It’s safe to say that the term “remote work” has gone viral.
A quick search of the phrase in Google Trends shows how worldwide interest in remote work has slowly risen over time since 2004.
January 2019 marked the pinnacle of its popularity when the term finally managed to reach a score of 100 — the maximum possible score for peak popularity as determined by the search engine.
The phrase has gained an insane level of traffic and a flurry of public interest. But the question is, do these factors alone give the concept legitimacy?
Is remote work still in its infancy and if so, is it deemed inferior to traditional office-based work? What even constitutes a “remote worker”? And more importantly, could the prevalence of remote work mean it has become more than a trend — could it be classed as an industry in itself? In this blog post, we find out.
What Remote Workers Say
On the face of it, remote workers seem to have an undying love for remote work. While traditional employees might openly grumble about their day at the office, remote workers seem to brag about their “business at the beach” publicly.
But is it that straightforward?
Harvard Business Review asked 1,100 employees who benefit from flexible work arrangements about their views on remote work. The results revealed that most remote workers struggle with equality in the workplace — or at least how they feel their more corporate counterparts perceive them.
Most notably, the study showed that a greater portion of remote workers believe colleagues make changes to a project without telling them and even say bad things about them behind their backs.
Seminal studies like this have formed a consensus about remote work which provides a more balanced view of its benefits and negatives.
So what is the consensus? Well, although people find working off the grid can be peaceful, it also has negative repercussions on quality communication and workplace culture.
What Remote Leaders Say
There’s plenty of companies who are yet to join the ranks of those who offer remote roles and flexible work arrangements to their employees (despite the overwhelming demand for this type of work).
Some companies, however, have built their business entirely around this premise, such as remote digital marketing agency, Exposure Ninja. Their team of 100 remote workers offers high-quality services at a fraction of the cost a bricks and mortar agency could ever provide.
Head Ninja, Tim Cameron-Kitchen goes as far as to say that “office-based work is a fad.”
He argues that migration towards remote companies is natural, drawing examples from history where entire civilizations worked from home until the industrial revolution.
“Then the industrial revolution happened and people needed to be gathered centrally to use physical machines,” explains Tim, “ Now the machines are largely virtual, so we’ll all inevitably return to our homes and families.”
Tim’s agency tackles remote work difficulties head-on by displaying a strong workplace culture — despite his team being spread across the globe.
This is similar to how HubSpot is developing its company culture to include the option of remote work. As a global company that facilitates remote agencies, like Tim’s, through digital products, HubSpot isn’t strictly remote – although they do embrace the concept.
Their worldwide presence makes strategic changes more gradual, with trials of remote working here and there. The transitional stage that HubSpot finds itself in, allows its leaders to constantly evaluate both the pros and cons of working in this way. They advise others to employ meeting “facilitators” while stressing the importance of visibility and connectivity in teams.
What the Rest of the World Says
Intrigued and confused by this trending concept, virtual call provider eReceptionist conducted a study to gain insights from the British public about their perception of remote work — the results of which were surprising.
Even though individual opinions on the term differ, when eReceptionist asked the UK public about their perception of both office-based workers and people who could broadly be termed remote workers, the results show both types of workers hold an equal footing.
When asked which type of worker is more professional, 77.5% of the population voted for both remote and office-based workers. Similarly, the majority of respondents (61.4%, to be exact) also claim that a corporate environment and a home environment are equally suitable for work activities.
While these stats are great from a worker’s perspective, top publications like Forbes are worried about the concept at a broader level. A frequent commentator on remote work and Forbes author, Laurel Farrer has written a new article on remote work questioning its legality. In this article, Laurel draws attention to important subjects such as occupational health, information security, and tax regulations — all of which are made more complicated by this new type of remote work.
So, what do you think? Is remote work an example of a trend that by definition must lose its current popularity at some point? Or is the concept here to stay? If so, will it inevitably be reformulated until we can all agree on its meaning?
It’s safe to say that right now remote work stands as a controversial concept that’s only given a clear meaning by those with vested interests.
I am a blogger, marketing expert, student of the market and a visionary.