Remote work has transformed offices and workplaces everywhere. In fact, more than two-thirds of people around the world do remote work from home at least one day a week. Some estimates even say that half of all workers in the UK could be working completely remotely by 2020.
But what is remote working? And is it right for you? This guide walks you through the pros and cons of working from outside the office.
What does working remotely mean?
The definition of remote work is essentially working from somewhere outside your employer’s workplace. It could be your home, a cafe, the park, a library – anywhere you’re productive and happy. Remote work refers to tasks that are done outside the office It is a type of flexible working.
Learn more about flexible working and how to make it work for you
Many remote workers are members of co-working spaces, which are basically shared offices for people employed by different organisations. Sometimes you’ll hear remote working called “working from home”, “telecommuting” or “teleworking”.
Remote working is similar to freelancing, except most remote workers are employed by a company, not themselves. There are also ‘fully remote companies’ which means everyone in the business works from a different place.
Many professionals have flexible remote working, depending on their employer and how open they are to the idea! So they might work out of the office for one or two days a week, for example. Some people are still located near the office during these days, while others might be in different time zones to their colleagues. Working remotely from another country is an increasingly popular option (sometimes you’ll hear these kinds of professionals called “digital nomads”.
What kind of jobs can be done remotely?
It’s possible to work remotely in many different jobs across plenty of Career Zones – and some of them might surprise you. The top industries offering remote working are:
- Education and training.
- Customer service.
Five of the fastest-growing remote career fields are therapy, virtual administration, tutoring, and government.
What are the benefits of remote working?
For employees, there are plenty of obvious upsides to doing remote work from home – or from anywhere! You have flexibility and independence, with the ability to choose your own working location. You could even consider working remotely from another country – which would allow you to combine work and travel. It’s possible to have a much better work-life balance when you’re a remote worker than in a conventional office job. Many remote workers also consider themselves to be more productive than when they’re in an office.
There are also loads of positives for employers. Companies are able to attract and hire the best people for the job, because it isn’t dependent on a location. There are fewer office costs. There’s also the potential for remote work to have a positive effect on the environment – with less people driving to and from the office everyday. Remote workers can often be happier and have more sense of freedom, so staff morale and motivation is better.
Some business owners are of course reluctant to let their staff ‘go remote’, because they’re worried they won’t be getting enough done at home or in a coffee shop. However, recent research actually showed that the opposite is true. A two-year study of a company in China found that remote workers were much more productive that their colleagues in the office. They also found it less distracting to work from home. What’s more, they took less sick days and took less time off.
What about the downsides?
It’s important to recognise that remote work isn’t for everyone. There are some potential downsides to consider, and apply to your own career goals and ways of working.
Working alone from home can make you feel, well, lonely. If you’re not in the office, chatting with your teammates and coming up with ideas together in person, you can experience feelings of isolation. You run the risk of feeling less connected to the company’s everyday activities.
Organisations that offer remote working, especially fully remote companies, should have structures in place to make sure that those outside the office get a fair chance for promotions, raises and other opportunities like pay raises. But you might be concerned that less face-to-face time with your manager and other bosses might put you at a disadvantage.
Hard to switch off
Many remote workers find their life balance is improved. But this doesn’t work for others. Without the physical and geographic distinction between your workplace and your home, you might find it tricky to clearly manage your time and make sure you’re not working too much. Using a co-working space or office may help with this issue, if you’re struggling to stop focussing on work.
Relationships to coworkers
Remote workers use a range of different tools to keep in touch regularly – for example video calls like Google Hangouts and team chats like Slack. But working remotely can still make it difficult to bond with your team and build up friendships, which are an important part of being happy at work.
As we mentioned, research is showing that productivity is actually increased by working outside the office. But if you’re someone who’s easily distracted, then working at home or from a cafe might not be the best move.
So is remote working right for me?
As well as weighing up these pros and cons, and applying them to your career, it’s important to look at what skills and characteristics remote workers usually have. These tend to include:
- Works well independently (on your own) and takes initiative.
- Motivated and feels a sense of personal responsibility for your tasks and the company’s success.
- Excellent communication skills – you’ll need to stay in touch and keep your teammates and managers updated about what you’re working on.
- Time management skills and able to meet deadlines.
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