If you’re reading this blog from a remote workplace, you’re not alone. Whether you work full or part-time, for many of us, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a huge shift — literally — in the way we approach our jobs. But first let’s define what remote work actually means.
Remote work definition
“Remote work is a work arrangement in which employees do not need to commute or travel to a central place of work.”
For more of us now than ever before, when it comes to going to work – we’re not actually ‘going’. Not the way we used to, anyway.
Many of us are now working remotely in a virtual environment: whether it’s from home, a shared office space, a hotel room or another location altogether.
Want help getting your team to work remotely?
Our experience of the Coronavirus pandemic has shown how adaptable employees and companies can be in times of crisis.
But while the working from home revolution was clearly exacerbated by the pandemic, thanks to improvements in online technologies such as video conferencing, security, and the internet, remote working has been a growing trend for some time, especially when it comes to many traditional office jobs.
Since this is a full guide, we give you the opportunity to browse between the different menus of the guide. This will make your navigation easier. Here are the main topics of the guide:
- What is remote work?
- What are the different types of remote teams?
- What types of workers are working remotely?
- How remote work benefits employers and employees
In 2008 (during another crisis – the Global Financial Crisis), only about one in every 100 Australian employees, excluding business managers, worked mainly from home as part of their job, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
By 2016, that figure had risen significantly to about a third of the country’s workers, or about 3.5 million of all employed Australians.
In May this year, after Australia’s first coronavirus peak, the jobs of nearly one in two Australian full- and part-time workers (45%) were classified as remote.
It’s also a trend that’s only expected to grow.
More than 80% of 127 company leaders recently surveyed by Gartner said they intend to allow remote working some of the time as employees return to the workplace.
Nearly half (47%) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time in their current jobs going forward.
As web connections have become faster (and commutes slower), and new video conferencing platforms, communication and collaboration tools, mobile access, apps, social media platforms, and other technology have matured, the view of employers has changed with many becoming increasingly more confident in the effectiveness of remote working, as well as virtual and digital working spaces.
In one sense, the immediacy and rapid response forced on companies and employees in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has normalised remote work due to necessity, and quickly erased any negative perceptions that employees working from home, or other remote locations, would be less productive.
The modern day remote working environment is all about effective collaboration which can be achieved through the use of tools such as video conferencing, messaging, and task management.
What is remote work?
While remote work might be novel for many of us, it’s not a new phenomenon. IBM was one of the first companies to officially begin experimenting with remote work in the 1980s, when it installed remote terminals in the homes of several workers.
By 2009, 40% of IBM’s almost 400,000 global employees already worked at home.
While it’s been known by a few names over the years, including telecommuting, flexplace, telework, distributed teams, and working from home, remote work can be simply defined as a working style that involves working outside of a traditional office environment.
The location at which remote workers actually work is dependent on the type of work they’re doing and the technology or other equipment required to do it, and the level of privacy, security, hands-on help, and other things they need.
While COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions have left many people with their home as the only place they can work remotely, in a more normal world other options for remote workers include shared offices or other shared workplaces, libraries, cafes, hotel rooms, or even the park.
While remote workers might work individually when it comes to their physical workplace, they can successfully collaborate as a team on various projects by utilising digital technologies along the way.
For example, teams and clients can be spread across different locations and time zones.
If you’ve read any online job ads lately, you might have noticed the number of organisations looking to fill jobs which require at least some part of remote work are on a steady upward trajectory. In the past two years alone, there’s been a 78% increase in job posts advertising flexible work arrangements on the LinkedIn social network.
What’s more, more than seven out of ten (72%) recruitment professionals said the option for employees to work when and where they want is becoming an extremely important factor in shaping the future of recruiting and talent. They also agreed that companies that embrace work flexibility will have a huge competitive edge.
What are the different types of remote teams
The type of work being done across the whole of a company will ultimately determine the percentage, if any, of a workforce that can effectively work remotely as part of a team, as well as how it might benefit your organisation.
While more companies are turning to fully remote workforces – one of the most recent being software giant Atlassian – it’s not for everyone.
Other companies are using a mixed approach where some employees work remotely for some of the time, while other organisations work within more of a remote team-based structure.
Today, there are a few common types of remote team set-ups.
Fully remote teams
A fully remote team is exactly that. All employees work remotely. There’s no office and no reason to meet your colleagues face-to-face.
Most teams working in this style are often part of a fully remote company that stretches across numerous different countries and time zones.
While it takes a lot of effort to get business practices and processes right when your whole organisation is essentially operating in a virtual space, when it’s up and running successfully, it creates advantages, including being able to attract the world’s best and most diverse talent, boosting employee retention and reducing costs.
Hybrid remote teams
A hybrid team usually refers to a remote working environment where less than half of the employees work outside of a traditional office location.
Some remote workers are usually also required to attend the office for at least part of their working week to interact with other people in their team.
This style of remote working is becoming more popular with many companies, especially larger organisations, who are not ready, or unable, to take the step to a fully remote workplace.
Hybrid teams are also useful when a company needs to work with external consultants or other workers with particular skills who are not part of their on-site team.
Distributed or split teams work in a single location as part of their team, but also in tandem remotely with another team in a different location.
For example, a software developer might have its development team in Sydney, its marketing and communication team in London, and its data analytics team in the US.
The teams are on a similar footing and work together to reach the same goal. They share progress, information and data to support each other. Sometimes team members will also work remotely in their own locations.
What types of workers are working remotely?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the Australian economy, working women (33%) are slightly more likely than men (32%) to be working from home.
When it comes to age groups, more than a third of people aged 35-49 (38%) are working from home, followed by those aged 25-34 (36%) and 50-64 (33%).
Younger and older workers, however, are much more likely to be out in the workplace, with around one-in-five employees aged over 65 (23%) working remotely, and only 17% of those aged under 25 not working in a fixed location.
Not surprisingly, there are also considerable differences between people working in different business sectors.
Companies in the finance and insurance (58%), public administration and defense (51%) and communications (47%) sectors are most likely to be employing remote workers.
At the other end of the scale, a majority of workers in more active or customer-focussed activities such as manufacturing (16%), transport and storage (15%), agriculture (13%) or retail (12%) have remained in the workplace.
How remote work benefits employers and employees
The benefits experienced by companies and employees both locally and globally from introducing remote work policies impact not only their staff but the fortunes of their business as well.
A recent survey of Australian employers found that the top benefits experienced by companies from offering remote work policies included more productive employees (67%), improved morale (64%), reduced absenteeism and employee turnover (57%) and operational cost-savings (51%).
While larger companies were more likely to allow employees to work remotely compared with smaller organisations, the benefits remote working offered companies was similar across the board, including:
Flexible working environments create passionate, enthusiastic and engaged employees who feel more positive about their work, which drives improved performance.
Workplaces with highly engaged employees generally report lower absenteeism, fewer quality defects, and higher profitability.
Highly engaged employees also report better social lives, and physical and mental health than their office-based counterparts.
If you thought remote workers were more easily distracted at home by things such as social media, think again.
Remote workers are on average 13% more productive when compared with their in-office counterparts, because they face fewer workplace distractions, are more engaged, less stressed from commuting, and work longer hours.
Remote employees are estimated to work more than 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year, than those working in an office.
Remote workers are also more productive when they’re actually working. While office workers spend an average of 37 minutes each workday not getting work done (not including lunch and other breaks), remote employees only lost 27 minutes of each workday to interruptions.
Gone are the days when working from home was akin to taking a day off. For many it’s considered a perk they’re willing to work harder to keep.
Ability to hire and retain top talent
Three of the key challenges many big and small companies face when it comes to hiring and keeping the best staff, are location, location, location.
While there might be a larger talent pool when you’re based in a big city, the competition and cost when it comes to hiring the best expertise can be considerable.
Conversely, if your headquarters is based in a smaller city or regional location, finding the right talent prepared to make a sea, or tree, change, can be just as hard.
For companies with a focus on remote workers, the global talent pool is getting easier to reach. When your workforce can be based anywhere, hiring employees from the other side of the world is just part and parcel of flexible working practices.
You’re also offering a more competitive product to a potential employee with a majority of employees saying that the ability to work remotely will be extremely important in choosing their next job.
When it comes to retaining staff, increasingly people want remote work policies to be a part of their job, with eight out of ten saying they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.
Gartner estimates that companies that support flexible work practices can increase staff retention rates by more than 10 per cent.
It’s estimated a typical company can save an average of around $15,000 each year for each part-time remote worker they employ.
The primary savings come from lower property and other infrastructure costs, reduced absenteeism, sick days and staff turnover, and increased productivity.
Remote working also reduces the cost of going to work for employees by thousands of dollars a year. It’s estimated that most workers spend as much as $5,000 per year on their daily commute – including car maintenance, petrol, public transportation, and other expenses, such as clothes and eating out.
Better work-life balance
A flexible lifestyle with support for a better work-life balance is often the most popular reason people seek out remote work.
In real terms, that means having a less rigid daily timetable and more opportunity to start early or finish late, pick up the kids from school, take up further education or attend a doctor’s appointment.
What’s more, most workers are willing to pay for it, with recent research finding that one in three Australian workers would take a pay cut if they could work from home.
Saving time and avoiding the stress of a commute
While it might once have been seen as part and parcel of having a job, the daily commute and associated stress involved in getting to work has become an important factor in terms of job satisfaction for many employees.
Australians spend, on average, almost five hours commuting to and from work each week – which works out at about 30 8-hour work days a year — the equivalent of six working weeks!
In capital cities, commute times can be considerably higher, and it’s only getting worse. In 2002, the average weekly commute time for most Australians was over an hour less than it is today.
One study by the University of West England found that most workers would view a 10-minute increase in their daily commute as equivalent to a 19 per cent pay cut.
Whichever way you look at it, the remote work revolution is upon us, with both employees and companies discovering the benefits of flexible working environments. The winners will be those companies that recognise the benefits and opportunities offered by this new way of working.
You need help getting your team to work remotely? Don’t hesitate to contact us on 1800 733 416. We offer different services that make it easier for your team to collaborate remotely.