This post has been updated on March 4, 2020.
“This is the future.” Nowadays, it seems like we hear this a lot. Whether it’s artificial intelligence, augmented reality, automation or blockchains, everyone seems to be talking about what business and life will look like in the future. But what many people don’t realize is that one of the defining characteristics of futuristic workplaces is already here: remote teams.
Telecommuting is not necessarily new; it’s been around pretty much since the internet became mainstream. But entire teams working together from different parts of the globe using nothing more than their phones and laptops is new, and it’s exciting.
Remote workers can now do pretty much everything in-office workers can do, and quite often they can do more. Let’s take a look at why this trend will soon become the norm in workplaces around the world.
The talent pool
One of the big challenges for any growing company is finding the right talent. Traditionally, one of the biggest roadblocks was geographic location. A company had to depend on its surrounding for personnel, which severely limited the size of the talent pool from which they could recruit.
But with remote work, this is no longer the case. If you post a job and indicate it can be done remotely, then you can attract people from all over the world. Maybe the best person for the job lives in India, or in California, and you’re in New York. Before the rise of remote work, bringing this person in was impossible. Now, it’s not only possible, but likely, and it will make your company better as a result.
Businesses are constantly on the lookout for how they can reduce costs and manage overhead. There are some really unpopular ways to do this, e.g. laying people off, reducing benefits, etc. but these are going to hurt employee morale, which will ultimately hurt productivity.
Remote workers can help you cut down costs, largely by reducing how much you spend on rent and other utilities. Less workers in the office means less space, and this means less money. Also, depending on the arrangement you have with your remote workers, you may be able to hire them as contractors, which exempts you from having to provide certain benefits, also a money saver for the company.
You won’t be able to do this for everyone. To remain competitive in the labor market, you’ll still need to offer people a basic benefits package. This might get tricky if you have employees all over the world, but if you work with a professional employer organization (PEO), then they can help you get everything in order in the most efficient and cost-effective way. But no matter what, using remote workers will help you keep expenses down and profits up.
Another reason remote work will become more popular in the future is that there are more and more tools available to facilitate it. Trello and Slack have helped people consolidate work and communication into easy to manage boards and threads, and Asana allows managers to assign and track work for a variety of different projects. Hubstaff makes it remarkably simple for employees to track and bill time, and PayPal and Venmo process payments really fast.
And these are just the tools available now. As technology improves, you can expect these tools to get better. Holographic video chats are a real thing, and they will dramatically improve the video conference experience moving forward. One can only imagine what will happen when augmented and virtual reality become more accessible technologies.
Remote work will become more popular, and this means the demand for tools to make it easier will grow too. So, for as easy as it is now to work with people across the globe, imagine what it will be like in five or ten years. Offices will surely become a thing of the past.
Decentralized professional development
One of the big advantages to having people all in the same place is for training and professional development. Innovation is essential in today’s marketplace, meaning constant learning is too. But nowadays, you don’t need to have people in the same place to offer them the resources they need to grow as a professional.
Platforms such as Coursera make it easy for people to take quality, university-level courses about relevant topics, and nearly all universities also offer online options as well. To make things more personal, you can invest in your own e-learning platform with specialized courses and modules that can be accessed from anywhere. With the technology we have today, and that which we will have tomorrow, employees can work remotely and still enjoy the same benefits they enjoy were they working in an office setting.
Millenials are now the largest segment of the workforce. And this generation has a different set of preferences than those that came before it. Specifically, Millenials care a lot about work-life balance. They aren’t all too excited about 9-5 work schedules, and they most certainly do not want to be stuck in stuffy offices all day.
To attract Millennials, a lot of companies have been adjusting and offering their employees more freedom and flexibility, especially with research coming out indicating that remote workers tend to be more engaged, and therefore more productive, than in-office employees. As Millennials get older and the even more tech-savvy, restless Generation Z-ers enters the workforce, this trend will only continue.
The future is now
In many ways, we already live in this world. Remote work is what people want, and it’s what they’ll get. The delay is the result of companies figuring out exactly how to roll out these changes in a way that makes the most sense for the business. But it will happen. You can be sure of that. And eventually, telecommuting will define the way we work.
Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage business. He’s a passionate entrepreneur who has always worked remotely. He loves the flexibility it affords him and enjoys working in various locations, meeting new people.