Is Working Remote Taking Over the Workplace?

Author: Rani Molla Source: Vox

From their ersatz offices in coffee shops, coworking spaces, and living rooms, a growing number of remote workers are quietly remaking the way we work and live.

Take Eden Rehmet, who was able to parlay her wages working in trade services at a New York City commodities broker into buying a home and opening a small business upstate.

Rob Osoria, a web developer, works remotely from Brooklyn half of the week to skip a commute to his Manhattan office.

And interior designer Meg Lavalette gets the best of both worlds by living and doing the majority of her work in rural upstate New York, while traveling to New York City every other week to meet with clients.

All of them told Recode that apart from a few downsides, they have improved the quality of their lives by working remotely and releasing their tether to specific places near their employers. While remote work has blurred some of the boundaries between their work lives and their personal lives, they say they’re happier and often more productive than they’d been at traditional offices.

Depending on how you measure it, remote employees like these make up anywhere from 5.3 percent (those who typically work from home) to nearly two-thirds (who work remotely ever) of the US workforce, a number that has been rising since the advent of a reliable and robust home broadband connection earlier this decade.

The changes remote work has introduced have happened so gradually you may not have noticed. But its growing popularity is remaking how we work, the tools we use to work, how we communicate at work, and even the hours we work. It’s also connected to population shifts from big cities to less populated areas, and it’s upending sectors of commercial real estate, both in terms of how spaces are designed and where they’re located.

What was once a rarity among a select set of workers is quickly becoming a defining feature of the future of work.

The ups and downs of remote work

When the Great Recession hit back in 2008, many US companies downsized their office space to save money and began allowing, or even encouraging, employees to work from home. But what was born from necessity has stuck around long after the economy rebounded. It turned out that remote work has benefits besides cheaper office rent.

While the broad impacts of remote work have yet to be measured across industries and for extended lengths of time, initial studies have found that it can increase productivity and lower employee turnover. A recent Harvard Business Review study of US Patent and Trade Office workers found their output increased by 4.4 percent after a transition to remote work, with no significant increase in having to rewrite patents due to appeals. And a Stanford study of a 16,000-employee Chinese travel agency found that remote work increased employee satisfaction and helped halve the agency’s previous employee attrition rates.

“There’s less distraction from people talking in the office,” Rehmet, who was the first in her office to work remotely, said. “I’m more productive. I have the ability to concentrate and create my own environment.”

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