Part 1: Remote Work 101
Brief history and stats
A popular topic to discuss, remote work is a growing phenomenon that has evolved quite rapidly in the last decade.
Whether you’re for or against it, remote work is something your company needs to look into, given its explosion. Check out these fun stats below.
- 99% said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.
- 95% said they would encourage others to work remotely.
- 63% of US companies now have remote workers
- Hiring managers expect a 168% increase in the amount of work done by flexible talent (temporary, freelance or agency workers) in 10 years
- 55% of hiring managers agree remote work is becoming more common as compared to three years ago
It’s safe to say that remote work isn’t just a trend, it’s here to stay. We’ll dive deep into its benefits later, but for now, know that offering remote work to your employees will help you remain competitive, relevant, and desirable as a company to work for.
How Did We Get Here?
Remote work isn’t new; it’s just growing in popularity thanks to the evolution of technology and how work is changing. As companies increasingly compete in a more global market and work/skills become more specialized, virtual offices offer the perfect environment to support this transformation. Look up hashtags like #Remotework, #DigitalNomad, and #WorkFromAnywhere on Instagram or Twitter and you’ll see how it’s become a cultural spectacle.
That being said, working remotely was the norm long before downtown offices and commuting even existed.
Before the Industrial Revolution, everyone worked out of their homes. Skilled blacksmiths, carpenters, leather workers, and potters each set up shop at their residence and sold their goods from there.
With the Industrial Revolution came a need for automation and the creation of factories. Huge machines and large scale productions required employees to be present in-house to complete their work. This is also when people started commuting to designated “office spaces.”
But even this didn’t last forever.
As the US economy strengthened, so did the rise in corporate headquarters, larger office spaces, and aisles of drab cubicles. The 8-hour workday was also born during this same time.
With this economic expansion came advancements in computers and technology that paved the way for modern-day remote workers as we now know them.
More people started to own personal computers and even more were connecting their homes to the world wide web, two events that would later pave the way for remote work to thrive.
Then the internet and public wifi turned the workplace tide yet again.
Whether working from a home office, laptop at a coffee shop, or even a smartphone, the internet gave employees access to cloud-based applications which let them do everything they would in their cubicle… outside the office.
Now virtual employees work all hours of the day and can stay in touch with their coworkers from all over the world thanks to the internet.
That’s just one reason why remote work continues to be so popular… and along with its popularity came the numerous synonyms: telecommuting, virtual job, telework, remote job, home-based job, work-from-home job, and its most famous, digital nomad.
Remote worker, Digital Nomad and Work From Home are arguably the most popular terms to describe work flexibility right now. Believe it or not, each has its own sub-cultural aspects and nuances.
Someone who works while travelling abroad. Digital Nomads often are living the freelancer life, making a living as a blogger, programmer, website/app developer, SEO specialist, social media marketer, content creation, etc. Globe-hopping is what differentiates this group from the others.
Someone who works remotely and travelling may or not be involved. Either an independent contractor or employee of a company, a remote worker is not held back by commuting to an office. Many become remote workers because they have the freedom and flexibility to work how they see fit and introduce more work/life balance.
Work From Home
This employee typically has a traditional office position and works from home occasionally or for a few times each week. This is commonly seen in hybrid remote companies, where some employees work remotely and some work in the office.
Are You Remote-Friendly or Remote-First?
Clarifying whether you’re a remote-friendly company or remote-first will help you and your team members dig deeper into the cultural and structural implications of each category. For example, a common obstacle remote-friendly companies face is the distinct separation between employees who work in-house and from home. Those who work in-house tend to get promoted more while those working from home often feel like remaining visible is quite difficult.
Remote-friendly companies offer flexible work options
Remote-friendly companies often look closer to traditional office set-ups where work is centred around the headquarters or offices. Flexible work options like working from home a few times a week are offered however most of the company’s processes, meetings, and tools are structured to fit the physical location.
Remote-first companies embrace remote work as the default
Remote-first companies design processes, communication efforts, and tools to accommodate a distributed team, allowing all members to contribute and access information equally. Remote-first companies are helping create a new paradigm of work, shifting the outlook and cultural expectations of the way we work. For example, beyond supporting flexible working styles, remote-first companies empower their employees by not micro-managing, fostering a culture of trust, and working smarter (not necessarily harder or more).
Hiring Remote: Opportunities and Obstacles
The world is your oyster
It seems obvious but really think about it. The chances of finding the perfect candidate are increased because your candidate pool is automatically larger:
Director of Ops, Skillcrush
It’s easier to attract talent
60% of employees said that if they could, they would leave their current job for a full-time remote position at the same pay rate. If your company doesn’t at least list work flexibility or remote work as an option or benefit, chances are candidates will move on to the next job listing.
It’s financially sound
Having a distributed team opens more opportunities to generate revenue and save money. Companies of all sizes can cut costs by reducing expenses like office space, supplies, utilities, and employee accommodations:
-Brian de Haaff,
Co-founder and CEO, Aha!
It’s known to increase productivity and decrease stress levels
Stanford’s two-year study on working from home states employees who work remotely are better at making the most of their time than traditional employees. Just like how public education systems aren’t geared to fit all students, the 9-5 structure doesn’t work for all adults. Remote work encourages employees to work on their own terms, instilling a culture of trust, which motivates employees to work smarter and provide quality work.
Employees who choose their own work environment to avoid the stress of commuting and common office distractions such as background noise, constant interruptions, and non-work-related conversations.
It reduces turnover
In an interview with Here & Now, Scott Mautz, a former executive at Procter & Gamble observed that on top of increased productivity, employee turnover decreases by 50% when the work from home option is available.
Despite all of the articles painting millennials and Gen-Z as being fickle, these generations actually show deep loyalty to companies who are value-driven and deliberately provide meaningful opportunities for training and professional development. They’ll account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025, so it wouldn’t hurt to listen with an open mind.
It can take a while for Communication to click
Fyi’s 2019 Remote Work Report lists communication as the #1 challenge of remote work. Common reasons are:
- Not being on the same page
- Having siloed conversations in chat
- Being in different time zones and working different hours
- Lack of common culture within the organization
Luckily, there are a ton of remote resources that are aiming to address this common problem.
You’ll need to get creative with keeping your employees connected and engaged
From bumping into a co-worker in the hallway to having watercooler chat, these seemingly minor communication touchpoints are often taken for granted and then missed when working from home. According to Harvard Business Review’s 2017 study, companies that deliberately create practices to build trust between all employees (remote and on-site) can help alleviate the loneliness that some remote workers feel.
Tracking your employees’ productivity borderlines micro-management, but you obviously need to find a way to ensure the work is getting done. How?
- Set monthly goals
- Have weekly status meetings
- Set clear expectations
- Communicate openly
It still can be a bit distracting
Sure, productivity levels surge when employees have found their groove, but it may take employees a few months to establish their routines and find their rhythm - especially if they’re working remotely for the first time.
Setting them up with resources can help speed up the process:
- Gifting them with a stipend or bonus to set their office space up
- Providing best practices and resources for creating routines
- Setting them up with productivity tools and resources like time-tracking apps (check out our favourites!)
- Checking in with the more frequently during the first couple of weeks
Building trust may take slower
Those in leadership may be concerned that the work isn’t getting done, while employees may wonder where and how they’re being led. Building trust without face-to-face contact may take a bit longer. Creating a foundation of transparency can help with that:
- Having open and honest conversations consistently
- Setting clear parameters and expectations around working hours (ie. “I don’t expect you to work on the weekends)
- Being responsible for your mistakes
- Assuming the best-case scenario
And, recruiting has its own unique set of challenges
- You can expect to see hundreds even thousands of applicants - It’s time-consuming to filter and screen candidates
- Scheduling and coordinating interviews across time zones can slow the hiring process down
- Testing skills at a distance
While remote-first companies mostly list jobs on WWR, remote-friendly companies are also welcome to post. The lines can get a little blurry though. As the trend of remote work continues to flourish, there will likely be more remote-friendly companies than remote-first. Where do you draw the line? For example, in-person meetings are important and valuable. But if someone is required to come into the office three times a week, that defeats the purpose of a remote job. So, at WWR, we tend to take these case-by-case.
We still strongly believe in advocating for remote-centric jobs, but we also don’t believe there is one template that fits all. Each company has to do what works best, which is what remote work is all about anyway. #youdoyou
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