The way we organise the modern workplace seems entirely backwards when compared to the life of the modern worker.
24/7 connectivity, cheap/free international video calling, hours spent using mobile devices; the modern worker is able to control almost every aspect of their life while sitting at home or on the tube and using a tablet or phone. And it would be every aspect if it wasn’t for the tradition of congregating in office blocks.
It’s no surprise, then, when given a little freedom to work from wherever they choose, that companies and their workers see a huge boost in things like productivity and happiness. Moving out of century-old working environments and distracting open-plan offices and into a pyjama-permitted zone that’s close to the kitchen, TV, and the bed, would have that effect on anyone — at least for a while.
The thing is, when you’ve been remote working for years or even decades, the ability to be able to make a sandwich and work in your pj’s whenever you want starts to lose its novelty. Along with that, motivation can start to wear thin and its many little annoyances and disadvantages can begin to come to the fore.
There’s so much praise for remote work that it’s often considered an idyllic solution for any individual or company and the inevitable future of work. It may be where we’re heading, but the fact is that today, remote work is far from perfect, and to get the most out of it requires a bit of extra work on your part.
Remote working is still in its infancy
Even though the youngest generation entering the workforce doesn’t remember a time when people weren’t always reachable from wherever they are, the concept of remote working is still in its infancy.
That being said, companies are eager to meet the expectations and demands of talent. According to the job board CV-Library, today there’s double the number of remote roles on offer than there was just four years ago. Remote work is swiftly moving from being a mere perk to a legitimate style of working.
This fits in with the millennial and gen Z idea that work is a thing you do, rather than a place you go to. But to think companies are ready and willing to fully adopt this new way of thinking is big leap way ahead of the where we’re at.
Work as a thing would mean moving toward a model that helps it fit into the rest of your life: better working environments, greater work-life balance, more flexibility in your schedule, even things like paid time off for volunteering. But our current work cultures are still solidly set in the work as a place model: climbing up titles, working overtime, and jumping through hoops for better perks and bigger bonuses. To change this, remote work needs to be seen as not just flexibility of location, but more like a systematic and cultural shift that requires a completely new approach.
Doing it as a team vs going it alone
When you’re a part of an initiative that involves your whole company, working remotely offers a very different experience to when you’re doing it after a difficult remote work negotiation or as a freelancer.
With the former, you’re not only able to share the new and challenging experience with colleagues, you also have the wider support of managers and the company. This can help ensure you’re not left out of key conversations or fall out of the loop with things like social events or informal gatherings.
Going at it alone, on the other hand, can feel somewhat of a lonely battle. In studies and conversations about remote working, loneliness always comes up as one of the biggest challenges people face when working remotely or from home. The social side of work can be somewhat made up through joining a coworking space, but for introverts or people who are very independent workers, such places can often be the source of as much distraction and discomfort as what they were trying to avoid by escaping the office.
Because it’s still so young, making remote work work is very much up to the people doing it. Whether as a team or an individual, those who make sure they design it into their lives, for instance by allowing themselves plenty of opportunities to get out and socialise, are the ones who succeed.
It all depends on the nature of the job
There are endless reasons remote working is a good idea for both businesses and individuals. But that doesn’t mean it’s always right for you or your business.
If you’re interested in improving your productivity, for example, then avoiding the commute and working from home seems to make a lot of sense. Likewise, if you live in a different country to your company, lack access to public transport, want to better fit in with the timezones of clients, or you want to keep carbon emissions low.
But if you’re in a role in which is based on meeting with colleagues and clients, coordinating projects, and making group conference calls, you may be better based in an office with a stable connection and central location. Likewise if you have a big family, a house full of pets, or simply can’t work in solitude. Such circumstances may lend themselves to working remotely a few days a week, but diving into it them full-time could be problematic and lead to significant decreases in output.
This dipping-your-toe in approach to remote working is what many remote consultants recommend. Having the choice of being able to work from a central office a few days a week and also remotely seems to address many of its core issues of loneliness and distraction. Although not ideal, it can at least offer a solution whilst the remote work landscape matures and develops better solutions to foster a richer sense of culture and greater promise of sustainability.