Working remotely has a lot of advantages: you get to save on commuting expenses, you don’t have to dress up in corporate attire every day, and you get to work at your own pace in an environment of your own making. It also appears to be fast becoming the norm.
In the US alone, the number of remote workers has increased by a whopping 80 percent between 2005 and 2012, with the number of remote job opportunities rising annually. And when 70 percent of the emerging workforce (i.e., millennials) has a marked preference for telecommuting, it won’t be long before it becomes a standard option for employees.
Yet amidst all this hype, can anyone and everyone benefit from working remotely? Let’s take a look at the following factors:
Can all jobs be done remotely? As we’ve moved from the Industrial Revolution to the Age of Information, it sometimes seems so.
Fields like information technology (IT), accounting, and marketing lend themselves especially well to remote work set-ups, and given the abundance of telecommuting opportunities in each of these crucial departments, it’s perhaps tempting to conclude that just about every job out there can be outsourced or done remotely.
However, we shouldn’t discount the importance of site work either. Tasks like growing food on a farm, repairing an electrical system, or constructing a house or building certainly can’t be done from afar (at least not yet), and their output remains just as crucial to keeping society functioning.
The bottomline is, a job should only be done remotely if the worker’s physical presence isn’t mandatory to produce a desired result.
When we speak of how culture affects a remote set-up’s chances of success, we speak of two kinds of culture, particularly those of the countries and companies involved.
Remote work has always been associated with outsourcing, so it’s quite common for telecommuters to work with and for companies that are based outside their home countries. Thanks to the Internet and to certain apps like Skype, it’s never been easier to communicate and collaborate with people from the other side of the globe.
However, cultural issues can present quite a challenge to cross-border teams. Attitudes regarding punctuality (!), differing levels of tolerance for bureaucracy, opposing communication styles, and varying work ethics are all potential pressure points if specific ground rules aren’t established from the get-go.
The same goes for cross-company teams. Just like countries, each company has its own unique culture and this can manifest in how workers handle conflicts and how they react to change.
Just to be clear, this is not to say that remote working set-ups shouldn’t be established between countries and/or companies, but that doing so requires a great deal of thought and planning, especially with regards to the implications and adjustments that such may entail.
The right technology is key to any remote work set-up. For without a laptop or desktop with an Internet connection, how can you communicate with clients and colleagues and carry out your assigned tasks, right?
Unfortunately, there are still plenty of areas in the Philippines and abroad that don’t have access to the Internet and more still where the connection speed leaves much to be desired. So, unless connectivity issues are resolved in these said areas, its inhabitants remain ineligible for remote work.
Lastly, we should always consider one’s personal preferences and inclinations. Remote work is best suited for individuals who have both the self-discipline and the focus to stay on task despite the lack of direct supervision. If you work especially well on your own and are adept at balancing your personal and professional life, you’ll probably find remote work very fulfilling too.
On the other hand, some people still prefer site work not because they aren’t disciplined or focused per se, but mainly because they thrive on structure, which a traditional office set-up provides. Also, some employees function better when their work places and living spaces are completely separate, thus allowing them to effectively compartmentalize their lives to avoid potentially burning out.
While remote work is sure to figure prominently in the future, it probably won’t get rid of the demand for on-site work, at least not entirely. The key here is to figure out which approach (or which combination thereof) would be the most effective and the most efficient for your company and for your employees.