The number of people working remotely has risen steadily over the last 15 years. In the U.S. alone, remote working increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017.
And now, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many more employees have been pressed into working from home.
So is remote work here to stay, or is it a fad?
In this FAQ, we’ll answer that question along with many more on the topic of remote work.
Table of Contents
- What does remote work mean?
- What is remote work?
- What is the difference between remote work and work from home?
- Is remote work the new normal?
- Is remote work here to stay?
- Is remote work the future?
- Is remote work good for your health?
- Is remote work good for the environment?
- Does remote work actually work?
- Does remote work increase productivity?
- Does remote work increase happiness?
- What are the advantages/benefits of remote work?
- What are the disadvantages/drawbacks of remote work?
- Does remote work pay well?
- Does remote work pay less?
- Is remote work right for me?
- How many people work remotely?
- Are all jobs compatible with remote work?
- Which jobs are best suited for remote work?
- Where do you live when you work remotely?
- What is the best place to live when you work remotely?
- How to implement remote work?
- What are the best remote work tips?
- What are the golden rules of remote work?
- What are remote work best practices?
- How to be successful when working remotely?
- What are some common remote work mistakes to avoid?
- How to set up your home for remote work?
- How to optimize your agenda for remote work?
- Is my team ready for remote work?
- How to evaluate employee performance when working remotely?
- How to evaluate team productivity when working remotely?
- How to develop corporate culture when working remotely?
- How to boost morale when working remotely?
- How to avoid burnout when working remotely?
What does remote work mean?
Remote work, sometimes called “telecommuting” or “work from home (WFH),” simply means any work you do that doesn’t require commuting into an office. In this situation, remote workers communicate with their colleagues by chat, email, and telephone.
What is remote work?
Remote work means working outside of a traditional office environment. Instead of commuting to an office each day and working from a designated desk, remote workers can work wherever they please (within company regulations), which is usually their home but could also be a co-working space or even a coffee shop.
What is the difference between remote work and work from home?
In short: remote work is working from anywhere, including your home, or a coworking space, or coffee shop. And work from home (WFH) is limited to working at home.
Is remote work the new normal?
You could say that remote work is the new normal.
But remote work isn’t the new normal for everyone. Some jobs are not suited to remote work – e.g. manufacturing, emergency services, etc.
The COVID-19 pandemic definitely pushed more companies into using remote work sooner than expected, as many workplaces were forced to close. For some companies, it may become the new normal, while others will want employees back in the office.
Is remote work here to stay?
More companies are now open to the idea of remote work, so you can expect it to become popular.
A 2020 study by Gartner found that 82% of business leaders say their organizations intend to let employees continue working from home at least some of the time, while 47% plan to allow employees to do so permanently.
According to the most recent Merchant Savvy data, remote work worldwide has grown by 159% since 2005. In 2019, 61% of global companies allowed staff to work remotely.
A survey by getAbstract shows how and if American full-time workers would like to change their work situation after the COVID-19 crisis.
Is remote work the future?
Remote work isn’t the future — it’s the present.
Owl Labs learned that 42% of remote workers plan to work remotely more frequently than they currently do in the next 5 years, and that more than half of on-site workers want to start working remotely.
Remote work doesn’t suit everyone, and not all industries can offer remote work as an option. But with the advances in technology and the necessity to work from home during the pandemic, we can definitely say remote work seems to be the future.
Is remote work safe?
Employees or freelancers working remotely need to take a few steps to ensure their work is safe. For example, employees should:
- Connect to their company’s network using a VPN.
- Keep their computers patched and up-to-date.
- Use cloud software for work and backups.
- Avoid sharing their work computer with friends and family.
Is remote work good for your health?
Remote work can be good for your health, but everyone is different, and some people may feel less healthy when working remotely.
- According to CoSo Cloud, 42% of all remote workers eat healthier than they did in an office-based environment.
- The same study also found that 45% of the remote workers get better sleep since working from home.
- According to a PGi study, 82% of remote workers confirm a lower stress level when working from home.
- A University of Minnesota study found that workplace flexibility reduced stress and lowered the risk of burnout.
- A Stanford University study found that remote workers used fewer sick days than their in-office colleagues.
- Remote workers have a more flexible schedule and have more time for exercising instead of commuting to the office.
- Isolation is often cited as the biggest problem for remote workers.
- Remote workers can find it hard to set clear boundaries between work and their private life resulting in dissatisfaction, tiredness, exhaustion, and eventually depression.
Is remote work good for the environment?
There are arguments for and against, but most signs suggest that remote working is more helpful to the environment than not.
Remote work is good for the environment:
- Commuting is reduced or eliminated for remote workers, which saves on the gas or electricity for vehicles, reduces wear-and-tear on roads, and lowers the emissions and greenhouse gasses from vehicles.
- The energy needed to power the lighting and other equipment in the office is significantly reduced with fewer people in the office, or if the company shifted to a smaller office space.
Remote work is considered bad for the environment:
- Office buildings are designed to utilize energy better than homes. So, getting everybody into an office building uses less energy than each worker heating or cooling their individual home.
- The energy and bandwidth you use on things like the internet and video calls translate to CO2 emissions.
If those with remote compatible jobs worked at home half the time, it could result in saving:
- 54 million tons of greenhouse gas – that’s equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road.
- 119 billion miles of motorway driving – that’s the equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road.
- 650 million barrels of oil – costing roughly $64 billion.
Overall, remote workers are a net positive for the environment. They use less fuel, consume fewer resources, reduce strain on infrastructure, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Does remote work actually work?
People have long-argued that remote workers are more productive than office workers.
But studies show that:
- People working from home are more efficient.
- Working in an open office (the most common type of offices) actually hinders productivity.
- 77% of remote workers report greater productivity, partly because they deal with fewer distractions. (Think about all those times someone just “drops by” your desk when you’re trying to work).
- 25% of remote workers say they can focus and get work done more quickly as a result.
Again, it comes down to individuals. Some will get more work done remotely, while others get more done in the office.
Does remote work increase productivity?
One pioneering study conducted by Nicholas Bloom found that working from home one day a week boosted output by 13%. Around 4% of it came from workers being able to complete more tasks per minute due to fewer distractions. The remaining 9% was credited to workers actually working more minutes per shift. Bloom said this was because commutes were eliminated, lunch breaks were shorter, and fewer workers took sick days.
A 2019 survey by Airtasker of 1,004 full-time employees (of which half work from home the majority of the week) found that:
- Remote employees worked 4 days more each month than their in-office counterparts, which equates to 16.8 days of work per year.
- The study found no difference in the quality of work between remote and in-office employees.
Does remote work increase happiness?
A study by Owl Labs found that:
- Full-time remote workers reported being happy in their jobs 22% more than workers who never work remotely.
- Remote workers reported having a better work-life balance, focus, and less stress.
- Companies that give workers more flexibility were more likely to retain them.
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Is remote work a good idea or bad idea?
Remote work does have its share of problems. For example, some people dislike working in the same place where they live and relax. Others find it challenging to create and maintain a company culture without colleagues being in the same room. It also causes employee isolation and lack of meaningful co-worker relationships.
What are the advantages/benefits of remote work?
According to the Buffer & AngelList State of Remote Work 2020 report, the primary benefit of remote work has remained the same for the past three years: flexibility.
- 32% like the flexible schedule
- 26% like the flexibility to work from anywhere
The Owl Labs report found similar results:
- 91% have a better work-life balance
- 79% report Increased productivity/better focus
- 78% have less stress
- 78% like avoiding a commute
What are the disadvantages/drawbacks of remote work?
According to the Buffer & AngelList State of Remote Work 2020 report, two drawbacks from previous years remain in the top three disadvantages of remote work:
- 20% have difficulties with collaboration and communication
- 20% suffer from loneliness
- 18% can’t “unplug”
Does remote work pay well?
The Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2019 report found that remote workers earn salaries higher than $100,000 per year 2.2x more frequently than on-site workers.
The report also revealed that 74% of the remote workers earn less than $100,000 per year, and 26% earn more than that.
In comparison, 92% of on-site workers earn less than $100,000 per year, and 8% earn more than that.
Furthermore, different professions attract different hourly rates.
Legal freelancers came out top with an average rate of $28 per hour. But there was a large middle ground with rates around $20 per hour for IT & Programming, Engineering & Manufacturing, Design & Multimedia, Finance & Management, and Sales & Marketing.
Does remote work pay less?
The idea that remote work pays less is losing credibility. Some remote workers are willing (or are asked) to consider a smaller salary in exchange for working from home. But, in some professions, the salaries of remote workers can be equal to or higher than in-office workers.
Pay rates for remote jobs can be determined on a few different factors:
- Where you live
- The company location
- Your level of experience
Is remote work right for me?
Only you can answer the question.
But, if you like the benefits and advantages mentioned earlier, then you’d probably enjoy remote work.
On the other hand, if you find it difficult to motivate yourself or thrive in a bustling office environment, then remote work probably isn’t a good fit for you.
How many people work remotely?
In 2015, 3.9 million U.S. workers were working remotely. Today that number is at 4.7 million, or 3.4% of the population.
Analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that there has been a significant upward trend in the number of people working remotely in the U.S.
- Over the last 5 years, it grew 44%
- Over the last 10 years, it grew 91%
- Over the last 12 years, it grew 159%
Are all jobs compatible with remote work?
No, not all jobs are compatible with remote work. It’s mainly office-type jobs that have embraced the digital age, such as software, finance, and media that are compatible. Workers in the transport and utilities industry would struggle to work remotely.
Here are a few types of remote jobs:
Which jobs are best suited for remote work?
The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Survey discovered that:
- 55% of respondents now think their industry can be effective when people are working remotely.
- 65% of respondents believe they can be effective as an individual when working remotely.
- Market research analyst
- Marketing manager
- Computer systems analyst
- Computer network architect
- Computer systems administrator
- Management analyst
- Customer Service
- Marketing and Sales
- Information Technology (IT)
Where do you live when you work remotely?
Some remote work jobs allow you to work from anywhere in the world, as long as you fulfill your role.
Other remote work jobs might specify that you have to live in a particular town/city/region/country.
Some remote work jobs might require you to live locally, as you’ll have to attend the office occasionally for meetings.
What is the best place to live when you work remotely?
That depends on your ideal location. Do you prefer to be near the beach or in a city? Do you want to live somewhere cheap or expensive? Do you like a hot or cold climate?
The primary consideration is that you’ll need a reliable internet connection so you can work on various systems.
Here are a few places to get you started:
How to implement remote working
Here are a few tips to help you implement remote working in your organization:
- Create a robust remote working policy document
You must have a clear policy that sets out the expectations of the employee and the employer.
- Get the right systems in place
It’s vital to equip employees with the right tools to carry out their work remotely.
- Software: includes work productivity tools like Google G-Suite or Microsoft Office 365, collaboration and communication apps like Slack and Asana.
- Hardware: includes laptops that are powerful enough for the job and smartphones, so you’re able to maintain contact with them.
- Manage it effectively
Here are a few tips to ensure you manage remote employees effectively:
- Build a rapport: keep in regular contact and chat about work and personal topics, like you would in the office.
- Use video chat: keep communication human by talking face-to-face on a video camera.
- Utilize group messaging: keep the whole team engaged and collaborating with messaging tools like Slack or Skype.
- Monitor productivity: keep an eye on tasks to ensure projects are completed on time.
What are the best remote working tips?
Here is a collection of the best remote working tips:
- Set up a designated workspace where you can focus on tasks without being distracted.
- Make sure you have all the tech you need, including a reliable and secure internet connection, hardware, and software.
- Get dressed, rather than staying in your PJs, for the right mindset.
- Write a daily to-do list to keep you focused on your tasks.
- Know when to step away from your desk, and take regular breaks. Don’t slip into “always-on” mode.
- Keep in touch with work colleagues on projects.
- Build relationships with colleagues by chatting about non-work stuff.
- Communicate clearly using video if necessary to get your point across.
- Don’t feel isolated – ask for support when needed.
- Make remote working work for you by exploring the flexible working arrangements.
What are the golden rules of remote work?
Follow these 5 golden rules to set yourself up for success when working remotely:
- Master time management.
- Set up an area for success at home.
- Place boundaries between work life and home life.
- Boost your productivity.
- Manage your remote team effectively.
What are remote work best practices?
- Practice good meeting etiquette.
- Experiment with what makes you most productive.
- Prioritize documentation and clear communication.
- Create boundaries between work and life.
- Make yourself visible at work.
- Schedule time for socializing.
- Connect with your teammates.
- Do post mortems on key projects.
- Build in accountability.
- Define your and the team’s responsibilities.
- Focus on your health.
How to be successful when working remotely
Here are our top tips for staying successful while working remotely:
- Create a dedicated workspace so you can separate work and home life.
- Maintain a consistent schedule. Even though you’re not in the office, sticking to a routine helps your productivity.
- Limit distractions like kids, partners, and TV that you usually wouldn’t find in an office setting.
- Use the phone or messaging app if you need help from a colleague.
- Find ways to build a community with your team by keeping in touch about non-work events and life.
- Set boundaries, and stick to them, so you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- Make remote work by enjoying a flexible lifestyle and zero commuting.
What are some common remote work mistakes to avoid?
Here are 7 remote work mistakes to avoid:
- Not treating it like a real job. Enjoy the benefits of remote work, but don’t take advantage of working-from-home and let your standards drop.
- All work and no play. On the other hand, don’t become so engrossed in your work that you forget your personal life.
- Not setting boundaries. When it’s work time, focus on work, not household chores. Likewise, when it’s your break, don’t read emails.
- Child care issues. Make sure you have adequate childcare so you can focus on work and not juggle both.
- Not investing in yourself. Use the best ergonomic equipment for your situation rather than trying to work from the couch.
- Playing it fast and loose. Don’t be tempted to try and “wing it” each day. Set up a daily routine that works for you and your employer.
- Going radio silent. Disappearing into the ether is not a good idea. Keep in contact with colleagues for your sanity and productivity.
How to set up your home for remote work
- Avoid distractions. Where possible, set up your home office in a separate room so you can focus on work.
- Work on a dedicated desk. The industry standard desk height is 29 inches from the floor to the top of the work surface. Adjust the height, so you’re comfortable. Alternatively, consider a standing desk.
- Use ergonomic equipment. Invest in a good quality desk chair as that’s where you’ll spend most of your time.
- Good lighting. Make sure you have a good source of natural light, if possible. Place lighting or lamps in a way that doesn’t create glare on your screen.
- Be prepared to communicate. Make sure you have a good webcam and microphone so colleagues can see and hear you.
- Surround yourself with whatever it is that inspires you to work. There’s nothing worse than working from a depressing dark cupboard under the stairs.
- Use a business-grade internet service. You’ll need a reliable and fast internet connection so you can handle all your work tasks.
- VPN remote access. Most companies will want you to connect by VPN over the internet to keep things secure.
- Password protection. Use a password management tool such as LastPass to keep all your passwords secure.
- Back up your work. Use a reliable cloud provider to back up all your data and avoid any loss of work.
How to optimize your agenda for remote work
- Know your goals
- Take control over your daily routine
- Define your workplace
- Work with Timeboxing
- Don’t get distracted
- Don’t read everything immediately
- Learn systematically
- Maintain contact with colleagues
Is my team ready for remote work?
- There’s no one-size-fits-all way for remote work success.
- Hire the right people for remote work.
- Build and document processes sooner than you think is necessary.
- Operationalization can be cheap and decentralized.
- Encourage initiative and ownership through incentives.
How to evaluate employee performance when working remotely
- Evaluate quality and quantity instead of time worked
- Evaluate based on outcomes
- Evaluate based on internal feedback
- Evaluate with 1:1 performance reviews
- Evaluate based on Clear Metrics and Expectations
Melissa Smith, the founder of The Personal Virtual Assistant:
“Like any goal, employee performance cannot be achieved if no one knows what it is. The key to working well with remote employees is to be very clear and specific with all expectations. This drastically reduces the need for any micromanagement.”
How to evaluate team productivity when working remotely
When it comes to how you measure team productivity when working remotely, focus on:
- The number of tasks completed vs. non-completed tasks.
- The quality of work completed (using weekly audits).
You can also leverage productivity apps to assign tasks, prioritize them, and monitor workflow to check on your team’s progress.
How to develop a corporate culture when working remotely
- Make communication easy as pie.
- Encourage shared leadership in the team.
- Build community through subgroups.
- Prioritize health and wellness as part of the corporate culture.
- Build a team culture through training.
How to boost morale when working remotely
Staying connected while showing compassion are great ways to boost morale when working remotely:
- Make a point of checking in often.
- Ensure everyone has what they need to be productive.
- Stay transparent.
- Use technology to stay connected.
- Go “video on” for virtual meetings.
- Create space for socializing.
- Encourage your team to use the assistance program.
Bonus: 9 ways to maintain staff morale in a remote work environment:
- Stay connected.
- Keep the company’s vision and message clear at all times.
- Recognition is key.
- Make sure it’s not ‘all work and no play’.
- Keep learning and development as a priority.
- Show how much you care.
- Ask for feedback.
- Encourage real breaks.
- Set up virtual support groups.
How to avoid burnout when working remotely
Top tips for preventing burnout when working remotely:
- Get up for a walk.
- Take breaks.
- Take a day off here and there.
- Make yourself a rewards system.
- Find a remote work accountability buddy.
- Turn your breaks into relaxation.
- Schedule time to cook.
- Use yoga to free your mind throughout the day.
- Don’t forget about your vacation time.
- Prioritize tasks.
- Stop working on weekends.
- Prioritize your relationship between wellness and eating right.
- Find time every day to exercise.
- Avoid using medicines as crutches.
- Remember that you are human, not some type of superhero.
- Stay connected socially and make time for human interaction.
- Plan a trip or dream about travel.
Remote Work in a Nutshell
Remote work is on an upward trend and looks like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. If you’re working remotely, make sure you follow the tips in this guide to keep yourself healthy and produce the best possible results for your employer.