Uncovering the Hidden Benefits (and Dangers) of Remote Work in 2024 Remote work promised us flexibility and thrilling new lifestyles, but the day-to-day reality often brings meeting fatigue and unexpected hurdles. So, what went astray from the promise, and how can these hidden benefits optimize your experience?
- Leaders should adopt remote work enthusiastically but navigate it with adaptability.
- Talent is everywhere, and remote work allows leaders to find it.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Imagine waking up on a Monday morning, sipping your coffee, and beginning your workday from the comfort of your home. This scenario — once considered a rare perk — has become a reality for millions of people in recent years. In fact, IPSE research revealed that the number of workers operating exclusively at home increased from 5.7% in January 2020 to 43.1% in April 2020.
This shift and rapid normalization have prompted a global discussion on the future of work, the relevance of which is only growing larger with time. Resultantly, I see it as essential to explore the nuances of remote work, examining its benefits, challenges and overall effectiveness, which forms the basis for this article.
The rise of remote work
The rise of remote work has been extreme and, thus, should be covered before delving into the benefits, or lack thereof. Transforming into a sought-after option for many, the allure of remote work throughout recent years has lied in its flexibility, as it allows employees to work from any location with just a laptop and a stable internet connection — giving rise to the 'digital nomad,' as a remote work subsection.
Painting the picture of ultimate efficiency in complete flexibility, I have always considered to what extent this holds true, as the lack of direct contact and isolated nature formulates issues that have begun to seep into this digital workplace. Nevertheless, Upwork estimates that 32.6 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025, and therefore, adapting to the future remote workforce trend is key, but we must first examine this method.
The pros of remote work
A clear pro is the elimination of commute time, improving physical and mental health and paving the way for productive or leisure time within previously wasted hours of the day. This flexibility adapts to personal needs, creating a more harmonious balance between family and business.
However, alongside personal benefits, the Global Workplace Analytics report fortifies the environmental advantage of remote work adoption, stating that 600,000 cars per year are resultantly off the road and that even working remotely half the week can reduce yearly emissions by 54 million tons.
Further pros include reducing overhead costs for employers and the possibility of a hybrid model, combining office and remote. Microsoft's Work Trend Index views the widening of the talent marketplace arising from remote/hybrid work as "one of the brightest sides" of remote work.
Talent is everywhere, and we appreciate this at Bubbles, with our team transcending geographical barriers, ranging from Costa Rica to Poland. We reap the rewards from this diversity with increasingly specialized personnel.
Unlocking asynchronous work
People are spending 252% more time in meetings than they were before the remote work transition, according to Microsoft's New Future of Work report. But there is great potential to improve productivity by reducing this time commitment while ensuring people do not miss anything important. Enter, asynchronous remote work and the ability to participate without full attendance.
This improvement is complex. It has been aided by recent advances in large language models that have enabled this dream to become reality by extracting and preserving information to then follow up on asynchronously. I believe this falls into place with literature on cognitive science that gives us some strong hypotheses for how summarization tech and AI can work in tandem with the mental preferences of most workers. Such science suggests that people appreciate light, low cognitive load interactions in meetings to flag action items and then preserve and organize items in a hierarchical structure. This can now be achieved with an AI notetaker, which will join meetings, listen and formulate easily understandable focal points for asynchronous collaboration. This clearly benefits those within the meeting, but what are other pros of enabling asynchronous remote working?
For one, employees are empowered to have full autonomy over their schedule and can communicate without being tied to a strict schedule. Asynchronous work also focuses on deliverables rather than time worked, going hand-in-hand with the former benefit and increasing accountability. While reducing interruptions and distractions, this also respects individuals' productive hours and encourages more thoughtful communication when outlining essential workflows.
The cons of remote work
Remote work is not without challenges. It can be difficult to separate work from free time, with difficulties in 'switching off' from work. Naturally, European or Asian colleagues of a US-based company may experience this due to time-zone conflict, but asynchronous work can help here.
Separation also refers to loneliness and isolation that remote workers may experience. Without virtual team building and consistent remote collaboration, symptoms like poor decision-making and distraction can seep in. Gallup suggests that only 36% of employees are engaged in their workplace, so as a remote team manager, the maintenance of clear, consistent communication is key.
So, while my company, Bubbles, encourages remote working extensively, we recognize the cons and know that balance is crucial. A well-designed home office and clear work-life boundaries are instrumental in a successful remote working experience.
Overall, we see the future of work clearly, and I believe remote, asynchronous work offers diverse opportunities and challenges, but alongside, we see it as a space to tread carefully within, as the retention of strong personal relations and empathy within a team is critical. I would therefore advise adopting enthusiastically but navigating with adaptability.