The Changing Face of Remote Work

by | Feb 9, 2016 | Freelancing, Remote work

Remote working has changed; increasing dramatically over the last decade – but many forget that remote work, in its most general sense, has had a long, rich, and storied history.

Long before you and I started working freelance, during the industrial era, a spectrum of varied, skilled tradespeople, like carpenters, farmers, and blacksmiths, often had their work places attached to their homes. Only after the Industrial Revolution did big, automated machines necessitate factory working – and the dreaded commute. With administrative support staff soon following, the “office life” was born.

As a result, for hundreds of years, working from home was considered a novelty, a joke, and even a pipedream. In 2016, it’s become so mainstream that 3.7 million US workers now work from home at least half of the time.

We tend to think of remote workers as self-employed, and in many cases, this is true. However, more and more large to mid-sized companies and startups now see the benefits of reduced costs and employee satisfaction, and are taking action in order to retain top talent. This is in contrast to the mindset only a few years ago, when part-time remote working options were offered more to appease the employees already in the role; an effort to retain quality workers.

Why has the professional landscape shifted so dramatically yet again? For one, we live in the Age of Service, a time when large, immobile machines have seen a decline, and when service-based administrative workers, human resources professionals, programmers, designers, project managers, and planners can often carry out their daily tasks successfully without having to be in the same building as their colleagues or customers.

Combine that with an era of deep economic recession, in which Americans, young and old, have been forced to take their financial futures into their own hands, and add the shipping of factory and manufacturing jobs overseas – the remote work lifestyle has many obvious reasons for flourishing.

Nowadays, the majority of Western workers are computer literate and have an IT set-up at home that even the largest businesses couldn’t imagine 15 years ago. With the help of the cloud, incredible bandwidth speeds, and videoconferencing and instant messaging – the world is always connected, no matter where you work.

Today’s remote worker symbolizes the needs of today’s busy, always-connected American, and employers are jumping on board to help their employees meet their needs – and the needs of their consumer base.

From working at home every day of the week, to working a few days a week on remote basis, to even being able to work from home while ill or when there’s a childcare issue, there are a spectrum of possibilities for hiring managers and remote workers that benefit all people, from busy parents, to workers nearing retirement, to those in metro areas where commuting is time consuming – and stressful. Millennials are reaping the benefits from being the generation of the remote worker – but you’ll find professionals of all ages taking advantage.

Remote work is also an aspect of workplace flexibility. Employers are finding that remote work and flexible work arrangements are effective tools in attracting younger employees who appreciate greater freedom, and to recruit remote workers from a wider talent pool. The best programmers and designers may not live in New York City or San Francisco – but they can work for a company that’s based there – allowing high-tech companies to recruit the premier talent.

Current funny commercials aside, the cliché of the remote worker in their pajamas watching daytime TV is no longer upheld by many, because as more people experience remote working themselves, they take advantage of the real benefits – as we mentioned –  no commute, a distraction-free environment, and less office politics, to name only a few.

Our expectations, as remote workers who are finding success and happiness in the lifestyle, is that this type of life will only become more commonplace in our society for years to come. If you take a step back, today’s marketplace is all about convenience, and saving time and money, for both consumer, company and employee – and there’s nothing that is more accessible, technologically adaptable, and beneficial for today’s society than the remote work lifestyle.

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Managing Cultural Differences in Remote Work

Remote-based development and design teams certainly possess advantages: an ability to hire professionals in a variety of geographic locations, the opportunity to employ a workforce around the clock, and a vast, global knowledge of marketplaces and people are just a few. However, the failure to realize the distinct challenges that may arise from your remote team’s cultural differences may eventually lead to a virtual bottleneck to project completions – and business growth.

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