What is Remote Work?

Mike Marks January 19, 2021

Recent data collected during the COVID-19 pandemic projects that by the year 2025, 22% of the American workforce, or 36.2 million people, will be remote workers, and Global Workforce Analytics estimates that 25 to 30% of the workforce could be working remotely for a few days each week by the end of 2021. This data clearly highlights the major shift that’s currently underway. Companies throughout the world are continuing to create digital workplaces and offer their employees more flexible work arrangements.

In this post, we’ll define remote work and describe some of the important benefits that this style of work has for both employers and employees. Remote work is quickly becoming prominent across many industries, and there is plenty of room for future growth. Understanding how remote work arrangements are structured can help you prepare for the future, both for yourself and your employees.

What Is Remote Work?

Remote work is defined as any work that an employee performs outside of the central office or workplace. Most companies will define a remote work policy as part of their employee handbook that includes additional details regarding how often and in what circumstances employees can work remotely, as well as any requirements or processes for documenting work, collaborating with other team members, and using devices and software. Employees often connect to a digital environment by logging in to company systems with a secure data connection.

When well designed, these systems replicate all the important features that an employee will need to perform their work duties. This can include remote access to IT support, HR systems, and collaboration platforms. Remote work is also referred to as telecommuting since the main form of access to the company is through a digital connection.

How Do Employees Work Remotely?

One of the common misconceptions about remote work is that it is the same as working from home. In simple terms, working from home refers to any work done from inside a worker’s home. This usually takes the form of a home office where someone completes work for their employer or as a contractor for another company, or they may operate their own business.

Working from home is really a subset of remote work, with the primary characteristic being where the work is performed. Some additional locations where remote work can take place include:

  • Airports
  • Hotels
  • Coffee shops
  • Coworking spaces
  • Homes
  • Trains and cars

Remote work has long been a necessity for employees who often travel for their jobs. With a company phone and laptop, workers can easily connect with their colleagues and access centralized software systems. Remote work today has become easier than ever with improved video conferencing and fully integrated modern communication platforms.

What Are Popular Remote Work Careers?

While nearly any position can be managed remotely in certain situations, some roles are especially well-suited for a completely remote environment. Many of the most common fully remote positions are in fields related to digital technologies and software. A few of the most popular careers that can be done fully remotely include:

  • Digital marketing
  • Software programming
  • Accounting
  • Web design
  • Translation
  • Copywriting
  • Graphic design
  • Virtual assistance
  • Social media management
  • Accounting

A simple search will reveal a variety of job listings from companies that are offering these positions in a full or part-time remote work capacity. Even with the challenges of the year 2020, it is an exciting time for workers looking to develop new skills that are valuable in remote work environments.

What are the Benefits of Remote Work?

Remote work has become a sustainable practice during the COVID-19 pandemic because it offers benefits for both businesses and employees. While coordinating work and ensuring organizational alignment can be challenging at first, a company that supports remote work will be well positioned to overcome future challenges. Here’s a look at a few of the most valuable benefits remote work offers:

  • Flexible schedules. Remote workspaces give employees the ability to contact each other through text and voice or video calls. Each worker can also customize their workspace and activate an out of office notification when they are not available. Having clear visibility of every team member’s schedule makes it easy to coordinate meeting times, and because remote work doesn’t require a commute to a physical office, workers can often complete tasks at times when they’re most productive, rather than on a strict 9-to-5 schedule. The amount of scheduling flexibility depends on the nature of the work and the company’s policies, but many remote workers find the arrangement more flexible than a typical 9-to-5, on-site job.
  • Health and wellness. A demanding commute can be a challenge for even the most dedicated employee. The ability to work remotely helps to reduce the burden of commuting and time spent on the road or in traffic. Employees can focus their energy on their work and use the time they save on their daily commute to spend more time with their families, exercise, get more rest, or other self-care needs. Many remote workers also appreciate not having to cope with the stress of traffic delays and hazardous driving conditions due to snow, wind, or other weather conditions.
  • Cost savings. In some situations, companies can realize significant cost savings by switching to a remote workforce. A reduction of office space is a tangible benefit that is also enabled by a reduction of in-person meetings. Often, a team can improve productivity drastically by identifying bottlenecks caused by work processes or systems.
  • Employee engagement. Remote work can increase job satisfaction, increase retention, and improve employee engagement due to the greater flexibility and work-life balance it can offer. While it may seem difficult to keep remote employees engaged, companies can encourage engagement by implementing strategies to encourage feedback, streamlining collaboration, and fostering a positive, supportive company culture.

Remote work has become a vital and necessary part of daily life for millions of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help facilitate the shift to remote work, many companies are adding new tools and capabilities to help employees connect and support work processes that were once only conducted in on-site environments. The next decade is going to be an exciting time for companies across all industries and an incredible opportunity for employees to adapt to the challenges and benefits that remote work provides.