Remote work was very rare a decade ago. Working from home was usually only available as a special arrangement to accommodate families in specific cases. However, teleconferencing and telework technology has advanced to the point where some businesses thrive with completely remote teams. In fact, it’s not uncommon for businesses to allow their employees to work from home once or twice a week.
Remote work can also help prevent the spread of illness, helping companies avoid lost productivity and protecting public health. For example, the outbreak of COVID-19 prompted many employers to shift to a remote work model for all employees possible in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
How remote work has evolved?
There was a time when remote jobs as we know it wasn’t even a possibility, because technology didn’t exist. If your colleagues and business partners wanted to get in touch with you when you were out of the office, they couldn’t email, text, or direct message you. You would’ve needed to provide an alternative phone number, pager, or even a fax number to have a work-related conversation. Even full-time “remote” positions were different from what they are today.
One of the most helpful technologies for seamless remote work is video conferencing. Live video feeds help out-of-office workers see and speak to one another in real-time, anywhere with an internet connection, which is the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting. But this capability wouldn’t be possible without the widespread broadband internet adoption of the past 10 to 15 years.
This technology has advanced so quickly that many companies have even done away with traditional offices and instead run their businesses out of co-working spaces to accommodate their largely remote workforce.
Shared office spaces, where remote employees can gather to work, have been created and are more widely available in different cities. This in itself represents the growing amount of remote workers in recent years.
Is remote working effective?
A decade ago, most employers would have balked at the idea of employees regularly working from home. One primary concern most employers had for working remotely was a loss of productivity. How productive and efficient can an employee be when they’re not under constant supervision by co-workers and supervisors?
To better understand the effectiveness of remote jobs online, Airtasker surveyed 1,004 full-time employees – 505 of whom were remote employees – throughout the U.S. about their work habits and productivity. The results indicate that remote workers are actually more productive than their office-based counterparts.
Remote Work Benefits
- Remote employees work an additional 1.4 more days per month than in-office employees, which is nearly 17 additional workdays a year.
- The expected growth rate of full-time remote working jobs over the next 5 years has doubled, from 30% to 65%.
- Remote employees take longer breaks on average than office employees (22 minutes vs 18 minutes), but they work an additional 10 minutes per day.
- Office workers are unproductive for an average of 37 minutes/day, excluding lunch/ breaks, whereas remote employees are unproductive for only 27 minutes.
- 15% of remote workers said their boss distracted them from work, which is less than the 22% of office-based employees who said the same thing.
- As a result of their experiences during COVID-19, 61.9% of hiring managers say their workforce will be more remote going forward.
- 56% of hiring managers feel that the shift to remote work has gone better than expected, while only 1 in 10 feel it has gone worse than expected.
- The greatest perceived benefits of remote work include a lack of commute, fewer unnecessary meetings, and reduced distractions at the office, all of which were shared by 40% of respondents.
- The single biggest drawback is technological issues, likely a result of the rapid and unplanned shift and one that would be mitigated over time.
- 1/3rd of hiring managers found that productivity had increased as a result of remote work, and a greater share found productivity decreased.
- In the pre-COVID survey, 13.2% of the represented workforce was working entirely remotely and hiring managers were expecting to increase this to 17.2% over the next 5 years, a 30% growth rate.
- After COVID, hiring managers are now planning for 21.8% of their workforce to be entirely remote in 5 years, a 65% increase.
The current state
Because of these advances in communication technology and internet access, teleworking has become an accepted practice in many offices, both in the U.S. and globally. This type of work isn’t done entirely from home: Remote workers turn to coffee shops or co-working spaces, and some even travel the world while maintaining their career goals.
However, many companies have resisted this work trend for various reasons. Some business owners may fear a lack of productivity in their employees, while others haven’t invested in teleconferencing and telework tech to support remote workers. Still, many other businesses have dipped their toes into the remote workforce by creating a work-from-home policy for one or two days a week, or as an exception for a few employees.
According to a survey by Buffer on remote work jobs, 75% of remote workers said their companies don’t cover internet costs, and 71% said their employers don’t pay for co-working spaces for their employees. These stats are marginally better than the previous year, in which 78% of companies didn’t cover internet costs and 76% didn’t pay for co-working spaces. While the desire and expectation of working remotely increase significantly every year among the workforce, companies are only slowly adopting remote-friendly policies.
What is the future of remote work?
Fast Company predicts that remote work software, like mobile work tools and virtual reality conferencing, will become the preferred form of communication – even over face-to-face meetings. AI will also likely play a major role in managing remote staff.
These advancements might put companies more at ease. The transition to managing a remote workforce might be daunting, but with the right tech and hardworking employees, it can be a seamless process.
In the long run, fighting the change may do more harm than good. Many employees now expect remote work opportunities. According to Buffer, 99% of current remote workers would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. That’s 9 points higher than the figure from the same survey in the previous year.
Furthermore, according to Global Workplace Analytics, 37% of remote employees would take a 10% pay cut to continue working from home. Because of this increasingly popular trend, some refuse to accept an onsite position, knowing they can find a more convenient and flexible gig elsewhere.
The Remote Work Experiment
Using a nationally representative sample of 8,090 remote-capable U.S. employees surveyed in June 2022, we explored the following questions:
- How many remote-capable employees are currently working hybrid or fully remote?
- Where do they expect to work long-term and where would they prefer to work?
- What happens when remote-capable employees do not work in their preferred location(s)?
Remote Work Research Findings
How many remote-capable employees are currently working hybrid or fully remote?
Approximately 56% of full-time employees in the U.S. — more than 70 million workers — say their job can be done working remotely from home. We call them “remote-capable employees.”
The current work location for remote-capable workers as of June 2022:
- 5 in 10 are working hybrid (part of their week at home and part on-site)
- 3 in 10 are exclusively working remotely
- 2 in 10 are entirely on-site
Remote Work Insights 1
Where do remote-capable employees expect to work long-term and where would they prefer to work?
Hybrid work has increased in 2022 (from 42% in February to 49% in June). It is expected to further increase to 55% of remote-capable workers by the end of 2022 and beyond.
This shift aligns closely with the preferences of many remote-capable workers, as 60% want a long-term hybrid work arrangement. Fully remote work arrangements are expected to continue decreasing from three in 10 remote-capable employees in June. It is coming down to two in 10 for the long term, despite 34% wanting to permanently work from home.
Nonetheless, long-term, fully remote work arrangements are expected to nearly triple compared to 2019 figures. Whether this shift satisfies employees with a strong affinity for permanently working from home is yet to be determined.
Fully on-site work is expected to remain a relic of the past. Only two in 10 remote-capable employees currently working entirely on-site. About the same number expecting to be altogether on-site in the future, down from a whopping 60% in 2019.
A mere 6% want to work entirely on-site going forward. Doesn’t it seem that traditional management and workplace practices are broken. If more than 90% of 70 million employees say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time?
What happens when remote-capable employees do not work in their preferred location(s)?
Employees who don’t work in their preferred location have significantly lower employee engagement. Also they carry higher burnout and desire to quit. They simply do not feel well-positioned to do their best work or live their best life.
Changing expectations from workers who feel stuck on-site:
On-site workers whose job is remotely capable have an increasing desire for remote flexibility. While the majority (65%) prefer hybrid work; the desire to exclusively WFH has doubled since October of 2021.
Behavioral economics teaches us that people do not like to give up things they have acquired — we’re loss-averse by nature. Similarly, many employees working hybrid or fully remote have come to expect permanent remote flexibility.
Preparing for Remote Work Interviews
Preparing for remote work interviews requires a few key steps. First, research the company and the role thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with remote work tools and technologies. Practice answering common remote work interview questions. Prepare examples that showcase your ability to work independently and communicate effectively. Dress professionally and ensure a quiet, distraction-free environment for the interview.
The future of remote work is promising, with increasing acceptance and adoption across industries. It offers flexibility, cost savings, and access to a global talent pool. As technology advances, remote collaboration tools will improve, enabling seamless communication and productivity. Remote work is here to stay, revolutionizing the way we work.