Remote work is the new normal. It's a growing professional trend, and it's absolutely here to stay. By and large, this is great news. Nevertheless, remote work has a lot of implications and we still have a lot to learn about how to maximize its potential.
Whether you have some burning questions about remote work or just want to learn more about it in general, this article's for you. Keep reading for a breakdown of everything you need to know about working remotely!
What does remote work actually mean?
The term remote work refers to a professional set up that allows employees to do their jobs without actually entering their company's office. Widely considered to be the opposite of a traditional office environment, remote work can be carried out in a variety of settings. Think coffee shops, co working spaces, home office spaces, and just about any other work-friendly environment.
With the advent of the digital age and other world events, remote work is a rising trend that isn't showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, many experts believe that remote work will eventually overtake the traditional office in certain industries. Tellingly, one 2020 report showed that one third of all work in Europe could remain remote after the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's important to note that different companies have different approaches to remote work. Indeed, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to managing a remote work environment. Some of the options include fully remote companies, hybrid companies, and remote-friendly companies, but we'll be exploring those further later on in this guide.
What's the difference between remote working and working from home?
The terms remote work and working from home are often used interchangeably. At face value, they might even appear to mean the same thing. Nevertheless, there are some key distinctions to make between the two.
1. Working from home is usually temporary
One of the biggest differences between remote work and working from home is the fact that working from home is usually a temporary situation. On the other hand, remote work is oftentimes a permanent professional situation that's subject to a company or freelancer's own policies.
Common "temporary" work from home situations include:
- When companies allow employees to work from home at a specific frequency (for example, once per week) in order to promote work life balance
- When employees need to stay home because of something happening in their personal lives but can still stay connected from home
- When employees have to stay home sick
- Any other situation where employees make a request to work from their home rather than coming into the office space
Basically, the term working from home implies that doing so is not the typical set-up in a given professional environment.
2. Remote work is an umbrella term
Another key distinction between remote work and working from home is the fact that the term remote work is much broader and is often used as an umbrella term. This is because remote work has so many possible approaches and can mean different things to different people. On the other hand, working from home refers to just one thing... and that's working from home.
The only thing that unites remote work is the fact that it refers to work being done outside a traditional office space. However, that can encompass work in a:
- Cafe or coffee shop
- Coworking space
- Home office
- Any other work-friendly space
As mentioned, there are also a variety of possible remote work set-ups out there. Some people might be full time employees that work remotely for one company, whereas someone with a real self-starting attitude might be a freelancer working remotely for a variety of clients.
3. Remote work and working from home have different implications for companies
Last but not least, the terms remote work and working from home usually have different implications for companies. That is, they imply different kinds of policies when it comes to flexible work schedules.
If a company allows employees to occasionally work from home, they'll likely have a policy on when, why, and how workers can do so. Some companies offer on site employees the opportunity to work from home if they don't have any in person meetings or other commitments that day. Other companies might allow all employees to work from home once per week on the day of their choice.
Conversely, companies that support remote work or even have fully remote employees will have much more robust strategies and guidelines. This is because they have to manage every facet of their entire team virtually, which is no easy task.
Finally, remember that the terms remote work and working from home mean different things to different people. Owing to this, it's always a good idea to ask questions and get specific when you're talking to someone about remote employment.
The different types of remote companies
As mentioned, there are several ways that companies approach remote work. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some of the most popular ways to manage remote employees and employers alike.
Fully remote or fully distributed companies
Starting with the "most remote" category, everyone who works at fully remote companies is a remote worker. That means managers, executives, and even the CEO. Fully remote companies also do not have any kind of physical office space, so everyone works from where they want.
While some companies start off with a fully remote model, other companies integrate it over time. Companies initially founded with fully remote approaches are sometimes referred to as remote-first companies (like us).
Hybrid companies fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to working remotely. Unlike fully distributed companies, they largely operate in traditional office environments. With regards to communication technology, they probably use a combination of video calls and in-person meetings. They offer employees a flexible lifestyle, but they're still expected to come into the office when needed.
Basically, if your full time job is at a hybrid company, you probably work in a physical office space regularly. Nevertheless, you're likely allowed to make your own schedule to some degree and work remotely or from home frequently.
Remote-friendly companies are pretty much traditional companies that are starting to integrate the concept of remote work into their business model. The core of their day-to-day operations still takes place in a busy office environment and employees are largely expected to show their faces in the office during regular office hours.
Nevertheless, these kinds of companies will have a small degree of flexibility when it comes to working from home. Team members may be given the opportunity to work from home once per week, for example. Remote-friendly companies may also be open to hiring contractors or part-time workers on a remote basis.
How remote jobs benefit companies
There are several reasons why remote teams are beneficial to businesses of all kinds. Here at Slite, we even walk the walk because we run a modern workplace with remote work at its core. Here are some of our top reasons why remote working is the way to go.
1. Harness the power of asynchronous collaboration
Asynchronous collaboration happens when teams work together, but everything isn't happening at the same time. This might be because employees are located in different time zones or are simply working according to their own schedules. Whatever the case, here at Slite we believe asynchronous collaboration is the best way to go for all parties involved. This is because:
- It allows remote workers to focus better by limiting constant notifications and reducing the time spent in meetings
- It increases productivity because employees can get things done according to their preferred workflow
- It gives remote workers ample time and space to find all the information they need in a centralized remote tool like our platform
- It encourages higher-quality, more inclusive decision making processes by giving remote workers the chance to articulate their ideas on paper rather than on the spot in a meeting
2. Access world's talents by hiring globally
If your company is completely tied down to a physical office space, you're missing out on the opportunity to put together a truly diverse team and attract top talent. Sure, you can organize the relocation of an employee or two, but it's ultimately a cumbersome, unsustainable process.
A business that truly supports remote work has the power to attract and hire top talent from all around the world. Thanks to modern technology, there are lots of human resources tools to help you out with remote recruiting and onboarding processes as well.
Even more importantly, studies show that the workforce wants the opportunity to work remotely, as least some of the time. It speaks volumes that a 2019 International Workplace Group report found that 80% of American workers would turn down a job that didn't offer flexible working.
3. Improved work life balance
There are many remote work statistics out there that confirm that working remotely does wonders for work life balance. For instance, 75% of participants in a Wrike report said that working remotely improved their work life balance because they generally spend less time commuting, have more time for their personal life, and even have to take less sick days.
Even further, a GoRemotely report found that companies who promote work life balance recorded two times more productivity than those who do not.
All in all, it's obvious how remote work makes it easier for employees to find balance in their professional lives. Although it takes practice to set boundaries and maintain work schedules that maintain this kind of balance, remote jobs largely allow employees to set themselves more flexible hours when necessary, stay on top of their home lives, and waste less time doing things like commuting.
4. Potential corporate savings
The savings associated with remote work set-ups, especially for fully remote companies, can't be underestimated. There are a lot of costs associated with running a traditional office space, and a lot of them simply aren't necessary in this day and age. If your company doesn't have the need for a physical office, you'll save money on real estate costs, office supplies, office furniture, certain labour costs, and more.
Even if you do need an office space to host clients and other in-office counterparts, you can get away with renting a much smaller space if you have a team that largely works remotely.
Indeed, savings associated with remote work aren't limited to business owners either. Remote workers can save up to $4000 per year by not having to spend money on commuting, tons of professional clothing, and buying lunch, to name a few. Depending where they're located, remote workers are also eligible for some tax breaks and can often claim expenses as well.
It's not why we chose to be remote.
5. Happier, healthier employees
Many remote workers report being happier and healthier overall. For example, a 2020 Workforce Happiness Index resulted in a score of 75/100 for remote workers, compared to 71/100 for in-office employees. The same index showed that remote workers were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than in-office workers.
Remember, healthier employees produce better results, so that's a win-win situation for employees and employers alike.
Being a remote employee often results in increased overall happiness because there's:
- No need to commute
- A flexible schedule
- Flexibility with regards to work environment
- Increased work life balance
- More free time
6. Reduced employee turnover
Last but not least, remote work is associated with increased employee retention and reduced employee turnover in the long-term. Naturally, this is great for companies because it gives them the opportunity to hang on to the best talent, promote from within, and build an excellent team that's perfectly suited for their needs.
Nowadays, employees are simultaneously turned off by jobs that don't offer any remote work options and intrigued by jobs that offer flexibility. A 2021 study even showed that 30% of remote workers would quit their jobs if they weren't allowed to continue with a remote set-up. Another 67% reported that they preferred to only work for companies that allowed them to work remote.
The five principles of remote work
At Slite, we believe that remote work is united by five core principles. While they're not exclusive to remote work (they can be applied in traditional office environments as well), they're inherent to the ways remote employees work. They're also incredibly beneficial to many companies, so let's dive into them a little deeper.
1. Grant trust by default
If you manage or work with a team that works remotely, you need to grant them with a high degree of trust right off the bat. You will not be able to micromanage employees who don't work with you in a physical office space and live across multiple time zones. It's just not doable, sustainable or advisable.
However, this does not mean that remote working is a bad thing. On the contrary. It simply means that you need to invest a little more time into your hiring, screening, and onboarding process. Then, you'll be able to assemble a team that you truly trust and enjoy working with.
2. Be explicit
When working with remote employees, you simply can't allow things to be left unsaid. You might not realize it, but many people rely on body language, reactions, and implications to convey a significant amount of what they have to say. No matter your tech skills, these kinds of communication subtleties can't be counted on in the same way in the context of remote work.
The best solution to this problem is creating a company culture rich with explicit communication. Be sure to communicate exactly what needs to be said. This should start right at the beginning of the hiring process; be sure that employees know what's expected of them, what their job is, what they do well, and what areas they need to improve upon.
3. Asynchronous collaboration
As discussed above, asynchronous collaboration is a fixture in any remote work set-up. It refers to employees working together, but not at the same time. Naturally, this differs from physical office environments because there's no space in which all employees come together. People largely work across different time zones and according to their own schedules, so it's likely that they often won't be working at the same time.
Asynchronous collaboration has many benefits, but it also takes some practice. It changes the way that colleagues communicate. Conversations are typically longer, more thought-out, and have less back and forth. If you're working a remote job, face-to-face conversations are reserved for the most important topics. Day-to-day communications largely happen through email, messages, and remote work tools.
If you don't work at a physical job site, there's an increased need for maximum transparency between colleagues. Everyone must have access to the information they need, whenever they need it. In order to make sure of this, it's a great idea to keep all your internal documentation in one easily accessible place. That includes:
- Meeting reports
- Project reports and status updates
- Task lists
- Process information
- Onboarding details
That's exactly what Slite is for.
A big concern about remote work is the fact that workers don't often meet face-to-face and can feel isolated. While it's important to take measures to avoid this, the truth is, over-communication is more important than ever for remote teams.
Because remote teams can't rely on informal communication the same way office employees can, they tend to exchange information much more intentionally. Because communication is usually more thought-out and formal, it in turn becomes more comprehensive, clear, inclusive, and efficient.
Communicating skills are a criteria we evaluate deeply during hiring process. We not only assess oral communication but also written one.
Remote work best practices for employees
There's no one way to approach remote working. What works for one person might not necessarily be effective for someone else. The diversity in remote work set-ups of the Slite team alone should show you how many ways there are to go about working remotely. Nevertheless, there are a few mention-worthy best practices that all remote workers can implement to work productively, find balance, and feel like their best selves day in and day out.
1. Create a dedicated work space
As a remote worker, you will not automatically have an office space. Nevertheless, it's important to carve yourself out a dedicated work space where you feel productive. This will help you get focused, work efficiently, set boundaries between your home and professional lives, and switch your brain into work mode. It might be a coffee shop, coworking space, or simply a desk in your own home. You decide what works for you.
2. Manage your documentation
If you're working as a member of a fully remote team, your company will likely already use a documentation system like Slite. If they haven't implemented one or you're a freelancer, we couldn't recommend that you find a great documentation management system enough. When working remotely, it's easy to lose track of information and forget ideas before you have the chance to tell someone or write them down. Documentation software can help with that. They also build great habits for remote teams like:
- Allowing employees to read and write updates in their own time
- Brainstorming separately and synthesizing ideas together
- Referring to a central, up-to-date, reliable source of information
- Providing key information and feedback in writing
3. Set boundaries
One of the downsides to remote work is the fact that employees' professional and personal lives can become blurred. This is especially the case if they're working from home and/or balancing other personal responsibilities. It's hard to know when to begin working or close your laptop at the end of the day.
Owing to this, it's important to establish boundaries between your personal and professional lives as a remote worker. This will help you be more present and productive in all areas of your life, as well as avoid feeling overwhelmed.
4. Remember to socialize
When working remotely, you lose many opportunities to interact with your coworkers informally. Because of this, it's easy to feel disconnected with your team or like you don't really know them at all. Some remote teams haven't even ever met each other face-to-face.
In order to foster a good company culture, it's vital that team members feel like they know each other. Make the effort to socialize with your colleagues. It can be as easy as adding that extra question or update in your emails, organizing informal team meetings from time to time, and even planning in-person team building activities or retreats.
Are remote workers more productive?
Remote work is largely credited with increasing employees' productivity, but is it actually true? Well, the results are in. If you implement a remote work set-up and measure productivity in your company, it's likely that you'll see a significant increase. Tellingly, a Stanford study reported a 13% increase in productivity after 9 months of employees working from home. Another SHRM report found that remote workers were 20-25% more productive than their on-site coworkers.
Employee wellbeing is our priority. Our favorite thing about remote work set-ups is the fact that workers are happier and healthier overall because of it. Nevertheless, productivity represents yet another added benefit.
How much should remote employees get paid?
How much to pay remote workers is a contested topic. Many companies aren't sure whether they should pay remote employees the same amount as in-house employees. Even further, it's uncertain whether salaries should be the same for international employees, or if it's better if they're consistent with their home countries.
In order to shed a bit of light on this debate, we've written a dedicated blog post about it. Too long didn't read? Keep reading for the key points.
1. Salaries should be fair, but not necessarily equal
A fair salary doesn't mean that you have to pay all your employees the same wage. We've settled on paying salaries indexed on top percentiles of the capital of the employee's residency. That way, they'll have a great quality of life whether they live in their country's capital or elsewhere. Salaries can also be subject to change to maintain that same quality of life if employees move to another country.
2. Location-based salaries for the win
Paying employees equal salaries no matter where they live in the world isn't a good decision. It might seem fair, but it favors larger, American companies with big budgets and even threatens global cities' ecosystems. We believe in paying employees salaries that are consistent with the country they live in.
3. Salaries should be consistent within countries
Salaries should be the same no matter where remote employees live within a country. It doesn’t matter whether they're located in a capital city or the countryside, they shouldn't be paid more or less.
I want to work remotely. How do I get started?
Nowadays, there's an incredible amount of people out there working remotely and everyone does it a little bit differently. Just check out some behind-the-scenes footage of the Slite team's variety of remote office set-ups. No two people approach remote work in exactly the same way.
If you want to start working remotely yourself, there are two main ways to go about it.
First, you can search some job boards, recruiting sites, and social networks for job postings with companies that support (or hopefully fully embrace) remote work. As we've seen, this is becoming increasingly commonplace and you shouldn't have too much trouble finding something if you're motivated. Here's a non-exhaustive list of specialized websites: Remotive, RemoteOK, We Work Remotely, Flexjobs or Working Nomads.
The other option is the freelance path. That means going it alone and building up your own client roster. It'll take motivation and hard work, but you can get started on platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and LinkedIn. It's also worthwhile to network in your community and with other freelancers you know.
Oh, and, check our open positions too.