Tons of individuals, managers, and companies are turning to remote work for its convenience, cost-effectiveness, and ability to promote productivity. But let’s backtrack: what is a remote employee, and what is a remote office? It’s simple really. Instead of gathering in an office for the traditional 9 to 5, employees log into work from a location of their choice. A remote office can be a living room, coffee shop, or a coworking space, to name a few. Really, you could take remote work anywhere. It’s not about where you do it, but what you do. And it comes with tons of benefits. How to work remotely varies from job to job, but generally, if it’s a job that’s done mostly on a computer, you don’t need an office to do it.
Turns out the old 9 to 5 office job is a paradigm we’ve all been buying into without asking ourselves why we do it and whether it adds any value to our work. Sure it made sense, for a while, before technology connected us in the ways it does now. And it still makes sense for people like doctors or researchers who need very specific equipment. But as more and more jobs require employees to commute into an office just to sit at a computer, it’s time to rethink things. Is that office building serving purposes other than proving that employees show up to work every day? Often times the answer is no, and remote work is making more and more sense.
Remote work allows employees the flexibility to work where they want, and often when they want. In many cases, remote employees have the power to design schedules around times in which they’re most productive. Remote schedules can allow someone to work through the night if they prefer to sleep late or start early if they want to be done by 4 p.m. They can take midday appointments, or finally see that weekday matinee. From the business perspective, remote work allows for individualized set-ups, meaning employees can maximize their productivity by tailoring their environment and workday to their specific needs. Someone who focuses best in silence no longer has to dodge interruptions from coworkers. Conversely, someone who thrives on collaboration can bounce ideas off another person, opt for a coworking space or work at a local coffee shop.
Companies are saved huge overhead costs by not running an office, or at least accommodating fewer people. Not to mention, employees get to skip the dreaded (and often expensive) commute, and as a consequence, can work through most severe weather conditions. Perhaps most importantly, research shows that remote employees are often more productive and have better mental health than traditional office ones.
But it’s not without its downsides. Remote work often means working from home, which often means spending the day with very little face-to-face human interaction. This can be seriously lonely. And some remote employees find it hard to differentiate between work life and home life when they happen in the same place. It’s critical to watch for burnout with remote employees, as it can be hard to disconnect when your office is just down the hall from your bedroom. While setting your own hours can be liberating, it can also mean that your “on” hours aren’t clearly defined. Work can slip into downtime, and that’s when remote work leads to burnout. Additionally, remote employees can easily yet accidentally be excluded from office culture. If they’re not physically there for the birthdays and happy hours, it can be hard for them to feel as connected.
None of these are matched by the freedom of being able to choose where and when you work. So what are some of the situations remote employees might have? Some remote employees may work from home the majority of the time and commute into a central office once a week. Some companies may feature both traditional and remote employees, while others may have entirely remote workforces. Some work independently in a relatively similar geographic area, while others are dispersed across cities, time zones, and continents.
So what does a remote office set up look like? Just about anything. They may set up their workspace in their living room or bedroom, or have a separate office. Many invest in innovative office gear like standing desks or even treadmill desks. On warm days, they have the freedom to set up outside or take conference calls while on a walk.
Still, others head to coworking spaces. These are offices owned by a larger entity, where people from different companies can go to work in a shared dedicated office space. Individuals may rent space or companies may offer staff memberships. These offer many benefits of their own, from cost sharing, providing unique networking opportunities and even just the opportunity to get out of the house. They usually feature amenities like workspaces, conference rooms, and kitchens. For those that feel cooped up being home all day or just need some human interaction, coworking spaces can offer the perfect middle ground.
One of the most rewarding parts of being freed from an office setting is the ability to work from anywhere. Instead of restricting travel to the costly and limited vacation days available per year, remote employees can take their work on the road, seeing new sights along the way. Some adventure junkies choose to forego a permanent home and live the nomadic lifestyle. You can pretty much go off the grid...as long as there’s wifi! And if you’re not quite up for that, you can still travel on a smaller scale. Remote work can encompass working from different cities, answering emails on planes and trains and catching conference calls in different time zones. When it matters not where but how you work, the possibilities are just about endless.