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There's no such thing as a 'remote' employee

Mike Elgan | Sept. 18, 2017
When everyone is remote at least part of the time, the whole idea of a remote worker is obsolete.

With each passing year, employees increase their boldness in saying: "Give me a better work environment or I'll find an employer who will."

 

The quiet revolutions

The Canadian IT services company Softchoice published the results this summer of a study looking at workplace trends, and found some seriously consequential desires and expectations among North American enterprise and business employees. 

A whopping three-quarters of those surveyed (74%) said they would quit their job to work for an organization that allows them to work remotely more often. And 85% said they expect their employers to provide them with the technology that allows them to work from anywhere.

They want and expect that technology to work. More than three-quarters (78%) said they experience frequent technical hurdles to better collaboration.

Finally, millennials are twice as likely as boomers to feel productive in a home office. And while there are surely correlations between "feeling" productive and actually being productive, it's also part of employee satisfaction. If employees don't feel productive, they won't be happy in their jobs.

While enterprise managers, executives and IT professionals of all kinds tend to look at the gradual upward trend in actual telecommuting, it's important to keep in mind the rapidly shifting attitudes and intentions of the workforce. A great many people not currently working from home expect to do so shortly.

Another hidden trend is the invisible third option: entrepreneurship.

While the statistics look at telecommuting hours vs. non-telecommuting hours among enterprise employees, concerns about employee retention should also account for those who leave to start their own businesses. Increasingly, the "drop-out" factor is part of the millennial drive for improving the quality of life.

In other words, an increasing number of millennials see self-employment as an alternative to non-remote work.

With the rise of the digital nomad lifestyle, entrepreneurship is increasingly available (because living cheaper abroad enables financial security while new businesses are boot-strapped). 

These trends don't affect all professions equally. For example, software engineering is often solitary work (better done in a distraction-free environment, as in a home office). And many developers have the skills to start a new business.

That means companies will have to work increasingly hard to give software engineers the work life they want, often by way of policies and infrastructure that facilitate working from home.

 

New attitude: There's no such thing as ‘remote work’

Most enterprises are becoming so globalized that even the concept of "remote" makes no sense. When the whole world is connected, only astronauts are "remote workers."

Every business of any significant size has multiple offices. And while that means the employees who work in different offices are theoretically "remote" from each other, the necessity to connect these groups with secure, reliable infrastructure is absolute.

 

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