With the growth of the internet, it is now easier than ever for businesses and individuals to connect with people from around the world. Work that once had to take place in the same country, or was resigned to simple email communication has now evolved to the point that you can easily contract employment from a person on the other side of the planet, exchange ideas, work and information, as well as communicate face to face through video chat. Paying for work is easy too, with the likes of PayPal and Google Wallet, which will automatically transfer funds to the relevant party, as well as converting it to their local currency at reasonable rates.
Remote working has become a very popular type of employment, and is used by both freelancers and those in traditional employment. Specifically, for those under traditional contract with employers, the term refers to times when employees carry out their daily duties for the company whilst they are physically away from the office. (Other names for this are telecommuting and telework, although remote working is the most commonly used). Remote working can be on a permanent or semi-permanent basis – for example traveling sales men and women, as well as those who work in call centres abroad, are permanently away from their source company, whilst those who work from home one or more days a week, are doing remote work do so only on a semi-permanent basis.
Remote working is a big industry too, with a report carried out by the US federal government concluding that 47% of its own employees were involved in remote work, (which translates to over a million people). The ability to work away from offices (and to effectively have 'virtual jobs’ in some cases) has risen so prominently in recent years thanks to the growth and improvement of Broadband Internet across the globe.
With that in mind, we are going to look at the ways that remote working can benefit companies and individuals alike, and how exactly broadband can be utilised to make this even easier.
Back in the day, you had to physically hand in reports and speak to colleagues in person to avoid any problematic delays in the exchange of files and information. Now, file-sharing services such as Dropbox and Google One Drive mean that massive amounts of data can be distributed in minutes, and face-to-face video conference calls can be achieved via applications such as Skype and Facetime, negating this need to be on-site. All of this is due to the evolution and growth of broadband Internet – which is available in most countries, even in remote areas. For those actually travelling it is still possible to connect to broadband with little issue. The advancement of mobile internet has allowed for 4G data (which can often be as fast as basic home broadband and is four times faster than traditional 3G) to alleviate the issue of being in a location that has no Wi-Fi connection – you can simply hook up a mobile internet dongle (through a paid subscription), or use your own phone as a hotspot, which will link to your personal computer using your phone’s data, and allow you to communicate and exchange files and information that way. In addition, if you have a service like Microsoft Office 365, its dedicated features mean that you can connect with colleagues and superiors in real-time, no matter where you are.
It’s no secret that people strongly dislike commuting to work. Often those who can’t afford to live in major cities where their employment is have to commute for up to several hours a day (each way) in order to get to the office. This can cause immense job dissatisfaction, which in turn is detrimental to the productivity of the company, due to reduced work efforts on behalf of the dissatisfied individual. By allowing them to work from home for even just one day, that person gets a break from the awful commute, whilst still producing work for the company. This has been proven to increase job satisfaction and improve happiness, which equates to a more productive company (and by extension more profitability – a happy workforce means a hard working workforce). In addition, it was found that those who were allowed to remote work at least one day a week were much more likely to stay with their company for far longer than if they had to commute each day.
Another factor to look at is the saving that this can make for the individual. Commuting is expensive. For example, a zone 1-9 monthly pass for the London Underground tube service is a whopping £329 every single month. For those who might not be in very high paying jobs, this is a percentage of cost that means that they could end up working just to live in the area. Prices aren’t too dissimilar in places such as New York and other big cities that have train and underground services. By allowing an individual to work remotely for certain periods, then these costs can be cut – meaning more disposable income for the worker, and thus a happier member of the team.
Effectively an extension of the previous point, having to face long commutes into the office (and the stress that comes with it) can cause people to become physically and mentally sick. Or alternatively, the person may feel that the only way they can get a break from the stress is to fake illness. As a business this is a costly endeavour, as employers are required by law in most countries to permit their employees to take a certain number of paid sick days each year, should they fall ill. If they are genuinely ill, then it’s far more likely they’ll carry on with work if they can do it from the comfort of their sofa. Research has concluded that remote workers are away from work ill less frequently than on-site workers, and that translates into more profit for a business. Sick days means a company is effectively paying someone to not do work. If less are taken because staff are happy and well, then everyone wins. More work getting done, productive staff, and payments only for actual work.
If the type of remote working that an individual is doing allows them to work their own hours over the day (as long as the work gets done), then it means that they can schedule their own working day around their own specific way of working, without fear of annoying the boss or looking as if they are 'slacking off.’ (Obviously, this doesn’t work if the boss is firing them constant emails demanding work, but for the sake of this point we’ll say that they’ve been left to their own devices).
If the individual wants to get up late and work later, they can, or get up super early and fire out all of their work until it's done and then take the rest of the day for themselves. In addition, the individual can do things they might not be able to do if they were working in an office – such as go to the gym or pop out for lunch with a friend, even just call their family for a quick catch-up. These small things have a massive positive effect on the wellbeing of the individual.
This might seem counterintuitive for a company, but it benefits them too, as people all work in different ways, and allowing the staff member to work the way they want to (as long as they do what they are meant to) means increased productivity. Increased productivity nearly always translates into increased profitability, because quite simply more work is getting done at better quality levels. Studies have shown that remote workers often produce more work than was expected of them on a consistent basis, despite not having a superior watching over them. It seems that autonomy really does encourage people as much as people have suspected it might.
A benefit for both the individual and the business, remote working means that a staff member can continue to work whilst travelling. This can be great for businesses that have connected sites in other countries, and want to send someone they trust from their base location to the satellite places in order to feedback information, etc. For the individual it’s great, because they get to see a new place and explore (especially if given some free time), as well as feeling quite important. For the business, it means that they can have someone in constant communication with them that can relay all the vital information they need, which can in turn be used to make relevant changes in the company that will increase profit.
For companies that are willing to outsource a lot of their work to dedicated freelancers and virtual employees, the savings can be massive. Office space costs a lot of, as do all the associated bills. If you have more people working remotely, then it means that you need fewer staff in the building (which in turn means that you can have a smaller office space, or even none at all). For example, massive American-based healthcare company Aetna transitioned over 45% of its workforce into remote workers, which meant that they were able to get rid of 2.5 million square feet of office space. This further translated into savings of over $75 million. That is a staggering saving for a business, simply by moving a percentage of its workload to those in remote locations.
If a company allows remote working, then they also allow a much wider pool of talented people to choose from for projects. There are a wealth of talented individuals in the world, and not all of them are based in cities or other places that people normally expect. Indeed, Simon Slade – CEO of Affilorama explains how allowing employees to work remotely, a company can hire the very best while not being limited by geographical restrictions. He went on to explain how for his own 19 of the 28 employees were remote workers, and that he saw absolutely zero difference in job satisfaction or work performance. He concluded that in contrast, he felt that his remote employees’ work rate was actually higher due to them being better equipped to better handle any potential distractions. He finally mentioned how telecommuting saves him money, because the remote staff he employs (in this instance freelancers) pay for their own computer, electricity and other utilities.
In addition, depending on where the remote staff are based, it is possible to employ someone with the same skillset as someone working in the same area as the business itself at a far reduced rate. Certain countries such as India and Thailand have a lower cost of living, so their experts are able to be more competitive with their rates, which once again translates into more profitability for the company. As long as the person is being paid a fair wage, and not being exploited in any way, there is absolutely nothing untoward about this type of practice, and is something that many companies do. (The only thing to be very aware of is the often large time-zone differences, which can cause issues for important work deadlines etc).
It would, of course, be unbalanced not to mention the potential pitfalls of remote working. Of course there is the fact that there is decreased accountability, and no oversight. It could be that the individual working from home, instead takes that as a day off and doesn’t produce any work, or what they do produce isn’t up to standard. It is, of course, these types of fears that stop many companies jumping on the bandwagon of remote working for their staff. However, it is important to note that they main thing to consider is whether or not the work is being done. If it is being done, then having the staff watched over is effectively irrelevant, and if they aren’t producing the work, they can be replaced by someone who is willing to work remotely, without abusing the system. In fact with very little transition time, a company can make a very successful change from having physical staff onsite all the time to outsourcing their work to remote workers and freelancers, all whilst making themselves a lot of profit by cutting costs.
So that’s all we’ve got for now. You could see the way that the growth of the internet and the rise of high-quality broadband has allowed for the very face of modern business to change. Remote working is very much the future, and will continue to become more and more prevalent as the Internet and its resources constitutes to grow and improve. As an individual, there has never been a better time to be a remote worker, and as a company, there has never been a better time to outsource work to remote workers and improve business potential. It’s all about evolution. Make sure you've got the best broadband deal available at home so that you can benefit from remote working too.