By Michelle Ricker March 30, 2021
Summary: It’s safe to say some version of remote work is here to stay. Learn about the ups (geographic freedom, cost savings), the downs (struggles with work-life balance), and just how important secure, high-speed internet is when designing your office and work-from-home structure. Get ready to enjoy the remote work life.
While remote work was already gaining traction, it rapidly became more widespread than ever in early 2020. That massive spike was largely short-lived, but it points to long-term changes in the work landscape. In fact, 36.2 million Americans are predicted to be working remotely by 2025 — an 87 percent increase from 2020. In other words, nearly a quarter of the American workforce will be at least partially remote in 2025.
When workplaces pivoted to be remote, productivity may have briefly dipped as employees adjusted to new programs, high-speed internet connections were taxed, and employers were faced with the task of securely sharing files. However, after the early hurdles were conquered, remote work has led to increases in overall employee satisfaction and production.
Some sectors and roles simply cannot do their job remotely, while others have been encouraging remote employment for years. But, going forward, it’s more and more likely that many employees will split their time between working in the office and working remotely.
After the early hurdles were conquered, remote work has led to increases in overall employee satisfaction and production.
What exactly that split will look like is still unclear. Around the globe, 38 percent of corporate executives expect remote employees to permanently continue working from home one to two days, while only 19 percent expect employees to work remotely three or more days a week.
What is clear is that a reliable high-speed internet connection will always be a critical component of your home office. (To be fair, investing in an ergonomic chair probably doesn’t hurt, either.) Once you understand how you benefit from remote work, what challenges to look out for, and what you need to make your home office work for you, you’re more likely to enjoy your space.
While Stanford has assured us that Zoom-fatigue is a real thing, employees who prefer remote work cite a variety of reasons for their preference including better work-life balance, less stress, and avoiding a grinding commute. On the whole, remote working often allows employees to set a schedule that better meets their needs — particularly important for those who are also caretakers.
Remote work also allows employees more freedom in choosing where they live. Whether it’s in a completely different city or just deeper into the suburbs, the reduction in — or complete elimination of — commuting offers geographical freedom. Employers can also reap the benefit of a wider candidate pool that’s not restricted by geography.
Going to the office less means savings on gas money, car maintenance, or any other transportation costs. It could also mean reducing the budget for a professional wardrobe and eating meals out less often. According to FlexJobs, people who work from home just half the time can save up to $4,000 per year.
It’s not just employees that save money when it comes to teleworking. Employees who work from home at least part of the time save their company close to $11,000 each year thanks to a reduction in overhead, real estate costs, and subsidized transportation. Companies can also take advantage of smaller office spaces if every employee doesn’t need a desk at the same time.
While managers aren’t able to oversee their remote workers in the same way, a two-year study by Stanford University found that remote workers were measurably more productive, had fewer sick days, and were less likely to leave the company compared to traditional, in-office workers.
Working remotely — whether part or all of the time — does bring its own challenges. While most workers are happy to leave their commute behind, that removes a psychological (and physical) barrier between work and home life. For some, this loss means more difficulty balancing work and life, a problem which can be at least partially helped through creating a dedicated workspace and enforcing boundaries.
And, while the option to work remotely means you’re less tied to the city the office is in, great internet access is still an essential factor in getting things done. In remote areas, access to broadband internet is often limited. Fixed wireless may help employees only working remotely once a week, or who just need a quick boost to their current internet. But for jobs that require high amounts of data to be sent and received or households with multiple people who need a connection, high-speed internet with no data caps is a must.
While workers may be more productive at home — especially for “heads-down” tasks that are better accomplished with no interruptions — there can be a loss in coworker bonding and company culture. For businesses, this may mean an increased effort toward company culture events throughout the year. For employees, it could mean starting video calls with small talk, much like you would in a face-to-face meeting, rather than strictly accomplishing business. This added effort may be deemed a worthwhile trade for a reduction in employee attrition and a wider candidate pool for open positions.
While remote workers often have the option of heading to a coffee shop, library, or other coworking space for internet access, it’s not always an ideal solution. Beyond general strategies for remote work productivity, employees will require secure internet access. As the infrastructure for cable internet is replaced by fiber internet, connections will become more reliable and less prone to disruptions. Fully remote and looking to relocate? Choose a city with widespread fiber internet access and leave lagging connections behind for good.
If your job has you handling confidential data or you need a central file-sharing location, a virtual private network, or VPN, is a good investment. A VPN encrypts your information to make it private, then sends it through a secure server. It makes you more anonymous online, but it can take extra time. Unless you already have internet connection problems, implementing a VPN likely won’t disrupt your workflow.
If you’re often videoconferencing or sending large files, be sure to keep an eye on your internet data caps. Data caps are a restriction on how much information you can send and receive during a billing cycle. If you reach your limit, your internet service provider might bill you for a fine or you could experience speed throttling. Sound frustrating? We think so, too. That’s why EarthLink has no internet data caps, no matter what. Our high-speed internet is a great addition to your home office — whatever that looks like.
Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.
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