What is remote work—an introduction to working remotely - Insights
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What is remote work—an introduction to working remotely

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Before the worldwide web, the standard of work was that most roles had to function at the business’ location. But by 1990, the federal government was already conducting studies on how telecommuting workers (now remote teams) operated. When most people think about what is remote work, it basically comes down to leaving the office to, you know, work. If you’re just starting out or want a refresh on how working remotely got started, this guide is for you and your team. Read on to learn all the facts behind what is remote work!

History of remote work

Remote work was originally called telecommuting in the ’80s, looking quite different compared to digital nomads today.

In 1973, the term “telecommuting” was coined by physicist and engineer Jack Nilles. Nilles researched the effects information technologies such as telephones could have on work. By teleworking, an individual could communicate with their team via phone, saving valuable time used to commute.

By 1990, most individuals had access to both a personal computer and the internet. This dramatically changed the ability to perform telework. And in effect, it was the true beginning of what we now call remote work. The main difference between working remotely and telecommuting was the possibility of working in-person. With telework, the need for in-person functions still was necessary from time to time. But with remote work, a true disconnect was created between a role’s function and the need for physicality.

When did remote work change?

By the early 2000s something changed that truly revolutionized how remote work could be done: video and instant messaging. With the implementation of both, teams working remotely no longer required long conference calls. Everyone was an instant message away. Simultaneously, video created the ability to still have face-to-face conversations without crossing the gap of distance and time.

With both of these communication tools, Nilles’ work was confirmed that removing the commute of a workweek improved productivity. Teams could be located across farther distances while still operating at higher productivity levels. It also meant freedom from the traditional office space as we knew it.

What is remote work like today?

By 2010, technology had reached a point where any office role could be fulfilled remotely. This created some huge benefits for companies including:

  • Access to a larger talent pool.
  • Decreased operation costs associated with in-office.
  • Improved team engagement.

For professionals, the benefits were just as great. Individuals were able to:

  • Access more job opportunities outside their home areas.
  • Work-life balance became more attainable than ever before.
  • The ability to perform a role’s function from nearly anywhere the internet is accessible.
  • Productivity and fulfillment within a role were greatly improved.

But not all of these benefits were enough to address the misconceptions of remote employment. What’s a remote worker supposed to do when they aren’t able to socialize around a water cooler or join happy hours? Loneliness, disengagement, miscommunication, and hindered productivity are all concerns of companies and leaders managing remote teams. While it’s true that these issues are valid, they can be avoided with proper planning.

A recent study by MIT researchers analyzed 25,000 companies and professionals to see how remote work was being implemented. Their results found that nearly half of that group had transitioned or allowed for roles to be serviced remotely. That’s an impressive number signifying that remote work is fastly becoming the standard for companies and professionals.

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