Remote work has been a hot topic of late, particularly in industries which don’t rely on the physical presence of employees. In software development, for example, pretty much all aspects of the job can be done from your couch, with a computer in your lap. But what does this mean for productivity, and what about those of us who enjoy the office atmosphere, in a world that seems to be rapidly moving towards a fully remote work culture? In this article, we’ll take a look at current workplace trends and what companies are doing to keep their teams happy.

Do people still want to work in offices?

iRonin is not the only fully distributed team out there. In fact, data gathered on the US job market in 2016 indicates that 43% of people employed there spent some time working remotely. And it looks like this number is only going to rise. Additionally, people are extending the amount of time during which they work remotely: 31% reported working remotely 4 or 5 days a week. Another study says that, globally, 70% of people work remotely at least once a week, and 53% at least half of the week.

Aside from the freedom and flexibility that remote work gives employees, studies show that productivity and job satisfaction get a boost, as well. Corporations have cottoned on to this and are sometimes more progressive than startups when it comes to remote work. Microsoft, Salesforce and Spotify are all examples of employers renting hot desks at coworking spaces.

Employee satisfaction is through the roof. According to Buffer’s findings (based on data collected from over 1,900 remote workers around the world), 90% of remote workers intent to continue telecommuting for the rest of their careers. Among those, 70% work remotely full-time, and 60% of the remaining part-time telecommuters expressed interest in increasing the amount of time spent on working remotely in 2018. It’s no wonder. Remote workers can adjust their work schedules to fit around their busy modern lives. Need to pick your kids up from school? No problem, just schedule a short break and get back to work after you get your offspring home. Maybe you have a dog and hate the thought of her spending 8+ hours alone every day? Just don’t go anywhere! Or, if you enjoy work & travel, go anywhere you want and telecommute from a comfy hammock in Bali.

Maintaining an exciting career used to prevent people from exploring other interests and dreams. Remote work and flexible hours make it possible to do more and stay happier. It is perhaps for this reason that 94% of remote workers recommend the lifestyle to others. It might also be partially due lower levels of work-related stress suffered by telecommuters, and their healthier lifestyles (more time for that morning jog and an evening at the gym, not to mention the ability to listen to the experts and regularly follow longer sitting periods with some moving around). Remote workers tend to be educated, skilled, and have a strong drive to learn and improve.

Remote work challenges

The obvious limitations on remote work are related to industry. Hands-on jobs can’t be performed from miles away. But there are other reasons why some people find telecommuting detrimental to their careers and well-being. Buffer’s research uncovered the most common disadvantages of remote work (which we don’t see in iRonin’s team, most likely thanks to how integral remote work is to our culture): distractions at home, staying motivated, difficulties with collaboration and communication, loneliness, and timezone differences between colleagues.

Most of these issues can be easily mitigated through good internal processes and company culture. Some have obvious solutions: if you don’t want to get distracted by the goings-on in your home, find a quiet space for yourself. Others are unsolvable: timezones will be timezones, and we have to accept them as a natural cost that comes with the ability to cooperate with people worldwide.

This is where the employer comes in to make sure their team is as happy as possible. Companies with remote workers enjoy higher productivity, lower costs and improved employee retention. Yet still many remote workers use their own hardware and pay for hot desk space. iRonin has been built as a distributed team from the very beginning, and we’ve had time to master a good remote work culture. Our employees enjoy all the usual company benefits. On top of that, we listened when team members said they preferred the office as a work environment. Everyone at iRonin has the option of working from home, their car, a cafe, or an office. We organise team retreats every year to make sure we’re not strangers to each other outside of work, and we support employees active in local communities related to their jobs.

images/blog/2018-11-21-the-case-of-the-modern-workplace-remote-work-and-the-viability-of-physical-offices-in-a-connected-world/image1.jpg The home office of one of our devs. Look at how ergonomic it is!

The technological revolution

The main reason behind the rising popularity of remote work is the technology that allows it. It may seem simple, but quite a bit of time needed to pass before we came to trust technology to this degree. As new possibilities emerge, companies try to get their full benefits. Offices are costly and in many cases no longer a necessity - not in a world where it’s easier and faster to communicate via a messaging system like Slack. Cutting that expense out of the budget can make a big difference.

The world of real estate is changing, too, as companies prefer to rent office space for those of their employees who enjoy the atmosphere. This has an added advantage for employees - they can choose an office close to their place of residence and cut out lengthy commutes. If not forced to do so, most people avoid commuting further than 2 miles from home.

Conclusions

Considering all of the advantages and disadvantages of remote work, we’ve realized at iRonin that our best option is to open offices when team members need them to feel comfortable at work. Most of us are still fully remote, but we believe that meeting employees halfway and opening offices is the next step in catering to highly-skilled employees on the competitive IT market. We used to have offices in Wrocław, we’ve recently opened one in Rzeszów, and we’re looking into a few more locations while we measure the team’s interest in this matter.

images/blog/2018-11-21-the-case-of-the-modern-workplace-remote-work-and-the-viability-of-physical-offices-in-a-connected-world/image2.jpg Team Rzeszów celebrating their office’s 1st birthday

There’s no one best solution for companies or employees out there. Some jobs with remote work will be lonely, and some companies with physical offices will find that their teams are frustrated. Luckily, these are mistakes that can be solved with good communication and a respectful attitude. If you find yourself facing these issues, talk to us! We might have advice for you.

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