Everything you want to know about remote work
Prior to spring 2020, there already were 7 million people in the U.S. working remotely, which is 3.4% of the population. Over the last five years the number of remote workers has grown by 44 percent and today rising more than ever.
A quite common (and incorrect) assumption about remote work is that in involves little more than lying on a comfy sun-lounger, sipping freshly squeezed juice at a luxurious Bali villa, while doing something vaguely resembling actual work on a laptop.
Well, during spring 2020, when many companies had to suddenly implement remote work policies, many of us found out firsthand what it's like to work from home. Not a piece of cake, as it turned out. There is a particular list of challenges, and we already know how to approach many them.
In this article, we've listed some of the most frequently asked questions about remote work.
1/ Flexible working vs. remote working – is there any difference?
Short answer: Yes, there is.
Flexible working has become mainstream over the past years, and many countries have already included flexible working (under different conditions) in their legislations. Flexible working is a broader term for any type of working schedule outside of a regular working pattern or a work schedule that suits employees' specific needs.
Remote working, in its turn, is a type of flexible working, which means working from anywhere, not just from home. Remote workers sometimes don't even meet their colleagues in real life, communicating via video chat or team collaboration tools.
2/ Are remote workers more productive?
Short answer: Yes, they are.
Remote employees are much more delivery-focused than time centric, which sometimes makes them work longer hours than on-site workers. Nevertheless, it doesn't negatively affect the whole work outcome and productivity in majority of the cases. The IWG global Workspace survey reports that 85 percent of respondents confirm that their productivity has increased, resulting in greater job flexibility.
Another study found that 53 percent of remote employees say they are willing to work overtime, compared to only 28 percent of on-site employees. The same survey found that 45 percent of home workers can get more done in less time and are less distracted compared to the office environment. And 90 percent of managers report that their remote team is more productive when given flexibility in hours and places to work from.
Of course, each case has exceptions. If you're still struggling and wondering how to stay productive while working remotely, check out our sixteen helpful tips.
3/ Do remote workers have a schedule?
Short answer: Not necessarily.
One of the leading remote work perks is freedom in your scheduling, and many companies have adopted the ROWE mentality (Results Only Work Environment). The main principle of ROWE is that having a fixed-hour schedule is not a must unless an employee's productivity doesn't suffer, and things are being done. But still, some remote jobs might require you to be always on a call at a specific time. In some cases, the work hours are defined by the time zone differences within a team or certain working hour requirements from the company's side. Many telecommuters have an approximate schedule – sort of specific time frames when they work, and those may differ day-to-day.
According to remote employee feedback, having a schedule is not critical, although it is quite advisable. This highly depends on the type of work and employee's lifestyle and job type. However, talking about experienced and productive remote workers (probably the ones who already can afford to stay by the pool while getting things done), most of them do have a schedule, either self-developed or determined by an employer. Apart from that, they stick to individual morning and evening routines, that give them energy and reduce stress. Self-organization is a remote worker's best friend – plan your work ahead to stay on track. If you are not feeling comfortable with your work-from-home schedule, you should raise this question to discuss with your employer.
4/ Are remote workers happier than office employees?
Short answer: Yes, they are.
The list of remote work pros is longer than the list of cons. It includes such benefits as a healthy work-life balance, time and money savings, better health, increased productivity, customizable office, less stress, and freedom, freedom, freedom!
Research by Owl Labs has reported that full-time remote workers said they're happy in their job 22 percent more than people who never work remotely. The reasons are, as we mentioned previously, – 91 percent reported better work-life balance, 79 percent – increased productivity, 78 percent – less stress, and avoiding the commute.
The same research by Owl Labs also found that employees who are offered increased flexibility are more loyal and are less likely to change their workplaces (by 13 percent) than on-site workers.
So, the study clearly shows that not only remote workers are happier, but they are also prepared to work longer hours (by 43! percent more, in fact) than on-site workers do. And their budget savings are quite impressive – Inc Magazine reported that employees working from home save from $2,000 to $7,000 per year on transportation, food, childcare, and clothes.
And the last thing to say regarding happiness is that remote workers also get a chance to make dreams come true – an ability to combine travelling and work, or life abroad. According to Buffer, 44 percent of remote employees travel while working between one week and one month per year, and 25 percent of respondents do this work/travel combination more than one month of the year.
5/ What are the biggest challenges of remote work?
Shortish answer: Among the most common challenges of remote work employees report overworking, lack of communication and/or loneliness, interruptions (family, roommates), tech issues (poor internet connection, lack of tools), difficulties in work prioritization, and lack of self-organization.
These challenges generally concern beginner remote employees – those who haven't established their working process yet. All the difficulties we mentioned have solutions, even loneliness and lack of communication (Zoom meetings can be fun!). It reveals that the real remote work challenge is a lazy and disorganized personality, and maybe inappropriate working conditions (which can be easily solved).
And…we forgot one more thing – working remotely without appropriate tools is, let's say, not reasonable. Having the right tools at hand, necessary tech, stable internet connection, comfy workplace, and self-organization will help you do your best, even from home. And we have recently compiled our recommended list of excellent tools for remote work that you can check out here.
6/ How companies with remote workforce benefit from implementing flexible/remote working?
Shortish answer: Companies/employers benefit when their employees work remotely for various reasons –rent savings and lower electricity costs, improved employee retention, increased productivity and more.
The better work-life balance, productivity, "happiness", and other benefits that we've already mentioned for remote employees, affect their employers positively. They get improved employee retention, more autonomous and independent workers with increased productivity, and less work quality defects.
Apart from that, business owners save costs on real estate and salaries – organizations save an average of $11,000 per year per part-time telecommuter. Another advantage is that employers get access to a broader pool of applicants and top talent worldwide. Recruiting new, talented candidates gets much easier, and there is more choice. You'll always have more chances to get the right candidate in the remote job market, even for a very specific job opening.
The fact remains – 85 percent of businesses have reported that implementing flexible work locations has made their company more productive. And because remote work is trending like never before, many employers consider implementing remote work as a strategy to enhance their top objectives for the new decade.
7/ Do remote employees have a regular vacation?
Short answer: Yes, they do.
According to the 2019 State of Remote Work survey by Buffer, 32% of remote workers are allowed to take unlimited vacation. Surprisingly, most employees take only from two to three weeks off a year. It turned out that if people have more control over their schedules, they feel less stressed and don't need much time off to recover, unlike the office-bound workers.
8/ What are the remote work must-haves?
Shortish answer: Working from home must-haves include a well-organized workspace with all the necessary work-related attributes, secure and hopefully speedy internet connection, essential hardware and tech, reliable tools, and comfy casual clothes.
Productive and conducive workplace organization means a lot – you need to set up your space properly, to feel like you're at your workplace, not just in a messy corner of a living room. Think of what you need: a good chair, a desk, some paper for notes…maybe your favorite mug? Computer hardware: keyboard, mouse, headphones, monitors, headphones, etc. Everything should be in place for you to feel well and equipped. Consider wearing comfy clothes that are not associated with sleep and leisure. You'll see you'll get more done.
The obvious but important thing is an Internet connection. Whether you are a blogger, software developer, entrepreneur, sales consultant, or someone else, you won't be able to make it without a secure and robust internet connection. That is the driving force of the whole work-from-home thing. So, you definitely should get the best one you can, if it's not one of the perks offered by your employer. Not getting things done because your internet went out is really annoying. Trust us – you'll hate it.
Reliable tools and software might include task and project management, video conferencing, to-do list apps, calendars, file sharing, and collaboration tools. Make sure you have all you need at hand to make it easy and straightforward, with less stress and more transparency.
9/ Can remote work be fun (for a team)?
Shortish answer: It is possible to make work from home fun for the team. It involves all-around communication, enthusiasm, and creativity.
Having some fun with a virtual team? No probs!
Those who work in distributed teams know it quite well – the better team communication, the better result. The first and most important thing is maintaining friendly social interactions in a virtual office. Any team enthusiast can encourage others to have more fun together, when online.
Check out some ideas for virtual team buildings, activities, challenges, exercises, and more. If your team is not really up to such activities, you can just have a Friday coffee meeting to discuss anything, but work. These conversations can have a weekly topic that changes every week.
Apart from that, there are other things that you can do: play online board games, enjoy meals together (if you don't mind eating on camera), spend a movie night together (you just start and stop at the same time, with some discussion breaks), organize skill-sharing sessions, Friday drinks, and so much more. As you see, there are plenty of options. The rest depends on the will of team members and leaders.
10/ What skills do I need to work remotely?
Shortish answer: Some of the basic skills of a successful remote worker include strong self-motivation, ability to work independently, good time-management skills, excellent business communication and intercultural communication skills, knowledge of business ethics, adaptability, and high level of responsibility.
A good way to understand the desired remote-worker skillset is to try walking in the shoes of a remote team manager/employer. Imagine that you are looking for an employee – what personal qualities would you value the most? Who would you like to see in your team? You would probably be searching for a reliable person who can work most of the time independently and manage time efficiently.
Secondly, strong written and verbal communication skills are necessary for efficient team collaboration, to work with clients, management, or customers. It is important to add that a person should likely be a team player with cross-cultural literacy, as multinational teams are quite common.
Apart from that, a person should be comfortable with learning and using digital tools, which are an integral part of remote work. Adaptability and problem-solving skills are necessary, at least at the basic level. And of course, self-motivation is a key quality for every employee and a driving force to success whatever the job it is.
11/ What are the best jobs to work remotely?
Shortish answer: The list of remote work jobs is getting longer and longer. However, the most popular over the years have been Software Developer, Email Marketer, Promotional Video Maker, Editors, Freelance Writer, Web or Graphic Designer, Translator, Customer Service Manager, etc.
This is the very basic list, which has expanded over the past few years to almost whatever job it might be, that doesn't require physical presence. And a lot depends on the company you work for – if it is able to provide conditions for easy work from home or supports a mixed work/home job environment.
In general, employees love and support both remote and flexible job opportunities, and value if they are given this option. If remote work had a customer satisfaction score, it would be sky-high.
Various surveys confirm the benefits of flexible schedules, better work/life balance, increased productivity, better health and budget savings, and reduced stressful commute. Most of those who have tried remote work, are not looking to go back to their previous schedule.
Whether it's a productivity boost, job satisfaction, greater flexibility, or an enhanced feeling of worth, working from home—at least part-time—may offer a range of benefits. And this convenience factor can't be beaten.
These days you can find many great resources about remote work and working from home online, for example this great guide. Don't hesitate to research this topic yourself and find the best practices that work you.