Recently, remote work opportunities have been all the rage, with more businesses looking to offer their workforce an opportunity to work remotely. It has revolutionized the entire economics of the job market while increasing employee engagement rates. People who opt to work remotely oftentimes find they enjoy a better work-life balance as well as increased productivity levels.
Companies that embrace remote work can increase employee retention rates, especially considering it's more expensive to recruit and hire new employees than to retain your current workforce. However, as appealing as remote work might seem, it might not be for everyone. While it promises a diversity of perks, it comes with a few cons that might not be appealing to you.
Here are some insights on the idea behind remote work to help you gauge whether it is right for you:
What is remote work?
Remote work is a revolutionary working style that empowers individuals to work away from conventional brick and mortar offices and instead work in remote locations. Employees can do their work from home, in co-working spaces, in coffee shops, or during a commute. The main concept behind remote work is that you do not have to be confined to an office for you to execute work successfully. A lot has contributed to the rising popularity of remote work, including:
1. Cost of owning offices
The Great Recession of 2008 had a great impact on the purchasing power of businesses. In reiteration, business leaders had to start cutting costs by urging employees to work remotely. This helped them cut down on their office space rent. Even after the economy rebounded from this dark time, remote work became even stronger.
Today, it might be cheaper for business leaders to embrace remote work than invest in modern-day offices. Modern office design favors collaboration and inspiring interiors instead of siloed and mundane cubicles. In fact, 72% of employees who work in an office with an inspiring design claim that it has a positive impact on their productivity.
In most cases, investing in these modern designs means that leaders have to invest in four types of spaces within their offices: a focus space, a social space, a collaborative space, and a private space. Other aspects to invest in are the color of the space, the type of furniture to use as well as the type of lighting within the rooms. While they could always invest in these aspects of their offices, the appeal that remote work comes with for both businesses and employees makes it more effective.
2. Access to a wide talent pool
Location-based work opportunities limit organizations to a specific talent pool, one that lives close enough to the organization. While they can always have their candidates move close to the office headquarters, it is not always practical. Besides, since most offices are located in areas with high costs of living, recruits might be skeptical of moving here unless the compensation is good enough.
With all these challenges, businesses have had to make concessions when recruiting talent, whereby they could have recruited much more experienced people were they to do away with geographical boundaries. Remote work ensures that businesses can reach out to potential employees from different states and even overseas. They can hold interviews online and even conduct the onboarding process without ever meeting with the employees face-to-face.
Even better, the internet boom came with the idea that people can live anywhere and still find work as long as they have a strong internet connection. As a result, employees are more willing to move away from the expensive metro life to areas with more affordable living standards. The fact that different cities and states are offering incentives, like grants and free co-working space memberships, to remote workers makes it easier to move to such areas.
Amidst all these developments, remote work opportunities have become more of a necessity to remain a competitive employer than a luxury. In fact, 71% of people interviewed in a recent Owl Labs survey claimed that the presence of remote working opportunity would be a huge consideration when choosing between two attractive job opportunities, with them having a preference for the offer that promises remote work.
3. Gen Z and millennial workers want work-life balance
Gen Z and Millennial workers have grown in a rough time. In their life, they have witnessed wars, terror attacks, and even the Great Recession. This has made them appreciate being close to family and looking for happiness. For them, it would be easier to be happy and attached to their life outside work.
Remote work promises this. For instance, a working mother can enjoy spending more time with their kids while working from home. They can also visit their parents and make more friends than when they are confined to brick and mortar offices.
4. Today's technology supports remote work
Technology-wise, there has never been a better time to be a remote worker. Companies already have video conferencing software and hardware for interviews and corporate meetings. It is also easy to share files and media over the internet. Some of the tools that make remote work possible include:
- File sharing platforms
- Project management tools
- Employee scheduling tools
- Time tracking tool
- Secure data access technologies
- Adaptive analytics systems
With AI at the center of how these tools are interconnected, employees can gain access to the corporate network in a way that feels like they are in the office. If leaders are worried about data security, tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) will help secure corporate data when employees are working remotely. Other simple tasks like signing documents can also be supported by tools like e-signature software.
The best part of it all is that internet connectivity is now stronger and cheaper than in the previous years, even in remote areas of the country. Workers can rely on stable internet connections to keep in touch with their employers. Even better, with more companies working on perfecting 5G networks, working remotely will become even more efficient.
How to work remotely
There are different levels of working remotely. Some of them include:
Full-time remote work
This is where you will be fully working away from your employer's office. You need to be in constant communication with them, as well as follow an agreed-upon schedule. This option will work best for you if you aren't in the same geographical location as your current employer.
In this variation, you can work both on-site and remotely. For instance, you can work from home during the holidays or inclement weather when commuting will be tough. Ideally, you need to have the technology to ensure your consistency productivity-wise when working both from home and at the office. For instance, using remote desktop applications can make it possible to access your organization's database and files.
For small business owners
Before their businesses get on their feet, small business owners might rely on working away from conventional office-based environments. If you own a small business, cutting costs is essential. Luckily, remote work can help do away with the cost of leasing an office. Instead, you can work from home, or even rely on co-working spaces that you can pay for using shorter leases.
Benefits of remote work
When working remotely, you can enjoy improved productivity levels. You can use the time it would have taken you to commute to the work to do something constructive. This also limits the chances of getting late to work as well as needing to leave early.
Also, since you will be isolated from other employees, you can concentrate more on the work at hand. You will be exposed to little to no chit chat with colleagues. Since most businesses might need you to use time tracking tools for remote work, it can also ensure that every moment you are working is used on something constructive.
Commuting between work and home can be quite expensive. Transport costs can also increase in times of inclement weather, natural disasters, or recessions. Sadly, you will typically have to cater for this additional cost of commute to and from work. Remote work will only need you to have a strong internet connection.
If you are a semi-remote worker, you can always work from home when commuting to work seems too expensive or inconvenient. In case you are a small business owner, you can always rely on the cheap co-working spaces or work from home in times when resources for growing your business are scarce.
Also, remote work means that you can work from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a strong internet connection. As a result, you can choose to live in areas with a better cost-of-living, and where you can have control of other costs like taxes and utility bills.
While the opportunities to save money are clear, be careful not to get carried away. For example: working from home isn't a reason to cancel your disability insurance policy, nor is it a green-light for employers to gloss over the benefits they offer. Income protection is still essential no matter where you work. In fact, the vast majority of disabling events happen outside of the workplace anyway.
Remote work may also help you improve your work-life balance. Taking care of business outside of a traditional office setting allows you to spend more time with your family members and friends. If you have kids, it will be easy to be there for them when they are going to or leaving school. For those working in an office environment, it can be impractical to come from their office to pick their kids from school and take them home, only to get back to work. This might come with the extra cost of hiring a babysitter.
You can also visit family members while still working, allowing you to be involved in the lives of your family. Since you can travel with your job, it becomes easy to take vacations as well as enjoy life on a whole new level.
Downsides of remote work
Isolation from the rest of the workforce
If you are an extrovert, remote work might not be the best option for you. You might feel isolated from working away from the rest of your workforce. Sure, companies use teleconferencing, chat systems, and other communication methods to keep the workforce connected, but this doesn't always have the authentic appeal of face-to-face interactions. This can also hurt the organization's culture since you might fail to build the right camaraderie with the rest of the workforce.
You might also feel invisible to the rest of the workforce. The fact that you might not have enough face time or interactions with your key company leaders might make it tough for them to award promotions or consider you for growth opportunities.
While you might escape distractions from workplace rumors, you face the risk of even more distractions at home. These distractions include children, pets, spouses, and even watching TV. It might also be easy to go on social media while at home than while working remotely. It all trickles down to how you organize your working space and the kind of rules you set with those closest to you. For instance, you can ask them not to disturb you during office hours.
The risk of overworking
While remote work has the potential to increase work-life balance, the way you define your working environment can actually reduce it. With remote this type of work, there is a fine line between where you live and where you work, especially if you work from home. The lack of this distinction can make it tough to unplug from work and spend some time with your loved ones. Some opportunities might also lead to you working beyond the normal 9-5 hours, leading to you being overworked.
Communication or collaboration barriers
Remote work is solely reliant on technology and internet connectivity. If either party involved in the work doesn't have the above aspects functioning optimally, it will be tough to work efficiently. For instance, you might lack the kind of technology at home that will help you achieve a specific task. If you have poor internet connectivity, you will also struggle to connect with the rest of your organization.
Remote is here to stay, and as technology evolves, so will it. Soon, organizations won't manage to compete for talent in the job market if they lack remote work opportunities. While it promises numerous benefits to the modern-day worker, it might not be a fit for all people. As long as the perks it offers outweighs the cons for you, feel free to try working remotely. What's even better is that you don't have to work remotely every single day.
Jack Wolstenholm is the head of content at Breeze.
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