May 05, 2020 | 7 min read

Is Remote Really the Future of Work?

Pavel Kaplunou, Marketing Communications

The in-office job experience is definitely going to change after when the new normal comes around. While there is no telling what that new normal will be or how long it will last before the next slew of changes, the words on the lips of many business leaders are “remote work”. Indeed, if there is anything that data has shown, it is that work from home options will persist beyond the global crisis.

In the past decade, the number of workers who work from home at least one a week has increased by 400%, according to GetApp. While only a small percent of the number who work remotely, 3.8% to be exact, do so for half a week, in terms of count that stacks up to almost 5 million workers. The current circumstances and the workplace shifts happening around them suggest these numbers are going to be drastically reshuffled in the coming years.

According to a Buffer and AngelList State of Remote Work Study published in February, as many as 99% of respondents said they would choose to work remotely for the rest of their careers. The study, surveyed across 3,500 remote workers, published new insights on the emerging telecommuting trends. 

The remote work landscape

From the State of Remote work study, results show that 98% of the people whose career involves work from home options would continue to do so, for at least some of the time, throughout the rest of their career. In fact, as many as 57% of respondents are engaged in remote work full-time.

Looking at the numbers, it seems that the prevailing majority of people were quite content with their remote work job. In addition to that, about a fifth responded that they would like to have the flexibility to work from home more often.

In terms of primary and secondary work locations, remote workers cite their home and then the office, strange though it may sound. About a fifth, or 27%, choose coffee shops as their primary workplace location, while only a fraction, with 7%, choose coworking spaces.

A growing trend in office life is the mixing of full-time office workers with an equal part of remote workers. While some opt to put in the hours on office premises, a good half of the modern workforce will work from home, only occasionally paying visits to the office. As many as 60% of companies currently rely on this split in the workforce.

With these figures in mind, it begs the question whether remote work opportunities really are the future of work. 

Benefits of remote work

The most obvious advantage in favor of telecommuting that springs to mind is not having to commute. For many, this is truly a life-saver, as it gives ample time to either get in the mood for work or dive straight into it with time to spare. Not to mention, it is a lot more comfortable spending the thirty or forty odd minutes in the comfort of your home, than on public transport.

Yet, the hands-down winner among the perks of remote work for the past three years running remains flexibility. Workers are happy with the ability to distribute their workload throughout the day or adjust the day to their daily rhythm. Flexibility allows workers to do the same amount of work within a time period that may fall outside of regular work hours. 

Noticeably, with this flexibility comes the fact that most distributed teams will work well beyond the constraints of their working hours. Findings show that workers will spend more time working during the day, when they are not in the office. Though it is hard to attribute that to anything specific, it seems likely

For better or for worse, though most will say for the better, a remote work culture allows employees to enjoy time with the family. Considering the number of hours spent working and commuting, seeing loved ones sooner, rather than later mostly comes as a breath of fresh air.

Employers can reap the benefits of reduced monthly office expenses. With a distributed team and the primary work location being home, less office space is required to manage a company.

Drawbacks of remote work

For every person who is a self-starter and can work unsupervised, there will always be those who need the extra nudge, water cooler conversation, or extra piece of feedback. It is not unusual to want human interaction or a little help from others, we are social beings after all.

As many as 20% say that loneliness is a major problem. But loneliness is not the only challenge of a remote workforce. Data from the State of Remote Work report shows that collaboration and communication closely follow unwanted solitude. For a remote work culture to thrive, employers need to understand the data behind remote employee productivity and behaviors.

Employees with families will often find it difficult to unplug from work, or vice versa, sink their teeth fully into it with all the household distractions. 

From the employer’s perspective, another aspect of hiring or transferring a team into WFH mode also poses certain challenges. A recent study, found that personal computers are the go-to device for a distributed workforce. Despite the abundance of more affordable alternatives, such as tablets and compact computers, preferences lie with the good old PC. As such, managing a remote workforce might incur additional overheads in hardware expenses. 

On the software side of things, messengers and video chat software have delivered the conference room experience inside people’s homes. Employees that place an emphasis on collaboration or rely on approvals to get work done, or even simply wish to keep up with their colleagues can use videoconferencing software. Many video software alternatives can help bridge the gap between being at home alone and with peers in the office.

Technology aside, another point in the disadvantages list is different time zones. Teams working across state or even country borders will find themselves out of sync with their colleagues. For software development companies, teams of software engineers may be well accustomed to working with clients remotely and across time zones. Though, for an entirely new hire to be productive and on par with her colleagues may prove to be a difficult task to be accomplished immediately. It may take more than just motivation to keep your employees productive and on track with their work.

Employers need to be understanding and show compassion to remote workers, within reasonable limits, of course. In order to better grasp the ins and outs of working with a distributed workforce, whether that means an in-house distributed team or even augmented staff supplied by outsourcing partners, employers can turn to the main principles of managing a remote team.

For anyone struggling with working from home with the same efficiency as from the office, turn to Smart IT’s guide on how to work from home productively.

The future of work is remote

While Buffer’s report is but one way of looking at a picture of the world of remote work before the current circumstances, it provides a window into the way business can and yet may operate in the future. It is an opportunity to get a sense of the current situation for employees and employers alike.

As far as things go,If there is an observable and loud trend, it is the unavoidable fact that remote workers want to stay remote. Workers say they are happiest when they are working remotely, so maybe telecommuting paves the way for keeping employees happy. With happy employees, come happy customers and businesses thrive.

For potential hires joining a remote team, this is the chance to reconsider their work practices and find that which works for them best. Employers can, in turn, use this information to increase efficiency and pivot their business towards the next, or rather newest, normal.

05 May 2020

WRITTEN BY

Pavel Kaplunou , Marketing Communications

Pavel is Smart IT's Marketing Communication Manager. He oversees content creation and is in charge of the official Smart IT blog. Contact Pavel to learn about potential media and content collaborations. p.kaplunou@smart-it.io

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