How the Remote Landscape Is Changing
How the Remote Landscape Is Changing: New Tools, Better Resources, And Emerging Global Communities
The term “telecommuting” was originally coined in 1973 by a former NASA engineer researching an innovative answer to excessive traffic and energy consumption, and the earliest instances of telecommuting were made up of employees driving to local branch offices where assignments were brought over from the company’s main headquarters. Now, 45 years later, the term has come to take on an entirely new life.
Remote work has found itself drastically changing over the past four and a half decades, and subsequently, so have the resources surrounding the world of telecommuting. In 1973, the idea of working from home was a far off dream. These days, that dream has become a reality, allowing for remote work opportunities in nearly every field and paving the way for a world where anybody can work from anywhere.
The Early Days to Now
The earliest attempts at promoting the idea of remote working in the U.S. included The Washington Post’s 1979 article, “Working at Home Can Save Gasoline”, the 1992 Interagency Telecommuting Pilot Project amongst government agencies, and a 2004 bill in U.S. Congress that encouraged remote work within federal agencies. By 2009, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management recorded that more than 100,000 federal employees were working remotely. The concept caught on with the general public as well, and the remote workforce continued to grow not only in the public sectors, but in the private sectors as well.
To even examine only a snippet of the stats on remote working is to to see how quickly the idea has skyrocketed amongst the general workforce. Already 9% of the U.S. workforce was working remotely in 1995, nearly four years following the introduction of the world wide web (no doubt a major catalyst in telecommuting trends). In 2006, the Government Accountability Office reported that 30% of the U.S. workforce was working independently, which was an enormous jump from 11 years prior. And today that percentage is still climbing, with a 2016 Gallup poll showing a rise to 43% in the United States, superseding a TINYPulse prediction that the U.S. workforce would hit 40% remote by 2020.
And the United States isn’t the only area seeing major remote growth. The European Union saw a 2% jump in telecommuting workers from 2000 to 2005 and various countries within the EU are seeing even faster growth. One out of every seven workers in the Czech Republic and Denmark reports working remotely on a regular basis, while above average telecommuting rates can also be found in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway.
So What’s Changing?
With an undeniable spike in remote working, you have to look at the surrounding factors that have led to its success. If you were telecommuting in early 2000s, you were an anomaly. Chances are that you were having to find remote work through word of mouth, track down your paychecks from clients, and work in isolation. Today, it’s a different story. Remote work isn’t only being offered at startups and small, privately owned businesses. Rather, corporations with thousands of employees and offices all over the globe are giving in to the trend. Adobe, Mozilla, Zendesk, Cisco, and BCD Travel are just a handful of the recognizable companies hiring for remote positions on a regular basis.
And don’t think it’s just the hiring side that’s changing the game. Millennials just aren’t willing to spend their days in an office when they know the capabilities that technology provides. A 2015 survey of millennials from FlexJobs found the following stats, no doubt pointing to millennials as considerable influencers in the world of remote work:
- 85% of millennials want to telecommute 100% of the time
- 54% of millennials want to work a flexible schedule
- 39% of millennials want to be freelance workers or contractors
Employers who are wanting to attract top talent are having to adapt, and subsequently, as more and more millennials are entering the workforce, more and more jobs are going remote. Furthermore, while remote work took off in the tech industry, it’s gone on to become accessible in every field of work, including editorial, legal, sales, project management, PR, human resources, and teaching, amongst others. This phenomenon, we think, is just beginning.
Remote Resources Are Expanding
The culture surrounding remote working is running to keep up with the numbers. From online job matching and coworking spaces to networking events and digital tools, here are just a few 21st century catalysts furthering the promotion of remote work.
Online Job Matching
Long gone are the days of remote workers fearing for their next paycheck. Remote jobs are no longer a rarity, which makes finding work easier than ever before. Sites like Remote.com, which utilizes artificial intelligence to match remote employers and remote employees, allow users to search through thousands of open positions. Furthermore, remote workers are able to connect with other users of the site, creating an online community for telecommuters.
With a workstyle that provides freedom and flexibility, why would you want to stay at home all the time? Today, remote communities can be found in nearly every country on the planet. Because of the advancements made in internet technology, many remote workers find themselves traveling regularly and choosing to live abroad for extended periods of time. Locations such as Indonesia, Chiang Mai, Johannesburg, and Gran Canaria have flourishing communities of remote workers, bringing in talent from all over the globe and creating diverse populations with relatable work habits. (In Gran Canaria alone over 2400 remote workers have joined the Digital Nomad Group that was begun in January 2015).
Another way that remote culture is altering the ways of the past? Coworking spaces. If you were lucky enough to score a remote job in the 1990s, you had better of enjoyed spending plenty of time by yourself. Today, coworking spaces allow for remote workers to work amongst their peers in shared office spaces that can be found all over the world. From bamboo havens in Bali to beachside offices in Thailand, coworking spaces have changed the game of remote working, allowing the remote workforce to travel, connect, and find networking opportunities both in their local vicinities and abroad.
Coliving & Team Retreats
The concept of “coliving” started as early as in the 19th century, when Boarding Houses had similar arrangements. However, coliving today is much more than just an accommodation, it represents a way of living focused on a genuine sense of community. Using shared spaces and facilities to create a more convenient and fulfilling lifestyle, dozens of coliving alternatives are offering remote workers the possibility to join like-minded communities while they travel and work. Also, distributed companies that are organized with fully remote teams are scheduling yearly innovative team retreats as a way to empower their remote teams. New ways of accommodating remote teams include projects like The Roof, a team H-office that covers all needs while remote teams experience a new destination together.
With the rise of remote working comes the rise of networking events. Gatherings such as NomadCity bring together remote workers to talk business, tackle relevant issues, network with fellow telecommuters, and engage in local activities ranging from surfing and hiking to urban exploring and dolphin watching. Tell this to a remote worker 20 years ago, and his jaw would no doubt have fallen to the ground. Individualized workshops that help foster the remote working lifestyle also take place at this unique event, helping to bolster participants’ skills and knowledge.
Long gone are the days of making up your own invoices and cashing bounced checks as a remote worker thanks to the plethora of digital tools that now exist on the web. Payment protection and escrow agreements allow remote workers to rest easy about receiving their pay knowing that they have third party support. Additionally, digital tools such as timesheets, online portfolios, and professional reference tools have made it easier than ever for remote workers to succeed at being their own business owners.
Next on the Horizon
When you take a moment to step back and take in the vast amount of ground remote working has covered since its inception, the results are mind-blowing. When you take another moment to realize that this has all happened in a mere few decades, it can only leave you wondering how the remote working landscape might continue to evolve over the next fifty years.
While we’ll have to wait and see what’s on the horizon, one thing’s for sure: the future is remote, and we’re entering an age where millions can now find the tools, resources, and support to leave behind the workplace for good. Can you dare to foresee a different world? A world where cities like London, Shanghai, New York City, Delhi, and Tokyo no longer have to keep crowding in new manpower, but can instead send their workforce out into the world with laptops and tickets to anywhere? Perhaps we may just be on the edge of an epochal change.