more flexibly and freely, it’s no surprise that remote workers are more likely to stay with their company in the long term.
Remote workers also require less overhead costs when it comes to real estate, office supplies, and electricity. And remote work has been shown to both increase diversity and decrease the gender pay gap.
On top of all that, remote work cuts down on traffic, pollution, and spreading germs! 😷
When is remote not a good fit?
That said, things aren’t all sunshine and lollipops for remote workers. There are many unique challenges that remote teams face, and some industries are better-suited for remote work than others.
Remote workers struggle with different things than their workplace counterparts. For example, a recent study on remote work found that the top challenges of these workers are collaborating, combating loneliness, and unplugging after work.
The “human connection” factor is a consistent theme in remote work lamentations. Physical interactions with coworkers are often underrated, but ultimately, we’re social beings and are hard-wired to connect with others. When working with others remotely, it's even more integral to connect with your team and build a strong remote culture.
Practically speaking, workers that don’t need to be in a specific physical location are obviously a better fit for remote work, so information-based industries are often best-suited for this type of work.
Additionally, team composition plays a huge part in satisfaction for remote workers. Most people who wouldn’t recommend working remotely are actually those who primarily work remotely on a team that’s not fully remote.
Now that you’re ready to learn more, now it’s time to plan.
Reflect on the positive aspects of your company culture as well as your business needs. Think about how remote work can improve work for your team as well as the obstacles that they’ll face.
Any kind of change is hard, but with the right levels of transparency, flexibility, and optimism, you’ll be on your way to designing a great remote work program for your own team!