Businesses of all types have recently been forced to come up with remote work policies. Workers have seen the advantages of a flexible work environment and the lack of commute, and businesses have seen cost savings and are able to hire from a broader pool of candidates. However, there are many different approaches to implementing remote work and each has its own trade-offs.
In this article, we’ll look back at the history of remote work, and where it’s going in the future.
The evolution of remote work
Most people think of remote work as a recent phenomenon; however, it’s actually been a long time coming. In fact, by 1987, there were approximately 1.5 million Americans telecommuting via phone, computer, and fax.
By 2019, the internet, online messaging, and video conferencing were ubiquitous, and about 51 million Americans reported some form of remote work — although a majority of these were hybrid with some form of office time.
This trend rapidly accelerated in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdowns around the world. By late 2020, about 58% of all US workers were working remotely, most of whom were at home full time. While many will return to the office in some capacity, about two-thirds of these remote workers said they wanted to continue to work remotely which will certainly pressure businesses to respond.
For workers, this is largely a positive, as they gain the flexibility to live where they want and not have to spend long hours commuting to an office, but there are some trade-offs for businesses to consider. In particular, remote access to networks has forced companies to design business processes that ensure employees can collaborate and track their workflows from start to finish.
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4 Remote work models
Most people think of remote work as working from home, but there are many different approaches that businesses use for remote work. We’ll look at four examples:
1. Work from home (WFH)
Work from home is when workers do their jobs from home and remotely communicate with colleagues. It is the primary form of remote work after the 2020 shelter-in-place measures during which most people were required to stay in their houses.
Work from home means employees don’t commute to an office, which potentially frees up time and saves them money. It can also save the business money by reducing the amount of office space or even real estate necessary to operate.
However, some workers find that the lack of face-to-face interaction makes work less collaborative and friendly. Businesses worry that this lack of collaboration could also lead to less productive work. Many businesses also lack the technical systems to securely allow data and systems to be accessed remotely since they may still operate under legacy models of data being siloed with strict network firewall rules within an office.
Telework is similar to work from home but it encompasses all forms of work where the worker is in a location separate from the main office, including coffee shops, coworking spaces, shared offices, and more.
Employees can work wherever it makes the most sense for them. Given the additional flexibility of telework, it’s even more essential to have good security systems and policies. Workers may be on less secure networks (e.g. public Wi-Fi in a café), and businesses will need to provide VPNs to secure the traffic wherever workers are.
3. Distributed teams
In the distributed teams model, workers often are in many different time zones. Some of these workers may be physically located together in an office, or they could be teleworking.
This model allows for finding certain types of employee or more affordable talent than could be found where the primary office is. And workers can apply to jobs in a wider range of companies without having to move to where the main office is.
In the distributed teams model, it can be difficult for workers in different time-zones to collaborate fully. Scheduling meetings becomes tricky, and workers may be forced to have meetings at non-standard times to accommodate different team schedules.
4. Hybrid work
In a hybrid work model, employees work remotely and in the office at certain times. Typically, there are certain days of the week employees come to the office, and others when they work remotely.
Many businesses find this a nice middle ground, in which employees have the flexibility of working remotely while still getting the collaboration of working together in an office.
A primary consideration when implementing a hybrid model is ensuring there’s a system in place so that there’s no confusion about where an employee will be. This is particularly important for scheduling meetings and coordinating efforts so that people who are expected to be in-person for a meeting actually show up, and there are no unintended conflicts.
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The future of remote work
It is estimated that up to 70% of workers will work remotely at least five days per month by 2025. However, most businesses do not want to lose the collaboration that comes from working together in-person. Because of this, many will choose to implement a hybrid model for most of their employees and build systems to ensure that they get the flexibility without sacrificing the in-person interaction.
These businesses must implement solid security practices and systems to handle this flexibility for the long-term. IT teams will need to implement virtual networks to protect data and ensure proper monitoring and remote control of devices to minimize the risk of inappropriate access of data.
Optimize remote work with Pipefy
Designing business processes — particularly for hybrid work — can be challenging without the right tools. Pipefy is a no-code business process management platform that makes it easy for teams to increase efficiency and integrate end-to-end operations, quickly and securely.
Pipefy brings customers, vendors, and partners onto the same platform as your internal team, making it easy to collaborate and track a business process from start to finish.
Whatever type of remote work model you use, give Pipefy a try for free, and ensure company goals are met and remote employees have the engagement they need to be successful.