Are We Going Through a Remote Working Revolution?

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Remote working: a luxury enjoyed by an exclusive, privileged cohort once upon a time and reserved for fancy freelancers, laptop-wielding software engineers, and introverted authors scribbling down their next bestsellers.

Now, things are much different. In the past, it was customary for someone in a managerial position to hold a strong skepticism towards their team’s ability to be productive away from the office. Then, the pandemic changed everything. 

The notion that employees would become distracted or inattentive to their daily tasks while working from home is now an idea placed firmly within the realm of fantasy. The opposite is true. A recent study showed that remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-bound counterparts. This amounts to over three weeks’ worth of additional work per year!

In the post-pandemic era, offices are no longer viewed as necessary. A global switch has been flicked – workers have been liberated from compulsory attendance. This new “hybrid’ model of working has seamlessly freed those who are office-averse while still providing a home base for employees who prefer to draw a line in the sand between home and work life.

As things stand, 16% of companies globally are fully remote, and in a recent survey, 95% of respondents stated they would prefer to work off-site. The remote working revolution is in full swing, but what effect has this had on the business world?

Was WFH Feasible In The Past?

Since the global adoption of the smartphone — most notably the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2007, mobile computing has become a ubiquitous tool of modern society. Seemingly unsatisfied with having the entire history of human knowledge tucked in our pockets, we’ve since transformed our household appliances into smart devices, too — from the television to the fridge, we’ve even developed home assistants that can respond to our voice (much to the chagrin of anyone named Alexa). 

Surrounded by an array of intelligent devices, it isn’t easy to cast our minds back to the days of dial-up. It wasn’t long ago that internet access meant being physically linked to a modem, awkwardly tethering yourself to a phone network — the ever-present threat of being cut off by an incoming call looming in the background. Back then, working from home would’ve been a logistical nightmare. From slow network speeds to a lack of processing power, the technology wasn’t capable of providing a dependable working environment. 

Luckily, a few critical technological leaps have been made since then. For starters, the mass adoption of broadband (swiftly followed by WiFi in the 2000s) effectively cut the umbilical cord of the web, enabling internet access from anywhere in the household. Processing power slowly improved over time, too. 

However, typical companies were reluctant to embrace the possibilities afforded by new technology, and, as ever, it fell upon the entrepreneurially-minded (the mavericks) to lead the way. Rejecting the 9-to-5 paradigm, they looked to prove that they could profit solely online and on their terms, and some of them succeeded. Tactics such as drop shipping (routing production and fulfillment through third-party vendors to avoid meaningful involvement) caught on quickly, then showed staying power.

While it’s often considered a trend on the wane, the dropshipping industry is projected to reach $557.9 billion by 2025. That it’s a path with a catastrophic failure rate is not enough of a deterrent to all dreamers. But even if the world of hands-off business hacks offered reliable returns, it would still have taken a global disaster to push corporations into letting go of the office structure and all its restrictions.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to adapt — managers launched their staff (willing or otherwise) into the realm of remote working, with the reassurance that office life would resume as usual within the coming weeks. Years later, the majority of office-based roles have left the option to work from home firmly on the table. The ability to work remotely has switched from an exclusive luxury to a must-have for those on the hunt for a new role. 

Hiring During The Age Of Remote Working

Despite initial hesitance, remote working has, in many ways, proven to be highly beneficial for recruitment. One of the most exciting developments resulting from its global implementation is that companies are no longer limited by geographical proximity. 

The pool of highly-specialized candidates to choose from is now nearly limitless. Managers needn’t constrain themselves to hiring workers from their home country, either. An employer of record service enables businesses to employ full-time workers from other countries legally. Such a service takes care of all relevant administrative duties (including HR, payroll, and legal compliance), leaving management to focus on onboarding new workers. Suddenly, any professional can apply to (almost) any opening provided they possess the relevant skills (and a high-speed internet connection).

Employing international talent, of course, produces a team spanning multiple time zones. Naturally, this brings faster responses to overseas clients, improved coverage of assets, and more significant progress on projects with employees able to work around the clock. 

Removing geographical limitations also means that candidates who were previously prevented from applying due to responsibilities such as childcare or expenses such as commuting costs can now join the workforce.

A hybrid working environment also allows employees to recharge, rejuvenate and relax through working holidays, resulting in more energy and significant potential for productivity across the board. For one professional, such a holiday may involve a trip to their parent’s house to work alongside family. For another, it might be a working vacation at an Airbnb office in a beach hut or a remote cabin in the woods. But even if you want to stay in the office, knowing that you can get away from it when the stress is mounting offers significant relief.

Despite all of this, there’s still some resistance to the idea that a hybrid working environment is beneficial. For example, 72% of managers in the US said they’d prefer all of their subordinates to be in the office rather than working from home. The argument against remote work is that it’s impossible to gauge productivity without physically witnessing how teams perform their daily tasks in an office environment. However, the prevalence of highly-effective time-tracking tools makes this argument seem ridiculous.

Regardless of the opinions held by those in management positions, the case for a hybrid working environment is vital. Aside from reduced attrition, increased productivity, creativity, and a greater sense of inclusion, job seekers now expect their employers to provide the option to work from home as a base requirement. Managers must accept the new paradigm or risk having their recruitment efforts suffer.

Is Remote Working Here To Stay?

Looking further ahead, the application of AR and VR could further revolutionize the way we work. Augmented reality takes our physical environment and adds layers of digital information to our field of view. This technology is already slowly being adopted in the construction sector. So it’s likely that as the tech becomes more accessible, more businesses will warm to AR. 

VR could feasibly bridge the gap between the office and the remote working environment. Unfortunately, there is one major roadblock — the hardware is prohibitively priced. As the technology is yet to fully mature, the platform isn’t reliable enough to consider a permanent solution. Running a VR workspace in the present day would prove both expensive and inaccessible to the average worker who may not be familiar with the technology. However, it’s not far-fetched to imagine a near future where VR headsets are as commonplace as laptops — as time ticks on, this dream creeps ever closer to reality.

What Have We Learned?

If 2020 has taught us anything, change can happen quickly. Of course, the business world is no stranger to this idea: adaptability has always been the game’s name. However you slice it, remote working has changed the face of recruitment forever.

Many may bemoan the idea of video interviewing, preferring the traditional in-person approach (complete with handshakes!), but the benefits are clear.

 

Rodney Laws writes reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io.

 

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Rodney Laws is an eCommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.