In the last ten years, remote work has been on the rise as employers and employees are starting to notice its importance and accepting its many benefits. Currently, remote workers constitute 35% of the US workforce, which is about 57 million Americans.
As of 2017, 24% of all full-time employees in the US spent a certain amount of time working from home, and only 15% of US companies didn’t allow remote work.
Let us better understand remote work, its benefits, and how it has revolutionized the workplace.
What Is Remote Work?
Remote work allows employees to work for a company or as freelancers by working from anywhere without the confinement of fixed office space. The concept of remote working is a broad and flexible subject, as it involves various formats.
For example, a worker can be working remotely but still spend some days in the company’s office. Another worker can be working remotely for the same company without even knowing where its offices are.
Businesses are beginning to acknowledge that this working model could help them grow at a lower cost. According to experts, remote jobs help companies to have access to a large talent pool because it is possible to hire workers from all over the world.
Furthermore, remote employment allows them to find talented employees from regions where the cost of living and salaries are lower, which could reduce their overall expenses significantly.
With more technologies expected to improve the remote work industry even further, professionals across various industries are beginning to ditch the traditional 9-to-5 work. Currently, 51% of remote workers say no amount of money would make them switch back to a traditional job, and 83% believe they don’t need to be in an office to be productive.
Another 54% plan to work remotely for the rest of their lives and 60% of on-site employees say they would leave their job for a remote position at the same pay rate.
Big companies like WordPress are an excellent example of how effective running a remote company can be. With a net worth of over $1 billion, WordPress is successfully functioning today while being a 100% remote job organization after shutting down its on-site locations some years back.
Why Remote Work?
Remote work allows companies to hire the best candidates for a given position, irrespective of their location. It is also pioneering diversity in the workplace, as it allows for team members from all around the globe with their distinct characteristics and culture to come together and work toward a common goal.
In most cases, not subjecting workers to a particular culture helps to increase their productivity because each remote worker can draw from a unique background and experience that is distinct to their environment or region.
Technology is changing the way we communicate, thereby pioneering the concept of remote work in today’s world. With most countries enjoying high-speed internet and easy access to the web, remote workers are effectively collaborating toward a common goal – eliminating the need for a physical meetup.
Technologies such as instant messaging, collaboration software, and project management tools are at the forefront of remote work evolution.
However, despite the rapid increase in remote jobs around the globe, not all remote workers are working from home. Research has shown that by 2020, there will be around 26,000 co-working spaces across the world because a high percentage of remote workers prefer to work away from home for maximum productivity.
Benefits of Remote Work
A recent survey about the global workplace costs and benefits shows that remote employees working in multinational organizations are 35-40% more productive than their on-site working counterparts. The same survey further stated that of all surveyed multinational companies, two-thirds reported an increase in productivity among their remote workers.
Many reasons cause this significant increase. For one, the freedom of flexible working hours allows remote workers to only work during hours when they are at maximum productivity because not everyone is comfortable working a 9-to-5 job.
A recent poll carried out on remote workers and freelancers show that the following are primary reasons why more and more people choose to work remotely:
- flexible schedule (30%)
- working from any location (30%)
- spending more time with family (14%)
- working from home (13%).
They also spend less time commuting and are less prone to office-related stress.
Low Cost of Operation
According to experts, if employees telecommuted for just half of the time, an average business could save around $11,000 per year. One of the critical objectives of remote job owners is to minimize the cost of operation while increasing productivity.
Remote work saves expenses in various ways, from reduced office space to reduction in physical tools required to set up an office, such as PCs and internet connection, for example. Another crucial save includes not paying for extra benefits or allowances to the employee.
A good example is the insurance company Aetna which shed 2.7 million square feet of office space and saved $78 million in the process. Also, the American Express reported a similar result by saving up to $15 million annually after introducing telecommuting as a working system.
Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
Remote workers enjoy flexible working hours and better work-life balance compared to traditional employees. An annual survey in 2018 by Flexjobs reported that 97% of respondents said that a flexible job would have a huge impact on their overall quality of life.
Fewer Interruptions from Co-Workers
Although working outside the office is not a guarantee for less distraction, you are still more likely to work more hours without interruptions. In the process of work, a two-minute distraction can significantly affect your workflow. Avoiding these distractions for extended hours will, in turn, increase your overall productivity.
Saves Time and Reduces Stress
According to experts, the average time spent by motorists commuting over a year is 42 hours, with traffic included. Remote work helps to eliminate much of this commuting stress, allowing workers to channel their time to other productive events like extra morning sleep, exercise, healthy breakfast, or spending more time with family that can help boost productivity.
Disadvantages of Remote Work
Lack of communication remains one of the most significant issues of remote work. Around 38% of telecommuters say a lack of information from clients is a hindering factor. Despite advancements in technologies that enable team communication and information sharing, it still cannot compare to traditional face-to-face meetings.
Around 19% of telecommuters say that their biggest struggle with remote work is loneliness.
Lack of Motivation
Although there is a hype around productivity levels achieved by working remotely, many remote workers still struggle with a lack of motivation. Although they have the choice of working flexible hours, not having someone to check on their work from time to time can take its toll and kill their willpower to stay on top.
Inability to Separate Work and Personal Life
For those working a 9-to-5 job, it can be easy to switch off after leaving the workplace. But for remote workers and freelancers, it can be quite tricky to turn off personal life when working and equally challenging to block all work responsibilities after leaving the workspace. Generally speaking, remote workers around the globe have found it challenging to create and maintain regular working hours, especially when there are unfinished jobs at hand.
Difficulty in Creating a Company Culture
When workers gather in an office, it is much easier to implement a company culture than with employees scattered all around the globe. Good company culture can help foster bonds between employees and employers. In the case of a remote job, it takes more time and resources to achieve the same.
Industries That Are Already Going Remote
Telemedicine is a concept that combines technology and health-related procedures to provide remote healthcare to patients. The healthcare sector is one of the major employers of remote workers as there is an increased need for remote healthcare professionals, such as healthcare information specialists.
Statistics from 2012-2016 show an increase in the amount of remote work for the healthcare industry from 31% to 34%.
Customer service jobs are one of the most common forms of remote work. Since most of the activities of customer service jobs are related to phones and emails, one can easily accomplish them remotely from any location.
Marketing and Sales
Traditional marketing is already fading due to rapid growth of digital marketing. Today, digital marketers can effectively work remotely, thanks to the nature of digital marketing jobs that allow for communication with clients via phone, email, social media, etc.
Today, online classrooms are gaining widespread popularity as it allows students to connect with tutors and other students around the world through video calling and conference learning. This means that teachers can now work remotely from any location. With more students around the globe saying they prefer to learn from home over going to school, the trend of online classrooms is not slowing down anytime soon.
Tutors from various areas are also actively working remotely using this same strategy. The stats from 2012-2016 show that remote workers in the education sector have seen a steady increase from 34% to 38%.
Information Technology (IT)
This is probably the area with the most remote workers. From software developers to programmers, web security experts, IT specialists, technical support, and others, there is a whole range of jobs that can be offered remotely in the IT sector. Between 2012 and 2016, the percentage of remote workers in the area has increased from 54% to 57%.
How to Create a Remote Work Policy
Knowing the benefits of remote work alone is not enough to ensure the success of a remote company. There needs to be a standard policy that can be communicated seamlessly to both new and existing employees. Below are some of the tips experts say can help set up a straightforward remote work policy.
- Make sure to provide your team with the necessary tools for communication, connectivity, and cybersecurity to ensure maximum productivity.
- Set limitations on places your remote workers are allowed or not allowed to work from. For example, team development meetings might require conference calling regularly, and you definitely will not want your employees taking part in such meetings in public spaces or coffee shops.
- It is also vital to create a process that breaks the barrier of language and time zone to enable effective communication between team members who might be from separate regions. A good rule would be to bring team members together at least once a year to a centralized location, where all can meet in person to foster team connection, understanding, and effective collaboration.
- Always voice your concerns or problems with your business to team members. Effective communication is vital as remote work can be quite isolating. Talking to your employees or team members about challenges in the business can help keep them on alert about what is happening and where changes are needed. By adequately communicating with team members, you can help forge close bonds that will drive the business forward in the long run.
- Centralize your work information for employees and team members to have easy access whenever there is a need for it. Centralization of information will keep team members updated about what is going on and what needs to be changed in the organization. A good example would be to make use of cloud storage in storing your shared work. That way, team members will have access to anything that they might need to enable them to work productively without needing to talk to you or meet you online.
- You need to master asynchronous communication to enable you to nullify time zone issues. Due to different time zones and schedules that may vary with team members, learning how to send a detailed and clear message is key to effective communication. Good asynchronous communication should entail the following:
- Enough information to cover up for any possible follow-up questions
- Use image files, video files, text files, or even animated videos to support your information if need be
- Always set deadlines for any request
- Always state the core need for any request.
- Lastly, always have monthly regular review sessions to monitor team progress and to keep the team grounded. These monthly meetings will enable you to review progress, voice any concerns, ask questions, and generally assess the growth of each team member.
The future of work is remote. With over 105 million US workers already working remotely, experts say remote workers will constitute 72% of the total US workforce after 2020. Increased productivity and convenience, flexibility and excellent work-life balance are some of the many factors contributing to this increased adoption of remote work.
According to Gartner, organizations that promote a choose-your-own-work-style (CYOW) culture will boost the rates of employee retention by over 10%.
However, as much as more industries are beginning to adopt this work style, quite a number of challenges still hinder the growth of remote work. Top on the list are difficulty in separating work and personal life, the problem of communication, and even lack of motivation. To circumvent these, businesses trying to adopt the remote work style should have a good understanding of these challenges and methods they can adopt to help reduce them to the barest minimum.