The Ultimate Guide for Working Remotely
The number of people working remotely has grown exponentially over the past decade, and that was before Covid 19 made working from home the norm for many, at least temporarily.
Advances in technology, changing attitudes and an increasing awareness of the importance of work-life balance have all contributed to this trend, with employers and employees recognizing the significant benefits of remote work.
With even more companies catapulted into virtual working thanks to the 2020 pandemic, it is likely that large numbers will never go back to the traditional office-based 9 to 5.
This article offers a comprehensive guide to remote working, its advantages and how to do it well.
Remote work is any work setup where colleagues do not need to be in the same physical office during business hours.
This might include working from home, in a cafe, co-working space or in satellite hubs.
Colleagues may work remotely in the same geographical area or could be spread across different continents and time zones.
Employees may work remotely all the time, or they may commute to the office on certain days of the week or month (we will cover this in more detail in the next section).
Alternative terms for remote working include virtual working, telework, telecommuting or working from home. Remote workers are also sometimes referred to as digital nomads, with some working for companies on a freelance basis, while others are employed on a permanent contract.
Different companies will have different approaches to remote working but, in general, there are three types of remote teams:
Fully remote – This is when a company has no central office and all employees work from home or other locations of their choice, such as a cafe or co-working space. Fully remote teams will rely on a range of online tools to keep colleagues connected; for example, Slack and Zoom. Fully remote companies include the digital product design platforms InVision and Buffer, which provide social media management software.
Distributed hubs – This is when an organization sets up small hubs or satellite offices in cities or other locations away from its central headquarters. These might be led directly by the central management team, from which individuals then delegate specific tasks to satellite teams, or the hubs might own and lead their own projects on a local level.
Flexible remote teams – In this approach, employees are not fully remote or based in satellite offices, and do not all work in the same office all the time. Instead, they have the option to work at home a few days a week. See our article How to Find Profitable Work-at-Home Jobs for more on the different types of remote opportunities available.
Remote working has many advantages, both for the employee and employer.
Here are some of the main reasons that businesses and the people working for them may choose to adopt remote working practices:
Better work-life balance – People who work remotely have more freedom to create their own schedule around other commitments and interests, such as family or hobbies. Having this control over their lives, and more time to spend on the things that are important to them generally leads to increased happiness and reduced stress.
No commute – The daily commute can be a big factor in stress for employees, particularly those who live some distance from the office. Being able to work from home or a nearby location removes this pressure, as well as saving time and money. And it is better for the environment too.
Saving money – As well as saving money on commuting costs, remote workers can also cut back on expensive take-out coffees and lunches. They might also be able to reduce their spend on corporate outfits. All of this can add up to significant annual savings. Global Workplace Analytics has estimated that people can save up to $4,000 per year by working at home half the time.
Increased productivity – There is a myth that employees will slack off if they work from home. In fact, remote workers tend to get things done quicker and more efficiently. This is probably in part because they feel the need to prove themselves when they are not physically in the office. Remote workers have fewer distractions and can manage their time more effectively. The knock-on benefit of becoming more productive and efficient is remote workers then have more time to spend on other interests.
Better communication – When colleagues are working remotely, they have to be more considered about how they communicate and interact with their co-workers. Virtual meetings also require more planning and forethought. With the right tools and practices in place, this can lead to stronger relationships and collaboration.
Office politics – This can become an issue for many employees, creating stress and a distraction from their tasks. Remote working removes many negative day-to-day interactions, encouraging employees to focus on more positive relationships instead.
Better overall health – Employees who work remotely have the freedom to make more time for exercise and to prepare healthier food. And with many of the stresses of office life removed, they are likely to enjoy better mental health too.
Happier employees – For all the reasons listed above, remote workers are likely to be happier, benefiting the employer and employee. Happy employees will work more productively and effectively and are less likely to leave the company.
More hiring power – Remote working allows companies to hire people from far beyond their central office. This gives them the potential to recruit top talent from around the world, without being restricted by geography. As people are increasingly seeking out employers who offer remote working in some way, companies who adopt the practice will have an added advantage when it comes to attracting the best candidates.
Greater diversity – The flexibility to hire remotely also brings greater diversity, as companies can recruit from a wider range of backgrounds and locations.
Reduced costs – Where businesses move towards fully remote teams, they can make significant savings on the cost of office upkeep, such as rent, rates, electricity and other bills. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that employers can save an average of $11,000 annually for each employee who works remotely half the time.
More environmentally sustainable – With fewer employees commuting and less need for big, energy-hungry offices, remote working can help companies to reduce their carbon footprint. This is not only good for the planet, but it may also attract more customers keen to support eco-minded businesses.
2020 has shown that more jobs than previously thought possible can be done from home.
However, certain sectors are particularly well suited to remote work. Many of these can be fully remote, while others may require days in an office on occasion.
Some of the industries that are best for remote working include:
- Software development
- Digital marketing
- Social media management
- Accounting and finance
- Virtual assistance
- Computer and IT
- Design services
- Project management
- Customer service
- Online teaching and education
- Copywriting and editing
Our article 20 of the Best Work from Home Jobs explores some of the careers and roles you might consider in more detail.
You might also like our article on 15 Best Blogs for Job Seekers.
The best place to start might be with your current job. Employers are becoming more open to the idea of remote working, so it is worth approaching your boss to discuss whether remote work can become a permanent arrangement.
Even if they are not open to you being fully remote, they may consider a combination of working from home and in the office.
If you’re looking for a new job, then search on job boards that specifically advertise remote work opportunities.
You could also focus on searching and applying for jobs with companies that are known for promoting remote work.
Some of the best known fully remote companies include:
- CVS Health
- American Express
Look for small firms that have a good track record for flexible work practices.
It is worth noting that many remote jobs will require tech skills, so you may need to brush up on these before you start applying.
Remote work is only effective for the employer and employee if both parties are invested in making it work, and if key elements of best practice are implemented and followed.
Good communication between all members of the team is crucial to remote work. There should be clear guidelines set out in the remote work policy so everyone understands the expectations, such as being available online or by phone during business hours.
Where the workforce is spread over different time zones, employers will also have to create a strategy to manage effective communication without intruding into employees’ personal time.
This could involve status updates on Slack or other messaging tools, or logging working hours on a shared calendar.
It is also important not to forget the informal communication that is needed to build strong, positive relationships within a team. This might involve making time for a casual chat during a video call, or hosting virtual drinks at the end of the day.
If employers want to embrace remote working they must develop policies that are specific to virtual working.
These will of course vary depending on the organization and the type of work it does, but are likely to cover things such as security measures, processes for managing projects and meetings, and methods of communication.
These policies should be made available to everyone in the company.
A shift to remote work can help employers to focus on performance and productivity rather than attendance, which should be a positive thing for all. However, there need to be procedures in place to do this effectively.
While there are reporting tools available to monitor employees’ productivity, it may be more useful to establish goals, values and a vision as a team and then outline this in a shared document. The team can then set regular dates to check back on this document and track how they are doing.
Regular feedback is also particularly important for colleagues who work remotely. This will make sure they continue to feel engaged and valued.
Employers who are keen to promote virtual working should lead by example. If managers and colleagues higher up in the organization take advantage of the option to work remotely, it makes it easier for others to follow suit and helps the organization as a whole to understand what constitutes best practice.
It is also important to hire the right people. Remote work requires a good deal of self-motivation and initiative, so recruiters should be aware of looking for these qualities when assessing candidates.
Employers should also think about the positive elements of office culture that they can recreate remotely, perhaps by remembering to send a card or gift on an employee's birthday or having coffees delivered to everyone before a video meeting starts.
Boundaries can become blurred when people are working from home, with employees feeling under pressure to be available at all times. Employers can avoid burnout by promoting a company culture where boundaries between work and home life are clearly defined and respected.
Having the right technology in place is vital for remote teams to communicate and work collaboratively. There are several tools available, such as task trackers, video conferencing, cloud documents and project management software.
Depending on the business, a company is likely to use a combination of these alongside specialist tech created for their particular industry. When choosing which technology to use, employers should consider the needs and preferences of individual employees.
While some remote jobs will require more specialist kit and technology, for many roles there is very little you need to get started.
A secure, reliable laptop is a must, along with a mobile device and a strong internet connection.
Choosing a wired connection over WiFi will offer you more security and stability, as well as faster speeds. If you do use WiFi and your signal is patchy, you might want to consider a WiFi extender.
A good pair of headphones is invaluable for most remote workers, helping to block out background noise and allowing you to take calls and conduct meetings more privately.
You should also think about your workspace and make sure it is set up properly. At the very least you will need something to serve as a desk, a comfortable office chair and good lighting.
It is also well worth investing in additional office equipment, such as a laptop stand and wireless keyboard, if you are going to be working from home long-term.
We have comprehensive reviews on a range of office products to help you choose the best kit.
For more tips on working remotely, see our dedicated article.
If you have always dreamed of a more flexible work life, with the freedom to create your own schedule and work from wherever you choose, now is the perfect time to make the move.
Technology has opened up endless possibilities in virtual working and employers are increasingly recognizing the benefits of having remote teams.
So whether you are looking for a fully remote job, or a more blended option that will allow you time to work away from the office, there is likely to be an opportunity that suits your needs.