50 years ago, going to work meant going to work.
Now, workers across the world can “go” to work without ever leaving the sofa. Some have done this for years by choice; others have been thrown into remote work abruptly due to COVID-19.
For veteran and novice remote workers alike, technology is the backbone of a successful remote work situation. That’s one reason why the #digitalnomad has over 3 million posts on Instagram and countless more on Twitter. Working full-time by the pool or at the beach is a growing ideal, especially for younger generations.
With the dream of remote work becoming a reality for many in such an irregular period, remote work trends might just be here to stay.
The pros and cons of remote work
Like anything in life, there are costs and benefits to working remotely. While this kind of work situation gives some the flexibility they’ve always dreamed of, it gives others anxiety to feel they are on the clock 24/7.
Challenges of remote work
- Time management. Without face-to-face accountability, many employers worry that employees will have trouble effectively managing their time. Distractions at home (like pets, kids, and other adults) can make it challenging to remain in the flow of work and maintain 9-5 professionalism.
- Communication. In a brick-and-mortar location, people can gather in the same room, have conversations in the hallway, and pop over to other people’s desks. Some worry that organic communication and collaboration cannot be digitally replicated.
- Social isolation. To some degree, humans need social interaction. According to research, “social relationships are consistently associated with biomarkers of health” (source). People can more easily feel isolated and socially distant when they are alone at home. That said, video conferencing and phone calls can supplement people’s social and emotional needs to some degree.
- Work/life balance. At work, you “clock in” and “clock out.” When you work from home, the line between work and life becomes a bit blurred. It can take excellent communication and scheduling to ensure that remote workers have enough work and enough downtime.
Benefits of remote work
- Flexibility. Modern people want to be able to work full-time and still have control over how and when they work. The freedom that remote workers have to schedule their day is unparalleled.
- Increased productivity. Many self-starters feel more productive when they can work at their own pace, from the comfort of home. Working from home minimizes typical work distractions like excessive coffee breaks or having to commute multiple hours a day.
- Reduced costs (for employers). When employers have fewer people in the office, they can reduce the costs of office space, work supplies, and more. Employees would even take a pay cut to have the opportunity to work from home: “36% would choose it over a pay raise” (source).
- Work/life balance. This is a challenge for some and a massive benefit for others. Many people experience a better quality of life when they can spend more time on things that they love and less time on work-related activities that aren’t directly productive (like getting ready for work or commuting).
Technology, making remote work possible
The frequency of remote work has trended upward for years. In 2016, “43% of employees work[ed] remotely with some frequency” (source). This number has only increased with more millennials entering the workforce.
Digital tools make it possible to be “present” without being physically present. Top-notch software and programs can now support anything from learning and training initiatives to HR.
Old notions are rapidly disappearing about what technology is capable of achieving. For many companies, digital tools allow employees to spend more time on high-level activities (like problem-solving and getting creative) while technology automates much of the grunt work.
The current COVID-19 situation, terrible as it is, has pushed many people to realize the potential of remote work situations for employers and employees alike. This human-tech partnership might be the way of the future for all workers.
How to: support your remote workforce with technology
Transitioning to remote work can be a challenge. However, with proper planning and tools, it’s possible to be more successful than ever. In these interesting times, flexibility is the name of the game—technology is here to support you every step of the way.
The times are changing, are you?
It’s hard to believe that work will ever look exactly the same again. Technology is a huge asset for companies with both remote and traditional workers. How companies leverage technology to their advantage during these tumultuous times may have drastic impacts on future success and the bottom line.
Beyond the current challenge of COVID-19, there is optimism that a more progressive work situation is on the horizon with remote options. For many, remote work is a win-win situation: companies can save dollars while workers can experience a higher quality of life.
Maybe, just maybe, the #digitalnomad is here to stay.