Remote work is on the rise. While having the ability to work from outside of a corporate office has been feasible for a few decades, working remotely is only now becoming mainstream.
You may have even heard the phrase tossed around in casual conversation: “I’m working remotely now!” or “I’ve been able to travel and take my job with me!” You nod your head as you listen to these people extol the flexibility of their lifestyles and the benefits that they’ve seen in their professional lives because they can work remotely, but you still have a few questions.
What is remote work and how does it… work?
Remote work allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. There has been a cultural paradigm shift in what society deems to be an appropriate workplace - and remote work has capitalized off of that newfound freedom. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully, or, as we say here at Remote Year, great work can be done from anywhere.
Think of it this way: instead of commuting to an office each day to work from a designated desk, remote employees can execute their projects and surpass their goals wherever they please. People have the flexibility to design their days so that their professional and personal lives can be experienced to their fullest potential and coexist peacefully.
How do people work remotely?
There are a variety of ways in which people can work remotely. That’s the beauty of remote work - people can choose to work in a way that makes the most sense for their lives.
For example, some people have the opportunity to work remotely for the majority of the working week, but have to commute to in-person meetings at the office one day a week. On a typical day, these remote employees work from their home offices or nearby cafés and can work from their company’s office when it’s necessary.
Others rely on coworking spaces to be the spots where they can get the job done. Coworking spaces act as hubs of productivity, community, and technology, offering great network connectivity and opportunities to meet others who work in a multitude of industries. They can be utilized by people with full-time jobs, freelance careers and even entrepreneurs who want to rent out an office space for themselves or their small staff. You might even say that coworking spaces are a halfway point between a traditional office and a nontraditional workspace, giving you the comfort of working from home and combining it with the professional amenities and networking opportunities that you’d find in a corporate environment. Whether remote employees choose to take advantage of a coworking space in their home city, or obtain a membership with a coworking collective that has locations around the world, they reap the benefits of having location flexibility.
Some remote workers take full advantage of the opportunities that a remote working lifestyle gives them. On top of being able to set their schedules so that they are able to work whenever they are most productive or creative, some remote employees decide to leave their traditional routines behind and hit the road. In an effort to open their minds, achieve greater global understanding and expand their professional network into a worldwide community, they take their remote work to different countries around the world, either through work and travel programs or DIY travel arrangements.
Why do people work remotely?
Now that you understand what remote work is and how people make it happen everyday you might be wondering: why? Why would someone choose to work outside of an office environment and, better yet, why would their boss let them?
There are a multitude of benefits to remote work for both employees and employers, ranging from increased productivity to happier, healthier workers. Let’s break down a few of the advantages:
How Remote Work Benefits Employees
The most obvious reason for why people want to work remotely is because it offers them a more flexible lifestyle. When they aren’t required to be in an office during a set time frame, remote employees can focus on the things that matter to them outside of the office. If a remote worker is also a parent, he or she has the ability to start work earlier in the day so that he or she can be present when the children get home from school, or take time off during the day for a doctor’s appointment. Another scenario could be a remote employee who wants to attain further education in their field. Because they aren’t subject to a strict schedule in a permanent workplace, a remote employee could pursue a Master’s degree or continuing education course during the day and double down on their work in the evening, or vice versa.
Better health and wellness
Remote employees are notably less stressed and have higher morale than their in-office counterparts. In a report published by Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, it was found that 55% of participants felt more stressed as a result of their commute. By eliminating that commute, and letting remote employees work in an environment that they’re comfortable in, employers are nurturing less stressed-out employees. Just take a look at this stat: 69% of remote workers reported lower absenteeism than non-remote employees according to a 2014 study by PGi. Workers didn’t feel the need to skip out on work without good reason because they felt engaged and focused within their role instead of stressed or pressured. Happier, healthier employees produce better work and feel more committed to their companies. From this perspective, remote work is just good business.
Renewed passion for their job
Remote employees tend to do their best work outside of the office. They are more inspired by their surroundings and can filter out environmental distractions as they see fit. In fact, the opportunity to work remotely alone brings a new perspective to a remote workers’ position. They see it as motivation or a reward for their excellent work and are stimulated to continue to surpass their goals in order to continue living the lifestyle that they’ve come to love.
How Remote Work Benefits Employers
One of the most touted arguments for remote work is the increased productivity that comes with its flexibility. Remote employees are almost twice as likely to work more than 40 hours a week as in-office employees. According to the State and Work Productivity Report, 65% of full-time employees believe that working remotely would increase productivity - and their bosses agree. Two-thirds of managers who were surveyed reported an increase in overall productivity from their remote employees.
Remote employees are also great for a company’s bottom line. If a team is fully-distributed, companies can see decreased overhead from money saved on costs like rent and office furniture. To put that learning into perspective, Flexjobs reported that employers can save $22,000 per remote worker per year, even if their entire team is not remote.
Beyond profit margins and higher-quality, more efficient work, employers offer remote work opportunities to keep their employees happy and engaged. Remote work is not just a flash in the pan for employee engagement - nearly 75% of employees surveyed in a Softchoice study said they would quit their job for one that offered remote work. That’s something that will make employers who are interested in talent retention listen in a little closer. Here’s another: in a survey by TINYpulse, remote employees reported that they were happier than non-remote employees and also felt more valued within their role.
What are some common misconceptions about remote work?
While remote work is becoming more and more common, it’s true that there are still some misunderstandings about this working style. Here are the ones that we hear the most often:
Remote workers have trouble communicating
It’s true that remote employees are not fixtures in in-person meetings. They aren’t ingrained in water cooler conversations or happy hour meetups, but they more than make up for it in their desire to remain connected to the team and be successful in their work. Video calls are the simplest way to hold meetings as a remote employee because it acts as a reminder that both parties are human and allows team members to build virtual relationships. Because remote employees tend to be self-starters by nature, they also tend to put in extra effort to over communicate on project statuses, any obstacles they may be facing and extend congratulations to other team members
Remote workers are “always-on”
This is a fear of remote employees and their employers alike. Employees value working remotely because it gives them the freedom to make their own schedule - not because it allows their schedule to be 24/7. Employers don’t want remote employees to work nonstop either, for fear that they’ll burn out and lose their passion for their position. It’s important in the beginning of a remote work agreement to work out which hours an employee should expect to be available and which times of day are more open for flexibility. In addition to laying down standards for availability, remote teams should set clear expectations about communication and develop messaging channels for its members.
Remote workers don’t actually work
We’ve heard this one enough! The stereotype of a remote worker is that they sit in bed all day in their pajamas, working once in awhile, but not at the same level as those who commute to the office each day. We know that this is simply not true. In all of the time that we have spent with remote workers, we’ve seen a variety of styles: those who wake up early in the morning for a hike, shower off, and hunker down for a day of focused creation; and those who get ready for the day as if they were going to an office setting, polished outfit and all. What we do know is this: remote workers get sh*t done.
How can I start working remotely?
Sold on this lifestyle? It is pretty appealing. The idea of waking up and living your life in a way that is most suited to your personal and professional goals, along with your habits and idiosyncrasies sounds almost too good to be true. PSA: this way of living is possible for you, no matter where you’re at in life right now. Here are a few things that you can do to start living the remote work lifestyle:
If you’re a full-time employee at a company with a corporate office:
This is a multi-step process and not something that should be jumped into without a bit of thought. You’ll need to consider your current professional role, your working style, and be prepared to have in-depth conversations with your manager about how remote working could work for you and your team. You’ll need to build up a well-researched business case that is specific to your role in your organization and use the powers of persuasion to get your boss on board. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it alone. We’ll show you how to segue into remote work, whether you want to do it once a week, or for an entire year.
If you’re a freelancer
You’re probably in the best position to work remotely - congratulations! Think about your clientele and whether it is necessary to be available for in-person meetings. If you think that more than 80% of your work can be done virtually, then think about a trial remote work period. Start with one week and build up to longer stretches of time that feel comfortable to you and your clientele.
If you’re an entrepreneur
As a motivated innovator and self-starter, remote work could be a great option for you. Before you jump headfirst into a remote working lifestyle, think about whether your business requires a brick-and-mortar location. For example, a salon owner would have a difficult time working remotely, while an online fitness instructor would have a simpler transition. Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons, take the leap - and consider taking your team along with you for the ride!
Remote work is still a relatively new concept in the professional world. With technology advancing at a faster rate than ever before, old concerns like communication and productivity tracking have been eradicated and more companies are looking into offering remote work as an option for their employees. If you’re interested in living a more flexible lifestyle, or want to pursue a new way of thinking about personal and professional growth, look into how remote work could work for you.
We can’t wait to see all that you can accomplish once you’re free to live your life on your terms.