Oh, it's the next morning. Time to get up! Coffee, perhaps a quick breakfast, getting dressed and off we go: Commuting für averagely 0.5 to 1.5 hours, arriving at the office, getting to the desk and now plunk down there for most of the rest of the day.
That's how it works, right? At least that is the case for a vast majority of the working population in western countries. The classic 9 to 5 office job has evolved over centuries and has by now somewhat become a symbol for the way most people define what the word "work" actually means.
What has changed?
But why is it, that after generations and generations of office workers, now suddenly everybody is talking about remote work these days?
Well, it might be because it is actually the right time to rethink a lot of things that have worked for us for quite some time. We are just entering the so called "Information Age" and like so many other things, "work" hasn't been designed for this. It has rather evolved since the 18th century when the first purpose-build office buildings were constructed by the East India Company and the Royal Navy.
In other words: the way most of us work today has been invented in a time when the steam-engine had yet to be discovered. The steam-engine! Think about what that means for the communication infrastructure of this time: Traveling a distance that was further than you could comfortably walk generally needed some direct involvement of one or more horses. So did getting a message to someone outside your shouting distance.
In order to work together, people had simply no choice but to gather in the same building and stay there.
But guess what: The steam-engine has been invented in the meantime. So has the locomotive, cars, planes and – possibly the most important of all – coffee to go. We are living in a mobile connected world where we can physically reach nearly every place in the world within just a few hours. And it doesn't stop there: Sharing information with each other only takes a few seconds no matter where you are. First the telephone and then – to a much larger degree – the internet has started to rip apart the limitations of our good old physical world.
Working in the Digital Age: The Virtual Workspace
So, do we – in this day and age – still need to sit next to each other in the same building to accomplish work together? Most definitely not. Modern technology enables us to create virtual workspaces that don't need to shy away from the comparison to their brick and mortar predecessors. But let’s have a closer look.
The center of most modern working environments is typically some kind of personal computer that will work just as fine from a Starbucks (at least if it is a mobile computer) than it does from inside the office. Apart from looking at funny pictures of cats, we tend to use those computers to create files. Those files might need to be shared with team members or we might want to collaborate with them.
Even with more restricted company networks, there are many great technical solutions to achieve this from remote locations. Today we can even work on the same document simultaneously over the internet by incorporating cloud-based software into our setup.
Sometimes we might need to talk quickly to some teammates but again, that challenge has already been solved quite well: We can choose between a large variety of communication-, messaging- or chat-software and our mobile phones are typically not more than just a few inches away from us if we feel like hearing someone's voice.
Even if we need to have a meeting with our colleagues we can do so fairly easily with the right video-chatting application or service.
So, does that mean that we shouldn't work from the same location ever again? No, of course not. Just because we can do something, doesn't mean that we always should. Surely not every company will completely turn its back on their physical office buildings within the next years and there will – most likely – always be situations where being in the same room will be of great value for solving a problem together.
But it is safe to say, that a physical presence in an office is not the only viable option for a knowledge worker these days anymore.
Do you want to go remote?
Now that we have seen how modern technology makes it possible to work from nearly every location, let's talk about why you might actually want to do it.
The number one reason for becoming a remote worker is most likely the wish for more flexibility and an increase in work-life balance. And it is no coincidence that such demands are gaining more and more popularity these days. Those are key-elements of the philosophy of the generation that has just begun to take over the workplaces. With the so-called “Millennials” – or the Generation-Y as others call it – we have now a generation of digital natives whose biggest goal is not financial success and high status but rather the wish for work that they actually care for and the ability to combine it perfectly with the rest of their life. Consequently it is no surprise that the interest in remote work is growing along with the amount of Millennials entering the job market.
But does remote work hold up to the expectations that people have – whether they are Millennials or not?
Well, let's have a look ...