What Is Remote Work?

Interest in remote work has been growing more rapidly than ever before, and its appeal isn’t just spreading across the workforce. It’s gaining popularity among employers as well. But what exactly is remote work? In this post, we dissect what it is, how it’s being practiced, why employees and employers are drawn to it, the common misconceptions associated with it, and how you can adopt it more effectively.  

What is remote work? 

Driven by the idea that work isn’t a place you go to but something you do, remote work is the practice of working from any desired place and, in many cases, at any timeA person doing remote work doesn’t have to go to the office or any traditional workplace to perform his/her duties or responsibilities. A remote worker would typically accomplish work-related tasks at home, in a coffee shop, or just about anywhere.  

Significant developments in technologies like mobile devices, cloud computing, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)WiFi, 4G (and soon, 5G) are making it possible for remote work, which isn’t a new concept, become more mainstream. As early as 2018, 70% of workers already worked remotely at least one day a week 

Preferred locations for remote work

In the past, when people said they were working remotely, that usually meant working from home. That’s not always the case anymore. The proliferation of WiFi hotspots, broadband connections, and mobile wireless technologies like 3G and 4G are enabling people to work from practically anywhere they wantHere are some of the most popular ways remote workers do work. 

Work from home 

Working from home is still arguably the most popular way of doing remote work, as it’s much cheaper than any of the other options. You can also save a lot of time and get to work right out of bed … in your pajamas.  

Work in coffee shops 

People who have too many distractions at home or want a change of scenery usually go to coffee shopsMost coffee shops offer just the right conditions for doing work — free WiFiunintelligible chatter (which helps people concentrate), and of course, limitless coffee.  

Work in coworking spaces 

Another type of place that’s gaining popularity among remote workers is coworking spaces. These are establishments that almost resemble coffee shops but with a more workplace vibe. Some of them even have function rooms for groups. Coworking spaces usually offer membership packages with special privileges for members, like ‘hot desks’, dedicated desks, or even private offices.  

Digital nomadic lifestyle 

Some people take the freedom that remote work affords them to the next level and embrace what is known as a digital nomad lifestyle. Digital nomads are remote workers who wander to another city or country, work from there, and then move on after a few weeks or months. This allows them to see new places, collect experiences, and meet new friends while still earning along the way. 

Remote Work Benefits for Employees

If you’re now starting to find the concept of remote work appealing, you’re not alone. A growing number of people are discovering the major benefits of doing work outside the four corners of their office.

More flexibility in when, where, and how they accomplish tasks – Perhaps the number one motivation for doing remote work is the prospect of gaining more flexibility in the manner tasks are accomplished. Remote workers can usually choose when, where, and how they accomplish tasks. They can start very early in the day (to gain time for some non-work-related activity later) or, if they’re nocturnal, do the grind at night. They can work in their bedroom or a coworking space  it depends on their preferences.  

Lower risk to stress and burnouts – All this flexibility relaxes the mind and relieves workers of certain stresses of their jobs. In addition, it enables them to avoid rush hour traffic, which is a major source of stress. Many people who have to report to traditional workplaces start their day fighting through traffic jams and then go through the same maddening ordeal on their way home — every single day. 

A more positive outlook towards their job – Workers who are less stressed are more likely to see the positive aspects of their job and enjoy doing it. This, in turn, inspires them to be more engaged and motivated. 

Safety in times of pandemics and other calamities – During pandemics like the current COVID-19 outbreak, people are advised to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Most workers are reluctant to this because it would usually mean a loss of income. Remote workers have the advantage because they can stay at home but still earn at the same time.     

Remote Work Benefits for Employers

Happy, engaged, and motivated employees can only be good news to employers. That’s why they too, are starting to grow interested in remote work. Moreoverthey’re discovering other major benefits along the way.  

Higher productivity – One major factor that’s encouraging employers to adopt remote work policy is the prospect of experiencing increased employee productivity. Employees who are less stressed and more engaged are more likely to accomplish tasks and projects on time.  

Lower employee turnover – When employees are happy with their job, the chances of them leaving is significantly reduced. This is crucial in times like this, where top talent is scarce and, hence, talent retention is often major priority.  

Lower costs – Remote work eliminates the need to spend on office space and furniture/fixtures, not to mention electricity and other related operating expenses. This can amount to huge cost savings. 

Top myths about remote work 

Despite the proven benefits of remote work, some companies are still hesitant to adopt this kind of strategy. However, most of their fears are really due to some common misconceptions about remote work.  

There is less communication in remote work environments 

Skeptics of remote work argue that, because remote workers aren’t physically present in the office, they won’t be able to communicate as well as those who are. If they’re referring to trivial conversations at the water cooler station or socializations during lunch or coffee breaks, then yes, remote workers will undoubtedly be missing out on those. However, if it’s work-related communications, then there are various media like email and messaging or video conferencing software, that can help businesses address that concern 

Remote workers are less productive

Yes, this is the exact opposite of what we said earlier. Skeptics argue that, because there are just too many distractions outside the traditional workplace, remote workers will have less time to get things done. But in reality, distractions exist everywhere — even in traditional workplaces. A survey conducted by Business Consulting Group shows that 75% of the employees believed they had been able to improve or maintain their productivity on individual tasks following the WFH setup amidst the pandemic. Even for tasks that required some degree of collaboration, 51% of people indicated that they managed to improve or maintain their productivity. These stats completely bust the myth that remote workers are not as productive as on-site employees. 

How to adopt remote work effectively 

While remote work might sound so appealing, you must understand that it’s an entirely new paradigm that not everyone or every organization is prepared forThus, whether you’re a worker or an organization seeking to embrace this new paradigm, it’s important to be strategic in doing so.  

For workers

Working from the comfort of your home may sound like a dream. But in reality, it takes a lot of motivation and willpower to stay focused on your work amidst the typical distractions of the home. No wonder that remote workers often find it hard to maintain a work-life balance. The key here is to understand that working from home does not equate to a vacation. Formulating certain rules can help you in maintaining focus during work hours, that is if you actually adhere to them religiously.   

Firstly, designate a proper working area, and make sure that your family members know your working hours and do not disturb you during those. Breaks are essential for maintaining productivity. So, do not forget to get up, walk around or take a little snack or drink after regular intervals. You’ll notice how refreshed and focused you’ll feel after these breaks. Make sure that you have a to-do list on hand to remember the tasks that need to be done. This will also help you keep an eye on how much you’ve accomplished. Finally, keep distractions to minimal by silencing your personal phone and keeping away from social media.  

For organizations

You need to make sure you have the right infrastructure to support this type of endeavor. We’re not just talking about equipping workers with laptops and then giving them access to your networkWhen employees work remotely, i.e., beyond the reach of your corporate firewall, a lot of your digital assets will be exposed to new risks.  

What if a laptop (and any corporate data stored within) is stolen? What if a remote session is intercepted and login credentials to your network are compromised? A lot of things can happen. Therefore, your infrastructure should be able to provide the necessary protection to mitigate whatever risks come along. 

How Parallels RAS helps with remote working

Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) is an all-in-one remote working solution that enables seamless access to virtual desktops and applications on any device, anytime, anywhere. Employees can enjoy a local workspace-like experience using smartphones. Parallels RAS enables native touch gestures—such as swipe, drag, tap to click and, zoom-in—with any Windows application, making it easy to complete workloads. Moreover, With Samsung DeX, your mobile device can be transformed into a fully-fledged workstation.

Download a 30-day trial to see how Parallels RAS helps organizations enable remote working.





Ryan Robinson

Harvard Business Review