What is Remote Work?
By Dana Sher
Head of Product
Remote work is more than a trend—in fact, you might call it a movement. The number of remote workers has grown exponentially over the last decade to 4.7 million today. But what is remote work beyond the concept of not going into a central workplace each day?
Stereotyping might say remote work is sitting at a laptop in your pajamas and logging in at the crack of 10:30 a.m. to start your workday. Remote work involves adapting to decentralized work trends in a productive capacity. For most, it means the need to develop new habits, learn new skills, and explore new modes of work. Remote workers need to transcend the concept of a static workplace and embrace one that’s less structured.
Remote work offers employees freedom and autonomy, and creates cost savings and improved ROI for businesses. To make it work, both sides need to understand its nuances.
It’s not about where you work…
Most people define working remotely in a physical sense. If your business has an office but you don’t go there to work, you’re a remote worker. Or, if your company is decentralized with no physical home base (like a startup), you’re a remote worker by default. But this definition only scratches the surface of what remote work is.
Today’s remote workforce has adapted to work anywhere. Coffee shops, coworking spaces, airport terminals, train stations, hotels, and just about anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection constitutes a workplace. It leads to a broader concept. If you can work from anywhere in the world, how can you define remote work by a physical place?
The traditional definition of remote work still applies in the broad sense. If you can choose where you want to work, you’re a remote worker. But there’s also a habitual component to recognize.
…it’s about how you work
If you’re a consultant and you meet with clients five days a week at the same coffee shop, are you still a remote worker? Or has that coffee shop become your workplace? If you have a home office that you exclusively work from, are you remote or is that office your workplace? Trying to define remote work by the presence or absence of a physical workplace can be tricky, which is why it needs a broader definition.
Working remotely goes beyond the physical workplace to encompass how a person works. Are you collaborating with your team via video chat for conferences? Do you upload documents to an online repository and collaborate through document markups? Relying on technology to facilitate your interaction with team members and clients contributes to your status as a remote worker.
When do you work? Do you keep the usual 9-to-5 or does your schedule hop around—8-to-12, 1-to-3, 5-to-7? Are you online 12 hours a day but working for six? Flexibility is a huge part of remote work, and employees adapt their schedules to accommodate work-life balance not otherwise possible. Here again, the idea of remote work transcends physical space. You might work part of your day in the office, part at a coffee shop, and part at home. The “remote” part of work isn’t about the space; it’s about distancing yourself from the traditional mode of work.
How do people work these days?
Today’s remote worker is unique. He has his own work habits. She has her own work schedule. They have their preferred workplaces. Remote work enables people to create their own concept of work within the confines of their job expectations. Autonomy is central to remote work. Take a look at a few examples of what remote work looks like as a diverse concept.
Lucy works in a new coworking space every week, chatting with her team on Slack about strategic marketing initiatives. She uses project planning software to coordinate their efforts and automates communications to ensure they go out on time no matter where or when she’s working that day.
Mike keeps the same hours every day: 9-to-1 and 6-to-10. He has clients in several countries, so he needs to split his hours between them. In the mornings, he works from the corporate office; in the evenings, he works from his home office. Regardless of his location, he uses Zoom to video chat with his clients.
Inez is a creative designer and welcomes sporadic inspiration. She rarely works in the same place and has a constant stream of projects. She uses her tablet when she’s traveling and her laptop when she’s working near home, and she relies on cloud apps like Dropbox, G-Suite and other remote working apps to keep her connected to various projects at all times.
These examples not only show people working in different places, but also using different technologies and devices, on different schedules. They’re all remote workers, who represent an increasingly diverse workforce.
Does remote work…work?
The growth of remote employees over the past decade indicates that remote work is worth it. The workforce has learned to adapt to work without the need for a traditional office, and employers have embraced technologies that keep their decentralized teams connected, accountable, and productive. Whether it’s from a home office, a coffee shop, or a coworking space, employees are quickly learning how to work, no matter where they work. In short, remote work works!
Keep reading: 8 Benefits Of Remote Working