Remote working is a means of working beyond the confines of a traditional, centralized workplace using digital technology.
Understanding remote working
While many associate remote work with the advent of the internet or even the coronavirus pandemic, it has existed since the 1970s.
Remote working exists in many forms, including:
- Education – the explosion in popularity of digital learning platforms means that many teachers can work remotely in a variety of individual or group formats. Teachers can also work remotely when teaching students who live in areas without access to schools.
- Writing – the archetypal remote worker is usually a writer who is well placed to take advantage of high-speed internet and a penchant for the low cost of living in many third-world countries.
- Healthcare – the internet is enabling healthcare professionals to interact with their patients online. Prescriptions, consultations, and post-op care are but some of the services that these professionals offer remotely.
The difference between remote working and working from home
In understanding remote working, it’s important to make the distinction between remote work and working from home. The latter is a temporary arrangement that occurs sporadically. For example, an office worker may work from home on the odd day where a meeting has not been scheduled or they need to work uninterrupted.
By contrast, remote working requires a different set of skills, abilities, and character traits. It requires a degree of self-discipline, good time-management, and good communication skills. Instead of escaping a traditional work environment by working from home, remote workers create their own work environment in any way or location they see fit.
Advantages and disadvantages of remote working
- Flexibility. Remote workers enjoy the flexibility of working in a location or setting of their choosing. For employees considering maternity leave or having a partner working in another city, remote working allows them to respond to life changes without sacrificing their careers.
- Less distraction. Multiple studies have shown that distraction costs employees in a centralized workforce up to 6 hours per day. Remote workers can design environments where they can work uninterrupted in a flow state. This results in deep, focused, and productive work.
- Improved health. A flexible workplace without a morning and evening commute has also been shown to reduce stress and burnout. Remote workers are also less likely to catch seasonal illnesses such as a cold or flu.
- Isolation. Extroverted individuals who need a high level of human interaction may find remote work isolating – even if they possess desirable traits such as self-discipline and autonomy.
- Incompatibility. Remote workers in different time zones who are part of the same team may have difficulty in communicating effectively. To some extent, proper planning can help overcome issues associated with location.
- Work/life balance. Some remote workers have trouble “switching off” at the end of a workday. Constant access to the internet and work communications is one reason for poor work/life balance. An improperly defined work area is another. Wherever possible, remote work employees should avoid working in areas traditionally reserved for leisure, such as the bed or kitchen table.
- Remote working is means of working beyond the confines of a traditional, centralized workplace.
- Remote working is commonly associated with the digital age, but it has existed since the 1970s. It is prevalent in the health, education, and freelance writing industry.
- Remote working provides individuals with the right set of traits a flexible, healthy, and focused way to work. However, it can be isolating for some individuals. Inefficiencies can also impact global companies with remote employees working in different time zones.
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