A forecast on employment trends by the World Economic Forum named flexible work as “one of the biggest drivers of transformation” in the workplace. Remote work has been on the rise for quite some time now. According to Gallup, 37% of US workforce is remote, and the number continues to rise.
While many organizations are embracing the culture of remote work quite happily, some still struggle to get to grips with challenges that come with a distributed workforce. And though the subject of remote work has been beaten to death, new and untold challenges and benefits are emerging.
Here is what no one wants to talk about, as revealed by 5 remote work advocates.
Denys Pakhaliuk, Ramotion
Denys Pakhaliuk, CEO at Ramotion, a product design and visual brand identity design agency, works with some of the hottest San Francisco Bay Area startups. As a creative mind, he’s all in with the remote work culture, “We live in a global world with tons of software solutions allowing to blur the lines between people living on different continents. And apparently, the world’s greatest talents don’t necessarily live in one place. So the remote collaboration allows all the great minds to connect, collaborate and deliver great result no matter where they are. And most of the time the remote experts cost less than locals.”
The challenge no one wants to talk about? In-person communication.
“We are human, and we’ve been designed by nature to communicate in real life. And despite all the great benefits of the remote work, there is one thing that challenges that approach — the absence of in-person communications. Even over-communication doesn’t replace an in-person meeting. However, I’m very optimistic about it, because the emergence of AR and VR technologies will help to overcome this challenge very soon.”
The benefit of all benefits: collaboration of the most talented people.
“I think the greatest benefit is allowing the great people to do what they love to do from anywhere in the worlds at a lower rate. It is a win-win situation for everyone and the distributed teams like Buffer and my design agency are the real examples of adapting this approach in product or service environment.”
Kavi Guppta is a writer on a mission to transform how the world thinks about work. His work appears in Forbes, The Harvard Business Review, TEDx, and more. Naturally, he’s a bit of a fan of remote work and regards it as the future of work, “I had been traveling and writing for a year through Southeast Asia and Australia-Pacific. The flexibility to work virtually for publications and clients proved to be productive. I also enjoyed the idea of studying my topic–the future of work–directly in the regions I was visiting. Remote work eventually became a natural fit for me when I made a basecamp in my native Australia, while also traveling frequently for writing assignments. Mobility is going to be a major strength for the next generation of workers. I’m taking advantage of my ability to move through the world, and to study how others can take advantage of it as well. Over the past four years, I’ve worked with companies and governments in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, and Europe.”
The challenge no one wants to talk about? The “holy trinity” of organization, process, and communication.
“There are many, but I always point to three key skills every person has to conquer. I call it my “holy trinity”. If you are someone who struggles with organization, process, or communication — you will constantly be challenged by the nature of remote work. Organization helps you to stay on top of tasks and manage yourself. Process helps you implement and execute the tasks at hand. And communication makes it clear to your colleagues or clients where you are making progress or where you may need extra help. I also like to mention that those three challenges are the same for location dependant workers. I believe any worker should have to master those three skills.”
The benefit of all benefits: flexibility.
“You have the flexibility to settle in a living environment that best suits your productivity and life. Second: the opportunity to sell your services to organizations on a global scale. You are no longer bound to the work that’s available within your home environment. You can compete for work where countries are hungry for your talent and skills.”
Jordan Bishop, Yore Oyster
Jordan Bishop is the founder of Yore Oyster, a flight hacking startup that saves travelers 20-50% on their international flights, and the editor in chief of How I Travel, a wanderlust publication showcasing the world’s most interesting travelers. In the past 18 months, he’s called each of Argentina, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Colombia, Thailand, and Germany home, and is a huge supporter of remote work.
“I knew before I finished business school in Canada that I wanted to travel upon graduation, so developing a life that allowed me to work remotely became a top priority. I started by developing a physical product from the ground up, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t the right business for me. In the lull that followed, I conceptualized my flights concierge startup Yore Oyster, which in turn has led to How I Travel.”
The challenge no one wants to talk about? Traveling too quickly.
“I’ve been doing this for over three years now, and only in the past twelve months have I consciously started slowing down. In the beginning, you want to see as many places as possible, yet as the months turn into years, you start staying in each place for longer amounts of time. A lot of my friends have experienced this same transition, a deliberate shift from the quantity of places we visit to the quality of the communities we establish there, so we’re all starting to move more slowly.”
The benefit of all benefits: Forming communities of friends around the world.
“Nothing makes a place feel like home more than having a group of friends there, which is exactly why having social circles around the world transforms it into a much smaller place.”
Ilma Nausedaite, MailerLite
Ilma Nausedaite, the CMO at MailerLite, an email marketing solution for smart businesses, experiences the challenges and benefits of remote work every day.
“At MailerLite most of the team works remotely. We have an office in Vilnius, Lithuania, but you can choose where you want to work from. Our office is like a coworking space.”
The challenge no one wants to talk about? Missing talks and discussion with your team.
“This is why twice a year we organize workations (work+vacation) when the whole team meets to discuss ways how to improve MailerLite and have fun together.”
The benefit of all benefits: Freedom to live and work from anywhere you want.
“For the last 6 years, my family and I spent European winters in warmer countries. When the whole company works remotely, you can feel the pulse even being far away.”
Lydia Lee, Screw The Cubicle
Lydia Lee is the Founder and Corporate Escape Coach of Screw The Cubicle, a movement to inspire people to break free from the shackles of conventional work. From building businesses to forging freelance careers, she’s already helped hundreds of talented professionals repurpose their skills to create better versions of their careers and become better versions of themselves. She says she chose remote work, “to be able to be location independent and infuse my passion of travel with my work and lifestyle. I love having more choices over where I live, what I experience, and the ability to make a living from anywhere (what a dream!).”
Lydia has also written a book that will be published later this year to show how ordinary people from all walks of life have started profitable businesses, often with limited investment, and reinvented their careers.
The challenge no one wants to talk about? Forming habits and fighting distractions.
“It can be challenging to focus and build the habits to continue building a business with the distractions of new people to meet and new places to see when you live abroad. Having to learn how to manage my time, create boundaries, and time blocking time for work and leisure to keep the balance.”
The benefit of all benefits: Freedom.
“I wake up every morning knowing I can consciously make decisions about the way I want to work and who I want to work with! I can’t tell you how satisfying it feels to build a business around my lifestyle, and not the other way around.”
Is remote work the future of work?
A career insight survey by AfterCollege found that 68% of millennial job seekers regard the option to work remotely as a factor that has the greatest positive impact on job seeker’s interest in an employer. It’s overwhelmingly clear that the younger generation of workers prefers the opportunity to work remotely over any other office perk, including casual dress code and free snacks and drinks.
However, the demands of a millennial workforce are not the only reason for employers to adopt remote work. According to Harvard Business Review, remote workers are not only happier and less stressed, but also more productive. In fact, 87% of remote workers claim to feel “more connected” through the use of video conferencing tools and exhibit higher engagement levels.
All in all, it seems that remote work is on the right track to changing how we think about working together.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.