The global community has brought the world together in ways that have changed the way we live, we move, and even the way we work. One of the fruits of this digitization is the global economy, and with it, remote working, which is currently a growing trend reshaping how we work and revolutionizing the way we do business.
What is Remote Work?
Remote work is being able to work from a location outside the traditional working environment or fixed business location. Known also as telecommuting, teleworking, mobile work, flexible workspace, and work-from-home, this kind of work arrangement gained popularity in the 70s as more and more people opted not to commute or travel to work, and do their jobs mainly from home and communicate with the company by email, telephone, and other means of communication. Remote working became pop culture by the 90s as people started to adhere to the belief that “work is what we do, not where we are.”
One Gallup survey found that 43% of Americans worked from home occasionally, increasing from 39% in 2012. There are still 44% of companies that do not or cannot allow remote work, but the number of people who work from home increased by 140% since 2005, according to Global Workplace Analytics.
The Growing Appeal of Remote Working
Remote work is here to stay, especially among small business owners who are twice as likely to hire full-time remote workers because they can potentially maximize the productivity of some of the best talents in the world at a fraction of overhead costs. The rise among home-based workers, remote workers, co-working space workers, full-time freelancers, and digital nomads creates a new dynamic of functionality in teams and the way each member works together regardless of where they work. The future of business productivity is finding new outlets in which remote workers, some even having more established work backgrounds and higher expertise than their office-based counterparts, can continue to be productive members of the global economy.
Remote work has grown as well because the traditional office environment setup is no longer enough, or sometimes necessary, to meet the needs of the company and the market, and of workers around the world besieged by modern-day challenges such as extreme traffic, remote location, keeping work-life balance, managing young-aged children, lack of daycare, health concerns or physical limitations, and the like. There are more and more career options that have, as one of its biggest appeals, is the ability to get paid competitively despite working remotely. More and more college hopefuls choose IT courses in the hopes of becoming a software developer, for instance, because of compelling reasons such as competitive pay and remote working options.
Innovations in digital technology make all these changes possible. And although some of the large companies that have tried remote work have reverted to an office-bound work environment, the evolution and explosion of remote work remain undeniable. The opportunity to work for employers that were once inaccessible for most people is now a possibility and a reality in today’s times and seasons.
Here are five ways remote work is affecting the future of work and the way we do business:
1. Flexibility in work
Remote work enables employees and freelancers to complete tasks flexibility. Through the improvement in technology and a better internet connection, remote work has opened the door for those who had no access to some job opportunities to be able to prove their skill and expertise, especially those from developing countries and small villages and towns. Time has always been a precious commodity, and work flexibility has given better handling, management, and use of it. Remote work also affects a worker’s expenses. Remote workers can save up on travel expenses as there is no need to commute to work, efficiently manage their food expenses as they do not have to eat out, and incur fewer clothing expenses since you can be as casual as you would like when you’re at home.
Remote work also benefits businesses as they retain and get loyalty from their remote worker for the same benefits mentioned earlier. In a study made by Owl Labs, remote workers would stay in a job for the next five years, especially if they are allowed to keep working remotely. But 55% of remote workers, according to the same study, will most likely look for another job if they were not allowed to work remotely by their employer. Some remote workers feel indebted to their employer for the benefit of this flexibility that they feel the need to give back. In some cases, this eventually leads to burnout because of the need to return the favor. Workplace culture is where remote work will also affect how business is done, which leads us to our next point.
2. A different way of doing things
The culture of a typical business environment includes the following:
- Having a focus on “seeing is believing” with how one manages both office-bound and remote workers. Where the manager has to see that you are working at your designated desk for 8 to 9 hours per day.
- Rewards, awards, incentives, and encouragement are only meant for this who work in-house. It is a benefit for those who decide to work against a pseudo-vacation pretending to be work.
- Lack of commitment by a worker is presumed if a worker leaves work early and arrives late for work.
- Your time at work defines the growth of the company financially. They call it hard work.
Businesses must be able to adapt and adequately equip this flexibility. Managers must be able to give tools for remote productivity and collaboration. You cannot just introduce remote work without addressing the very culture that remote workers must co-exist with. A worker’s physical presence may not be within the vicinity, but the productivity is proof of the worker’s existence. “Seeing is believing” is suitable for a typical office environment without remote workers. That is why the inclusion of remote work as part of your company will demand a shift in your company’s work culture. Remote workers need trust. The (perceived) busyness of an employee won’t be given as much focus because productivity and outcome get the limelight. Create an environment that still relies heavily on results and would allow remote workers with the right expertise to provide solutions in different areas where needed. Establish a culture of encouragement that caters to remote workers and mitigate the effects of social isolation.
3. Coping with Social Isolation
Remote work runs the risk of social isolation for workers. One of the advantages of remote work is being able to have more time with family. But this also blurs the boundary between work and home. Remote workers tend to put more hours on their work much more than those who work in an office because it’s more difficult for remote workers to unplug from their work. Traditional working hours and settings are sometimes not what a remote worker experiences. Typically, a remote worker goes beyond a usual workday’s required number of hours, and even take fewer days off their vacation time to do their work. Studies show that remote workers log in an average of 4 hours per week to finish their tasks. Employers may see this as an advantage for higher productivity and outcome, but it carries a vast risk for their remote workers. Some workers, as mentioned earlier, even feel obligated to return the favor to the company for the flexibility allotted to them. Social isolation, if not addressed, would lead to burnout or mental health problems.
For this reason, businesses are advised to include remote workers in their events, awarding ceremonies, even if it is just through video conferencing. Although this will not replace physical interaction, this will build a team mentality and unity for both office-bound and remote workers. If the company is made up of mostly remote workers, alternative ways have been suggested, such as maintaining group chats, using collaboration tools, and using online messaging boards to keep communications open and support remote staff-relationship building.
4. Clear expectations and responsibilities
As mentioned earlier, remote work will put a demand upon managers. Results and outcomes will be the focus instead of an employee’s busyness. A considerable number of remote workers were given responsibilities beyond the job description or project details. Owners or managers must be able to set clear work expectations and responsibilities for the remote worker’s protection.
5. Savings from overhead expenses
As mentioned, one obvious way remote work will significantly affect businesses is on the company’s overhead expenses. Should the company be dependent on remote work, then the company will be able to save a lot of money on office space rent (usually located on prime real estate), electricity costs, office equipment procurement, and other utility bills. The business owners can also save up on devices and software purchased and installed because these expenses are now incurred, in a way, by remote workers. Expensive server set-ups and maintenance costs are also minimized because the remote workers take charge of maintaining their equipment. Depending on the arrangement between the employer and the remote worker, these expenses can be factored into the salary of the remote worker, or as a separate expense shouldered by the company.
Conclusion: Remote Work is Here to Stay
Communication technologies are continuing to improve and develop. This type of development will significantly help in making services provided by remote workers even better. As businesses move forward, the virtual team will become more and more apparent in today’s workforce. There will be a greater emphasis on work output and excellence of communication and feedback within the workforce rather than hours rendered. Remote work is here to stay, and it will continue to broaden its grip on the global economy as modernization continues to permeate the workplace, breaking traditional work parameters, breaking new ground on more flexible ways to earn a living in this digital world.
Mayleen Meñez worked for seven years in TV and Radio production, and also as a Graphic Artist/Editor. Finding her true passion, she devoted 15 years in NGO and community development work, where she experienced being a coordinator and teacher, travelling both in the Philippines and countries in Asia. She homeschools her three kids and reinvents Filipino dishes in her spare time. Writing has always been a hobby and pursuit, and she recently added content writing with Softvire Australia and Softvire New Zealand up her sleeve, while preparing for her next adventure in the nations.