More and more people are choosing to work in ways which a few years ago we would never have dreamed of. Call it a revolution if you like, but more and more people are choosing to work remotely.
A 2016 study carried out by TUC showed that almost 241,000 more people work away from the office, e.g. at home, than they did a decade ago. That’s a huge shift.
No more morning commute, no more coffee shop lunches, no more annoying colleague from the sales department (no offence to anyone in the sales department), and no more hot desking schemes. Remote working has revolutionised the working world, and if you want to stay ahead of the game it’s time to learn more about it.
Handily for you, we’re going to tell you all you need to know about this new working practice, which has major benefits for both the employer and the employee. Who knows, by the end of it you might be requesting to work remotely too!
First things first, what on Earth is this thing we’re talking about?
What is Remote Working?
Remote working is an umbrella term which is used to refer to anyone who doesn’t work in what is considered to be a conventional way. For instance, if you consider conventional to be going to work in an office every day from 9-5pm, remote workers don’t do that. You could call it flexible working, but it remains the same thing. A remote worker usually works from home, but can actually work from anywhere in the world provided they have an online connection. Some businesses allow their staff to work partly in the office and partly remotely, and there are many arrangements which can be put into place to suit a particular employee.
From reading that description you might immediately see a few challenges that could crop up alongside this method of working, and you can no doubt see the major benefits for the employee. But, remote working is actually super-productive for the organisation too. This guide is going to give you all the information you need on remote working, and show you how to make the most of opportunity, whether you’re a worker or a manager.
A remote worker can actually be nomadic too, e.g. travelling the world with only a laptop and Internet connection required for their work. This is probably one of the most extreme types of remote working, as for the most part, those who choose to work remotely actually stay home and create a home working environment, e.g. they purchase an office table which fits in with their home decor and a mesh chair or other type of easily disguised seating method. The key point of making a home office work for you is to not allow it to overlap into your home life. That’s the key. We’ll talk about how to achieve that a little later on.
For now however, you know what a remote worker is – someone who isn’t working in the office, but still works for the organisation in some role. That’s the best way to narrow it down.
Why Work Remotely?
Now you know what a remote worker is, why exactly would someone want to work that way? There are countless benefits to remote working, and it certainly gives more freedom and flexibility for someone who has responsibilities outside of their working life, e.g. a young family, or children who are at school. In addition, someone might want to travel the world, but can’t do so because they need to earn money. In that case, working remotely whilst travelling is very doable and very acceptable these days.
In 2017 PowWowNow conducted a survey on remote working and found some incredible findings. A huge 67% of employees surveyed wished they could work flexibly or remotely, however 47% of full time employees admitted that such working practices were not really encouraged in their place of work.
Motivation is certainly one of the main reasons why people decide to work remotely, and a huge 58% of employees believed that if they could work in an environment away from their office, e.g. at home, they would feel more motivated to do their job. We all know that motivation affects productivity, and that is a major coup for an employer, simply by offering a slightly different way of working. In terms of attracting new talent, remote working is important – 70% of people surveyed said that a job would be more attractive if it offered flexible working options.
Times are clearly changing, and work isn’t only about turning up at the office on a Monday morning. In order for businesses to continue to attract new workers, as well as retain their regular staff, the willingness to offer such flexible working practices is becoming even more vital.
Types of Remote Working
We’ve touched on a few different types of remote working already, but let’s highlight the main categories in this section.
A digital nomad is someone who doesn’t have a fixed abode per se, and who travels the world, whilst working online to make their living. It’s perfectly doable and acceptable to hire a digital nomad within a regular working environment, and you will communicate with them via online messaging, Skype, etc. The key problem with this type of worker is about time zones, but provided you and your remote worker understand set working hours and to check in on a regular basis, there shouldn’t be a huge issue.
A digital nomad often has their own business and they stick to a set type of work, e.g. writing, proofreading, teaching online, virtual assistant, graphic designer, website designer, SEO professional. The list goes on. You can easily hire a digital nomad as a freelancer (more on that shortly), or you can hire them in a more permanent position for your company.
A Freelancer is a very broad term in remote working. A freelancer generally doesn’t work for a set organisation as their main form of employment, and they often have more than one client. Having said that, they will probably have contacts with various organisations, and provided there are no clashes of interest, these work well side by side. A freelancer can work on the go, they can travel, stay home, or do a combination of the two. There really aren’t any set regulations for freelancing, only the need for a quality Internet connection and to be able to communicate on a regular basis.
Freelancers tend to specialise in one area, be it writing, blogging, proofreading, virtual assistant, etc. In many ways, a freelancer is the same as a digital nomad, except they will not travel as much, usually have a fixed working address for most of the time, and tend to work for more clients.
A home worker is usually employed by a set organisation and simply carries out their duties at home. In this case the employee will need to set up a home office and make sure it is a productive space. They will check in with the office on a regular basis, usually by video call or telephone and they will submit their work via an online connection.
There are many challenges when working from home, and many distractions that can come your way. We’ll cover these in more detail in our ‘dos and don’ts’ section a little later on, but provided you can be motivated and disciplined, home working is a fantastic way to give yourself more freedom and able to fit other things into your regular days.
Part Home/Part Office Worker
This type of remote working is really a mixture of home working and regular office working. Some organisations offer home working on the proviso that a member of staff works a set number of days in the office too. This helps them to stay up to date with developments whilst also maintaining a connection with management and their colleagues. This is also a good choice for businesses who are just starting to offer flexible working arrangements and helps to build up the bond of trust which really has to be there in order for these types of working practices to be successful.
As you can see, a business can easily benefit from different types of remote workers, be it employed in the traditional sense, or selfemployed and taking advantage of their expert skills and experience in a set field. For the employee, the benefit are far-reaching.
In our next section, let’s talk about the overall benefits of remote working, both for the employer and the employee.
Benefits of Remote Working
We should point out here and now that remote working is not all flowers and roses, because there are some very apparent drawbacks. We’ll cover those in our next section, but for now let’s talk about the major upsides of working away from the regular office.
Check out this infographic for facts – some of them might surprise you!
Freedom and Flexibility – Working remotely gives flexibility and freedom for both the employer and the employer. The employee is free to arrange their working day in a way which suits them, and although they might need to be available during core working hours, there is some wiggle room on either side. From the employer point of view, remote workers give a huge amount of flexibility to the way work is done.
For instance, if you have a young child who goes to school every day and you want to be the one to pick them up every afternoon, working remotely will allow you the freedom to be able to do that. If you have an elderly parent who you want to check in on every day, you can do that during the morning or afternoon, and your working life won’t be affected. Remote working is the ultimate in working freedom and if you can set up a productive home office, even better. Simply search for ‘office furniture near me’ and you’ll find low priced deals.
No More Morning and Evening Commutes – The PowWowNow survey we mentioned earlier touched upon the problem of commuting to and from work every day. 45% of those who took part in the survey admitted to commuting for more than an hour every day. If you think how much public transport or petrol costs these days, you can imagine that you don’t only save time, but you save money too. In addition, we all know how stressful commuting can be, and 56% of commuters admitted to feeling stressed out to a large degree at least once every month, with over half (66%) saying that they felt this stressed more like once per week. Stress isn’t a good thing to welcome into your life voluntarily, and remote working helps cut down on the one area which causes this daily life stress.
Money Saved – We’ve just talked about saving money on public transport and petrol costs, but it goes further than that. What about the deli lunch you buy every day? What about the coffee you buy in the morning, simply to wake you up and get you going? When you work from home, you can prepare your own breakfasts, lunches, and coffee, and you save cash instantly. From an employer’s point of view, remote workers save them a huge amount of cash, because there is no need to provide a workstation, no need to heat or light an office which is quite as large etc. Remote working literally saves cash on all sides.
In terms of employing a freelancer or a remote worker, a business can also save money on full time salaries and pension/insurance contributions. The amount paid is decided between the two parties and there is no need for any extra payments on top, e.g. for insurance or regular employment benefits. That is more money saved for a business, which adds up to quite a lot over the year. There is also no need to buy executive office furniture for a member of staff who will not be there!
A Higher Amount of Motivation – Most people who work remotely will tell you that they are more motivated than if they work in a regular office. There is a reason for this – they have the freedom to work how they want to, and that in itself gives you a boost of confidence and motivation. There is also the fact that your employer trusts you to work away from the office, and that makes you feel good. Remote working can therefore increase morale in a big way. The working environment can still be comfortable, with luxury office furniture choices, it’s simply far more flexible, and therefore far more motivating.
Better Job Satisfaction – Most remote workers enjoy their job. Of course, there are a few who don’t, but that will always be the case. Working from wherever you want to work, and arranging your day around other commitments means you’re not as stressed out and you have more flexibility to your home/working life balance. That creates a greater amount of job satisfaction, and has great benefits for an employer too. When their employees, remote or otherwise, are happy and enjoying their work, they will be more productive, which brings more money into the business.
Greater Productivity – By taking advantage of the advanced skills of freelancers in particular, businesses can increase their productivity levels quite easily. There may be tasks which the regular workforce simply can’t do, because they don’t have the skills or knowledge. Hiring a freelancer on a short-term contract will be less money than hiring a person on a permanent contract, and you still get the knowledge and the experience of someone who is a true expert in their field. There’s no losing point to this one, because productivity increases, profits increase, morale is on the rise, and everything is rosy!
As you can see, the benefits of choosing either to work remotely, or hire a remote worker, are fantastic on all sides.
Possible Drawbacks of Remote Working
Here at Calibre Office Furniture, we like to be fair, and whilst we are certainly fans of the remote working movement, we like to give you a thorough overview of every subject we talk about. For completeness’ sake, let’s talk about the few possible drawbacks of remote working.
A Lack of Motivation – We mentioned a rise in motivation in our benefits section, but there is another side of this particular coin too. At first, when you start to work from home, you may find that you’re easily distracted. It takes a lot of self-discipline to be able to avoid going out for coffee with a friend when they randomly call around during your working hours, or to watch a TV show you like during the morning. You need to remind yourself that if you don’t do the work, either you’ll get into trouble, or you simply won’t be paid, depending upon the arrangement you have. Either isn’t a great outcome, so it’s vital that you prioritise work over other things, e.g. mid-morning TV and a coffee!
Communication Issues – Home workers don’t tend to have this problem, because it is very easy to set up quality Internet connections or use the telephone to stay in touch with the office, however remote workers overseas might have an issue. There are time zones to take into account here, and if someone is travelling whilst working, they might be in a place which doesn’t have the greatest Internet service. To get around this potential pitfall, employers and employees need to have regular check-ins and both sides need to know when these conversations are going to take place.
Work Overlapping With Your Home Life – A home office needs to be designed in such a way that it doesn’t encroach on your regular home life. You need to keep the work/home life balance equal. Designing your home office in the right way is therefore vital, e.g. looking into storage options which don’t look too much like they belong in a standard office, choose a room which isn’t used and doesn’t form part of your main home environment, and modern office furniture which still looks homely. It can be done, it simply needs a little planning. If you’re short on cash, you can even look at second hand office furniture as a viable choice too.
In addition, if you work from home and you have a deadline, especially as a freelancer, it can be very easy to continue working when you should really be turning off the laptop and relaxing. Self-discipline isn’t just about making sure you work it’s about making sure you stop working at the right time too.
Less Certainty – If you are a freelancer or a digital nomad, you might not know how much money you’re going to make in a month. Of course, you’ll have a rough estimate based on your regular contracts, but these contracts can end abruptly, and you’re left with no major rights, unlike a regular employee would have. In this case, a lack of certainty can be one reason why this type of lifestyle isn’t suited to everyone.
Remote Working Can be Lonely – Working from home can be lonely, in fact most people who used to work in a large office and then go on to work remotely in any capacity will tell you that they miss the social aspect of working in an organisation. This can be side-stepped by staying in regular touch with colleagues and making sure that you end work when you’re supposed to, but it is a downside we have to mention.
Managers May Not be 100% Sure Who They’re Employing – If you choose to employ a digital nomad or a freelancer, the chances are that you will never meet them in person, and you probably will never sit around a boardroom table with them. This can be a risk in some cases, although 99% of the time it is certainly not an issue.
The downsides of remote working can be minimised and overcome, but we have to point out that this method of working, no matter what route you opt for as an employee or employer, isn’t 100% perfect either.
How Does Remote Working Help Boost Business Productivity?
From an employee point of view, remote working really sells itself. The chance to work where you want, when you want to a large degree, and with no need to even change out of your pyjamas if you don’t to – it’s a fantastic way to work! For a business however, you might still be a little unconvinced.
We’ve talked about the benefits of remote working from both sides, but offering these types of working patterns really can help a business to boost its productivity levels. A greater level of morale, retaining quality members of staff, attracting new talent, increased motivation, the ability to utilise key skills and knowledge from freelance staff, whilst also saving money on heating, lighting, and office equipment. These are all major plus points for a business and every single one of them will increase productivity, which therefore increases profits. Businesses will also save money on having to opt for the best office furniture brand equipment – less is required, so therefore less cash spent.
We hear so much about focusing on employee health and wellness, and offering flexible and remote working methods is one way to ensure that happens. You might have a member of staff who is struggling with a home issue that they need to be more present for, but their working hours prevent that from happening. If the situation remains the same, this member of staff is likely to either end up going off work with stress, or they will leave. By offering a flexible working solution, you retain their expert knowledge and experience, and they can also attend to the issues in their life which they need to attend to. As a result, he or she also feels valued, and is far more likely to go the extra mile for you as an employer, due to your understanding.
You’re basically clearing the way for staff to work in a way which suits them, that has fantastic benefits for the productivity levels of a business.
Equipment Required For Effective Remote Working
So, you’ve decided you want to try remote working and either your manager has agreed, or you’ve decided to take the plunge and work from home as a freelancer. Either way, you need some key pieces of equipment to make your working life possible and easier. This can range from cheap contemporary office furniture choices, to a more basic setup; it’s all about what works for you.
The very basic pieces of equipment you need are:
- A laptop / desktop computer
- Internet connection
- Telephone access (not always necessary if you’re communicating online)
- A webcam, either separate or built in to your device, for video calls
- The necessary software installed on your computer to be able to do your work
That’s how simple it can be. Despite that, if you want to be more productive and comfortable, you should think about setting up your own home office. As we mentioned before, this should be a space which doesn’t encroach on your home life, so if you have a spare room, the is the ideal choice. If you don’t have a spare room, do you have a conservatory? Or a corner of a room which you can revolutionise into your own working hub? You can easily decorate it in a way which doesn’t stand out too much. You can also find cheap office furniture which won’t break the bank.
The basic pieces of home office furniture are:
- An office desk / An executive corner desk is ideal for a home office because these save space and they don’t look as obviously mainstream office as some other larger desks. In addition, a contemporary glass desk is a great choice for a modern and sleek look
- Office chair – A huge ergonomic chair is probably going to look a little too workplace-y for a home office, and in that case you can think about mesh chairs or another type of supportive seating option which doesn’t stand out too much. You can find some awesome office chairs which look funky and stylish these days!
- Storage options – You don’t need filling cabinets, and instead think about small wooden cabinets, or shelving with box files you wallpaper in the same decoration as the rest of your room. You can think outside of the box here and make your home office look less obvious!
Computer storage is also important when working remotely, so think about USB flash drives or storing items in the Cloud or on Dropbox to make them more secure. If you go with the USB option, make sure you back everything up.
As you can see, everything is sleek and simplified. No need for premium office supplies!
The Dos And Don’ts of Remote Working
In order to make remote working fit into your lifestyle and really work for you, there are a few dos and don’ts you need to bear in mind. Basically, other people have made these mistakes in order to stop you doing so in the future. Take their advice!
- DO Remember to be Contactable During Working Hours – If you have set working hours, make sure you are contactable, e.g. via online messaging or via the phone. If you don’t have set working hours, remember to check your emails and messages on a regular basis and return any missed calls.
- DO Get Dressed – It’s very tempting to sit there in your pyjamas and not brush your hair, but that’s not a good look if someone from work calls you on Skype! Having a set routine in terms of getting up and getting dressed will also help you with work routine and motivation.
- DO Have a Routine as Much as Possible – Routine isn’t just about getting dressed, it’s about having working hours, albeit slightly more flexible ones. Purchase yourself some stylish office furniture for your home and you’re more likely to want to sit there!
- DO Get Out and Work Somewhere Different – If you always work from home, grab your laptop and head to a coffee shop or a park in the sunny weather. Mixing it up if one of the major perks of working remotely! Even if you purchase the funkiest, most colourful office chair, you need to get out and about sometimes.
- DO Finish Work When You Should – If you have a deadline to meet, it can be very easy to simply continue working until the early hours. That is not what remote working is about. Make sure you stop when you should – a home and working life balance is vital to make this all work out for you.
- DON’T Sit Snacking Throughout The Day – The fact you’re at home means you can eat yourself into oblivion whilst you’re working and nobody will judge you. It’s not a good idea! It is important to remain healthy in the workplace, and it’s equally as important to do the same thing when you’re working remotely or from home
- DON’T Turn on The TV – Big mistake! Even if the programmes you see are terrible (and let’s face it, daytime TV usually is, you’ll want to sit and watch it purely because you can.
- DON’T Think You Have to Set up an All Singing, All Dancing Office – The basics are all you need in this case, and you expand as you grow. Simply look for quality office furniture near you, e.g. search for ‘office furniture Bromley’ if you’re in the area and see what deals come your way! You’ll easily find some cheap office desks if you look.
- DON’T Forget to Update Your Skills – If you were working in a regular office, you would have mandatory training on a regular basis and you’d go on training courses. Don’t miss out on being able to update your skills simply because you’re working remotely. Stay up to date with new developments and take regular courses yourself.
- DON’T Forget to Make Your Home Office a Pleasant Spot – You can decorate your home office however you please; that’s a perk of remote working too! A pleasant place to work is a key motivator, and makes your working day go faster.
Does This Mean no More Standard Offices?
Not at all! Remote working is a choice, and whilst many people are opting to try it out, that doesn’t mean it is for everyone. There will always be standard offices and there will always be people who prefer to work this way.
However, it is important that businesses move with the times and offer this type of flexible working to employees who want to try it. The TUC survey we mentioned earlier noted that the demand for home working has increased over the last few years, but that employers are not offering it as much as they should. Around 4 million workers in the UK want to try working remotely, but their workplace doesn’t offer such a facility. It’s also important that if businesses do begin to offer remote working, that managers update their skills to be able to manage such workers effectively – the TUC survey found that 56% of people felt managers needed to have extra training in order to properly manage a mixed style workforce, or one which is predominately remote.
How do you feel about remote working now you have learnt more about it? As an employer it is something you’d like to start offering your employees? As an employee, is it something you’d like to try for yourself? Whilst it isn’t an option that everyone will settle into an enjoy, it is one which has brought flexibility and freedom to millions of people across the country, and one which has also increased motivation and productivity for countless businesses alike.
In terms of the what the future holds, we can’t be sure, but if the current trend continues, flexible methods of working will be far more commonplace in the years to come, than they are now.
Thank you for reading!