Everyone seems to be working remotely lately—it just might be the future of work. According to a recent survey conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, remote working has grown by 159% since 2005—approximately 4.7 million employees (3.4% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time. Are you one of them?
In part, remote work has grown so popular because tools like Slack and Zoom make telecommuting, or virtual work, possible. Plus, rising real estate prices in tech hotbeds like New York and San Francisco make remote working significantly more cost effective. But there are many other reasons why big companies, small businesses, and freelance workers alike are starting to embrace more flexible work schedules.
But just as with every business trend, remote working has its benefits and its pitfalls. So before you decide to abandon your traditional office setup and in favor of working in your pajamas, here’s what you need to know about remote work.
The Benefits of Remote Working
Between countless meetings, distractions, and interruptions, people can waste a lot of time at work. In fact, only around 60% of the time you spend in the office is productive, according to Atlassian.
But a 2018 survey from FlexJobs found that most employees feel significantly more productive when they can work from where they want. Out of the 3,000 respondents, 74% of remote workers said that they experienced fewer interruptions working from home, 71% said they were less stressed without a commute, and 65% said they spent less time negotiating office politics. All of these changes led to an increase in productivity.
There’s a lot of evidence to back this up. A 2013 study conducted by the Stanford Business School found that people are more productive when they’re working on their own time. Remote workers were tracked as they worked from home for a period of nine months. The results showed that these remote workers were 13% more productive than those in-office—they took fewer breaks and fewer sick days, and, because of their flexible schedules, they worked during their most productive hours of the day.
The benefits of working remotely go beyond productivity. Working remotely, even just part time, can make employees much happier—with less stress and a better work-life balance. The Owl Labs 2019 State of Remote Work Survey found that of the 1,202 U.S. workers they surveyed, the remote workers reported they were happy at their jobs 29% more frequently than their on-site counterparts. And when you combine that information with all the ways you could save money by working remotely, you begin to wonder why anyone works at a traditional office anymore.
But you don’t have to be working remotely all the time in order to feel the positive effects. Global Workplace Analytics found that the ideal schedule is a hybrid one, working remotely two or three days a week. Splitting time between the office and remote locations, balancing concentrative work at home with face-to-face collaboration, provides the highest level of productivity.
How to Start Working Remotely
Remote working isn’t always as easy as it looks. For starters, telecommunication isn’t seamless—hybrid meetings often result in interruptions, everyone talking over each other, and a host of IT issues. Plus, remote workers often have to go out of their way to make sure they don’t miss anything. Not all important office interactions happen within the confines of a meeting, after all. Sometimes, the most meaningful social or business conversations happen on the fly, on the elevator or during a quick break.
So yes, there’s FOMO. According to the survey from Owl Labs, some remote workers, 23% of them, have a concern that not being present in the office might negatively impact their career. Part of this anxiety might come from a lack of proper support for remote work. Remote workers are often responsible for their own time management and prioritization of tasks. And also, according to Owl Labs, 38% of remote workers and 15% of remote managers received no training on how to work remotely.
If you’re an employee who’s thinking about beginning to work remotely, there are a few best practices you should follow. Here are some initial tips for staying on the ball, from the comfort of your own living room:
- Set yourself up for success: If you’re going to stay home, treat it like your office. Have a designated work area, eat lunch, take regular breaks to give your mind a rest and get your blood pumping.
- Be honest about your procrastination: We all do it. But if you’re working remotely, you have to be your own manager. For starters, consider monitoring your activity on the internet, using one of these useful anti-procrastinations apps, like Beeminder, which lets you track how much time you spend on a website, or Bato.Life, which will forcefully close your browser for you when your time surfing the web is up.
For more tips for successful remote working, check out our full guide here!
The Future of Work?
With the rise of the digital nomad, trends toward specialization at work, and the influx of Gen Z digital natives into the workforce, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay, and it’s just going to get cooler.
According to research conducted by PWC in 2016, 63% of employees (out of 1,385 employees surveyed) believe that the 8-hour workday is very soon going to become obsolete—with 68% saying that all work will be done remotely.
So, if you’re feeling like it’s time to switch up your schedule, see if you can work from home a couple days a week—it will make all the difference.