The number of people working online has been on the rise in the recent past. To put this into perspective; according to Statista’s data on most popular online activities as at November 2017, at least 22.6% of internet users in the United States were working remotely via the internet.
Data such as 20.8% and 19.1% of internet users who were searching for jobs or taking part in job training online, shows the vast growth in the online job market. It postulates that has been an incline towards individuals working online, the consequence of which has been more people seeking to work remotely.
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics American Time Use Survey, about 24% of people worked from home in 2017.
With the advent of broadbands and improvements in telecommunication came the development in working conditions whereby individuals in different geographical regions could now team up. Remote workforces have existed for a long time, championed mainly by IT firms. Companies such as GitHub have been built atop the premise of a remote workforce. Such institutions garner top talent from across the globe to develop solutions while maintaining the correspondence between teams through depositories. Moreover, firms such as Upwork have gone further and taken the remote workplace model to the New York Securities Exchange where it currently trades with a US $2.13 billion market capitalization.
Are remote workplaces the future of work?
With the concept of remote workforces slowly taking root while shaping a new culture among the millennial workforce, the morphosis leaves towards one main question: are remote workplaces the future of work?
The answer to this is not as clear cut as one may think and requires a holistic review. First, there are some jobs which cannot be performed remotely such as mining or construction. While technology has penetrated these workspaces and improved efficiencies therein, these jobs continue to rely on an individual’s physical presence. However, most other jobs continue to be increasingly affected both by technological disruptions, allowing people to work from any geographical location if they are interconnected.
As previously stated, improvements in telecommunication have allowed people to engage more while being further from each other. Increasingly, people prefer working remotely to going through the hustle or getting to work to achieve the same result. Statistics released by Data Suggests Remote Workplaces Are The Future of Work backed this up by showing that about 70% of the professional workforce globally works remotely at least once a week and 53% work remotely for half the week. The idea, it seems, is for the workforce to achieve the highest productivity for each specific job they have.
Millennials have further added to this by embracing the concept of remote workplaces and flexible timings, sometimes favoring such working conditions to higher salaries. This is mainly backed by the approach millennials take to productivity which tends to favor output to the previously-favored ‘attendance.’ A study by Bentley University concluded that millennials believed that flexible hours and telecommuting improved their productivity. By focusing on output, millennials have set the stage for a productivity-driven workspace, one which they believe is best achieved with less hustle.
Remote work: One size does not fit all
Upon this backdrop, it would seem like working remotely is favorable for any institution as it seems to be backed by a large section of the population. This assertion, while true in some cases, has come under scrutiny by some of the largest institutions globally. Firms such as Yahoo, IBM, and Bank of America banned remote workplaces citing the need for efficiency and collaboration. While the model works when individuals are collaborative, the system may fail badly should this not be the case.
Research by Deloitte showed that productivity suffers in cases where geographically dispersed employees struggle to collaborate on documents or have hiccups obtaining corporate information. Therefore, firms with high power distance or strict bureaucratic structures may end up suffering while trying to implement remote working policies.
Working remotely efficacy in a nutshell
In conclusion, there are perks and flaws in the above working model. While the model offers flexibility and is often deemed to improve productivity, some jobs and cultures make it difficult to implement it. In fact, the jobs conducted from remote workplaces are neither as easy, flexible nor clear cut as most think – sitting in your pajamas and staring at your laptop all day – as they involve scheduling with people across the globe, factoring in and different geographical times in one’s deadlines and sometimes working for more hours than the stipulated 9 to 5. Nevertheless, the flexibility remote workplaces offer to the workers always seems to surmount these drawbacks.
Collaboration and efficiency are generally at the heart of institutions. While some cases disallow for this to be implemented, remote workplaces generally ensure that this is implemented. Currently, tools have been developed to ensure that project managers and team players can actively collaborate in set projects. The implementation of the remote workplace model is thus generally pegged to (but not limited to) the following:
i) creation of policies governing individuals working remotely;
ii) fostering a culture which ensures employees understand; and,
iii) efficiently implement working remotely and setup of tools meant to monitor and control the process.
Firms need to evaluate their culture, policies, and tools among other factors before concluding on whether remote workplaces are the future for them. Its implementation will see firms cut costs, therefore, have much better performance and consequently, better productivity per worker. Should it work for them; the pros, according to the above piece and additional research available online, seem to outweigh the cons.
Eventually, such firms will be taking a major leap into the future of work.