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What is remote work?

“Working life isn’t 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick,” said Richard Branson, British entrepreneur and founder of Virgin. “Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” (Virgin)

In the 21st century, the phenomenon of remote work has taken the world by storm.  With countless employers around the world offering remote careers and work-from-home opportunities for freelancers, it may not be long before you find yourself reaping the benefits of this game-changing practice. 

But what is remote work?  What on Earth are digital nomads and microjobs, and how can you make this new trend work for you?  Here we’ll give you all the info you need to know about working from home and how you, too, can get a piece of the pie.

Remote Work, Defined

Simply put, remote work is any professional activity that you can do outside of a conventional workplace via the Internet.  The phrase is interchangeable with “working from home”, but contrary to what this term implies, many remote workers choose to set up shop in cafés and co-working spaces (more on these below), rather than their living rooms.  The terms “telecommuting” and “teleworking” are also used, but today they’re considered slightly dated.

More Popular Than Ever

The numbers don’t lie — in the digital age, remote work is in high demand.  Between 2018 and 2020, the percentage of Americans working from home at least some of the time soared from 3.6% to 29%, and of those still confined to an office, 47% would take a pay cut in order to be able to work remotely.  It is predicted that by 2028, 74% of all work teams will have remote workers.  Read up on more of these exciting trends and statistics here.

Not Just For Tech-Heads

There was a time when remote work was a luxury afforded only to the IT sector—Silicon Valley types with technical knowledge that put them miles ahead of the curve.  Today, more and more general business roles can be carried out partially or entirely from home.

If you’re a business professional looking to go remote, look no further than Mondjo, the premier job search site for remote careers.  Our directory of remote companies will help you find the perfect remote role in marketing, sales, HR, customer service and so much more.

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Who is a Remote Worker?

Working from home is not one-size-fits-all.  If you’re in the market for a remote job, consider the different types of contracts and work styles available to you. 

Partially Remote Employees

As employees’ appetite for remote work grows, many companies offer a minimum of one day a week working from home as an added perk.  Some workers spend most of their time outside of the office, but may be occasionally asked to come in for events such as meetings and presentations—as a result, these employees need to live relatively close to the head office.  This is an attractive arrangement for both parties, as it makes it easy to band teams together at short notice, while still offering many of the advantages of remote work.

Fully Remote Employees

If you’ve nabbed a role at one of the countless remote companies that depend on a globally distributed workforce, you might be working exclusively from home.  Many employers search for talent based half a world away from their headquarters, which means all communication and collaboration can take place digitally.  Your schedule will vary depending on the role you occupy in the company and the skills you offer.

In certain cases, you will be required to work a traditional 9-to-5, available to be contacted (whether by phone, e-mail or collaborative software) from the morning until close of business each day.  You will be expected to let your boss know when you’re taking a break, just as you would in an office.

Other employers may ask you to be online during specific hours of the day, meaning you work in shifts.  This is a common practice for customer support, marketing, and operations roles, and can be ideal if you are located in a different time zone to your company’s headquarters.

If you work in a creative role that revolves around delivering completed projects (such as copywriting or graphic design), it is more likely that your employer will simply have you work to regularly-set deadlines.  This means you do not have to be online during a set period every day—you can carry out your work at a time that suits you, as long as it gets done before the due date.

Freelancers

Many remote workers are not tied to one employer, but take on temporary contracts with various companies and individuals on an “as-needed” basis.  Freelancers can get involved with both short- and long-term projects, as many as they are able to juggle at one time.  Although the uncertainty associated with this style of remote work isn’t for anyone, many freelancers enjoy the variety it brings to their lives, as well as the flexibility to take breaks whenever it suits them.

Freelancing is a possibility for a vast array of professionals, from creative talent to software developers to marketing experts.  Thanks to the Internet, many jobs that were once restricted to a closed environment are now becoming available to remote freelancers, such as English teaching.  Working hours and flexibility may vary, but a surprisingly high number of platforms are available for native English speakers looking to make cash online by giving lessons to language learners all over the world via video calls.

Digital Nomads

Digital nomads are the definition of “working from anywhere”.  They take advantage of the independence of remote working by frequently travelling to new places while still on the daily grind.  Both freelancers and workers on permanent contracts can be digital nomads.  Keep in mind, this style of work requires meticulous planning and dedication, but if done right, it can turn your vocation into a vacation.

Microworkers

“Microjobs” are short-term, part-time jobs that you can do to supplement your income and grow your skill set.  Online microworking is the perfect alternative to getting a second job, as it’s non-committal and can be done from the comfort of your own home.  Virtual assistants, copywriters, translators, web researchers and many other professionals can find microjobs that fit their schedules.

Entrepreneurs

Not all remote workers are self-employed, but more and more entrepreneurs are deciding to build businesses around digital products and services.  Fitness instructors, language teachers, legal advisors and marketing coaches are among the many professionals who can create an online brand and work 100% remotely, saving big bucks on overhead fees and commuting.  Being self-employed means you’re beholden to no one except the client—you make your own hours and are free to travel and/or live as a digital nomad.  It’s a lot of responsibility, but can really pay off if you’re strategic and determined.

Co-Working Spaces

In recent years, you may have heard of “co-working spaces” popping up in your city, but aren’t sure exactly who or what these establishments are for.  Co-working spaces are there to provide remote professionals with a venue to work if staying at home isn’t ideal.  As a remote worker you can rent a desk (dedicated or shared) with potential access to a wide range of facilities, including printers, showers, stocked kitchens and sound-proofed phone booths.  Many remote workers prefer using these spaces to working from home because they need a quiet environment, reliable Internet access or simply the illusion of an office (without the downsides). 

The average monthly cost of a dedicated co-working space is $387 in the US, €245 in the Eurozone, and £200 in the United Kingdom (Smallbizgenius). These days, it isn’t hard to find a co-working space in most urban areas—check out The Commons in Australia, Regus in Europe and Industrious in the US.  WeWork, one of the biggest chains, has an astonishing number of locations worldwide.

The Benefits of Remote Work

There is practically no end to the benefits of working remotely.  Whatever your priority, you’re bound to find some advantage to remote work, whether it’s financial (online workers save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year (Irish Teach News)), emotional (working from home leads to higher job satisfaction (APA)), or health-related (remote work offers you more time to exercise and de-stress).  To find out more about the undeniable benefits of a remote career, click here.

The Challenges of Remote Work

Before committing yourself to working remotely, it’s important to examine not just the benefits, but the challenges.  Turning your bedroom or study into a virtual office can blur the line between your home life and your career, leading to heightened stress levels and decreased productivity.  Digital nomads face the challenge of not knowing where to settle down or call home, which can put pressure on their finances.  Thankfully, these problems have solutions—read our comprehensive guide to the challenges of remote work and how to tackle them here.


There you have it—a detailed answer to the question, “What is remote work?”, as well as everything you need to know about the different types of remote workers, remote work trends, and the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. 

Now that you’re in the know, it’s time to begin the hunt for your dream remote career.  Sign up to Mondjo today and get notified about the latest remote job openings in your industry!

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