Telecommuting, virtual work, coworking, telework, digital nomading, hoteling, workshifting… these are all names for remote working, which is the latest range on the jobs market.
What is remote working? According to the Cambridge dictionary, remote working is “the situation when an employee works mainly from home or another location”, found far away from the company and keeps contact with his colleagues via email and telephone.
For most people, this is a dream job, as it comes with incredible flexibility for the worker, who is able to choose his or her working schedule, as well as the location. And the benefits of remote jobs don’t end here, so let’s discover what it really means to work remotely.
To work in a remote system you need a computer and a reliable internet connection: from this point, the entire world is opened for you and the opportunities to make money can be endless. All the work is done from a remote location, so you can work with any company across the globe.
Remote work makes you a better worker
Research made on remote working proved that a remote worker can be more productive than a traditional on-site worker. Engagement rates among remote workers are higher than those of regular workers. One of the many studies which prove remote workers are more engaged and productive is the one published by Stanford. The study looked for 9 months at the employees of a travel agency located in Shanghai, China, with 13,000 employees. For the study, the researchers divided a group of 255 employees into remote workers and office workers.
After the 9 months, the study found that remote workers had a 12% performance increase, due to working more hours, taking less sick days and working in a friendlier, quieter environment. The group of remote workers had a 50% less frazzle and reported increasing work satisfaction.
After the 9 months study, the company offered their employees the opportunity to work from home, while the researchers were still looking at the company dynamics. This revealed something interesting: highly productive workers chose to work remotely, while less productive workers stayed in the office.
This last observation suggests that remote working attracts more productive workers.
How to interpret different remote job ads
It’s interesting to note that many companies offer remote jobs, using different terms and many freelancers or wannabe freelancers get tangled in these terms. As I said, remote work has many synonyms, but employers often give each term a slightly different meaning.
A remote job is any job done outside the company’s office. It can be your dream job, the one you make from a hotel couch in Hawaii, but it can also be a less glamorous on-the-road job. Think salesperson, for example.
A virtual job is a telecommuting job made 100% from home. If you come across titles like Virtual Assistant or Virtual Teacher, you need to be ready to use the virtual environment and the phone to communicate with your colleagues or boss. The term home-based job is pretty much the same thing, but you need to double-check, as some companies use this term to refer to a job made from their own headquarters or to refer a job which asks for face-time. Face-time is making trips to the office on regular basis for meetings and other assignments.
Telecommuting or teleworking is done from a home office, but it can imply part-time company office work as well. Some companies use this term to define a job where you are requested to spend couple of days each month at the office, while the rest of the time you are working from home, keeping in touch with the company via phone and/or internet.
Each time you come across a job description, read it carefully and make sure the job is exactly what you understand by “remote work”.
After all this info on jobs, it’s time to give you a clue on which jobs can be done remotely, assuming you are a beginner in this field.
Work arrangements in remote working industry
Depending on the employer needs, there are different work arrangements in the world of remote working. Here are the most common of them, but you may come across some other models as well, because remote working involves lots of creativity – in all its forms!
Hybrid work management
Having a hybrid work schedule means you will be working remotely a part of the time, the rest being worked from the office. The worker is not a freelancer, but an employee. This is a model used by companies who want to transition from a traditional work schedule to a remote work schedule or outsourcing.
This model has its benefits and flaws for both the employer and the employee. The employer is able to test the productivity of the remote work model and save money, but there are many management challenges and the employee requires training, which might not be effective. The employer needs to update his infrastructure and internal policies, which is another disadvantage.
For the worker, this model is disruptive and makes him prone to isolation. However, he has the advantage of a flexible schedule, which comes with budget savings and the opportunity to work in a friendly work environment, which can boost productivity.
Another level of remote working is outsourcing. Within this model, a highly specialized freelancer is working 100% from his home or a remote location of his preference and doesn’t have the status of a regular “employee”, but is a remote worker. The company you are working for might be in the same area, the same country or in a distant location. When you work in the same region as the main office of the company you are called a remote contractor; when you work overseas you are an outsourcer.
For the contractor, the freelancer, this model can be highly profitable, but if the contract is on short period, this might affect the worker’s revenue, as it’s not a stable source of income. If the employer is asking the freelancer to adjust to specific requirements, this can also have a negative impact on the costs and the productivity. The main benefits of the outsourcing model is the flexibility it provides for the worker, the expanded opportunities to gain experience and a reliable income from a long term contract.
The employer can benefit a lot from specialized workers, which is crucial for the company. For example, a company may find a worker specialized in a certain field which lacks professionals in the company’s location. The cost of outsourcing can be balanced by the benefits which come from this model. Moreover, the top managers of the company, now relieved by the burden of certain tasks, which can be outsourced, are going to focus on development plans, which is a great asset for any company. Among the flaws of this model there are the challenges which come from supervising the contractor and the potential cultural compatibility issues. The ability to find a great contractor and keep him is also challenging for companies and subjected to availability.
Many companies refer to their working model as being a full time remote work model, which is pretty much the same thing as outsourcing, as the contractor works 100% remotely. However, there is a critical difference between the two models: in a full time remote work model, the contractor is not a freelancer, but an employee who was hired as a remote worker or who transitioned from a hybrid working model. Also, the worker is found in the same geographic area as the main office.
With this model the worker is at a high risk of feeling disconnected from the rest of the team, which can pose a number of problems that can alter his productivity. The solution to avoid these problems is to include the remote worker in the team activities, such as team building sessions and maintain a good communication with the management, so the remote worker can receive regular feedback.
Temporary remote work
Special circumstances can ask for temporary remote work models; these circumstances come up after natural disasters, traveling, relocation, worker’s medical issues and other activities which involve different groups of employees, such as online meeting.
Managers opt for temporary remote work to avoid the costs of hiring new employees and allow their workers to continue their work within the company.