Remote work has come a very long way. In previous years, remote work was widely seen as ‘not real work’. Then Covid-19 happened, and… well, you know the rest.
Even since the pandemic, our understanding of the positive impacts of remote work — both for tech professionals and companies—has evolved massively. Many of us are realizing that we’ve only just scratched the surface of remote work, and how to get the most out of it.
But what does remote work mean? And how is it different from working from home (sometimes shortened to WFH), or the increasingly-popular hybrid work model?
If you’re looking to transition into remote work, consider this your all-inclusive guide. In this blog post, we’ll take you through what remote work, WFH, and hybrid work means — as well as where to find remote jobs, and how to figure out if remote work is even right for you.
Here’s what we’ll cover (feel free to skip ahead if you see exactly what you’re looking for! ):
- What does remote work mean?
- Remote work vs WFH vs hybrid work model: advantages and disadvantages
- Is remote work right for you?
- How to find a remote job
- Best practices for remote work
- What does remote work mean? Final thoughts
Let’s dive in!
1. What does remote work mean?
These days, the term ‘remote work’ is everywhere. But what does remote work mean?
Remote work refers to any work that is performed outside of the company’s own dedicated office space, in a location of the workers choosing. Remote work can be done in a co-working space, at home, at a cafe—the list goes on. As long as your work can be performed without the need for in-person collaboration, remote work is usually an option—whether that’s in-house at a company, or as an independent freelancer.
When browsing through job descriptions, you might find that an increasing number of companies are describing themselves as remote-first. This means there is an office that employers can work in, but they’re not obligated to go. Some companies are also ‘fully remote’, which usually means there’s no company-owned office space or headquarters at all. Every employee—including the leadership and people teams—are working remotely.
Some companies might not be remote, but offer some remote working positions—or even remote teams. This is because some roles might require in-person collaboration, whereas others don’t. A job description might specify that the role is remote, but be sure to check the website before assuming the entire company is remote-first.
Remote work vs WFH vs hybrid work model meanings
With the rise of remote work, comes the rise of flexible working variations like working from home (WFH), or the hybrid work model. So what do these terms actually mean?
Remote work is often used interchangeably with WFH. While working from home can be part of remote working, the two terms don’t actually mean the same thing.
The key distinction here is that remote work can be performed from anywhere. Ever heard of the term ‘digital nomads’? There are some people who work and travel in tandem, taking their work on the road with them as they journey from country to country. Remote work is not location-specific, which is why so many remote-first companies have teams located all over the world.
On the other hand, working from home is, well, exactly that—but with the caveat that you may still be required to live in the city that your company is based in, in order to attend the occasional meeting in-person.
During the period of lockdowns, most of us experienced working from home as we were prohibited from moving around freely. Since then, working from home has become more of a personal choice, perhaps to reduce time spent commuting, or to gain a better work-life balance. Many people decide to work primarily from home because it suits their lifestyle.
So, what does the hybrid work model mean?
Generally speaking, hybrid working refers to a mix of both remote and in-person working.
These days, hybrid work has become an umbrella term for flexible working arrangements. For most companies, a hybrid work model means employees are allowed to work remotely some days, and are required in the office on specific days. How this looks day-to-day depends on the company, and is usually specified in the job description. This model is also known as ‘partially remote.’
Hybrid working has become a popular choice for many companies, who believe it allows employees the best of both worlds: the freedom and autonomy to choose where you work some days, and the chance to benefit from the office facilities and socialize with your colleagues on other days. It also allows the company to easily communicate big company decisions through in-person presentations and meetings.
2. Remote work vs WFH vs hybrid work model: advantages and disadvantages
In today’s working landscape, there’s a lot more autonomy over how you work. Faced with more choices, it’s important to have a sense of how you work best, so you can apply to companies that best suit your preferences. To help guide you, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of remote work vs WFH vs hybrid working.
Advantages of remote work
Freedom of movement
In the mood to go and pack up and jet off for a few days? You don’t necessarily have to use up any precious annual leave. As long as you have a stable internet connection, you can pretty much work from anywhere.
Variety in working location
Remote work doesn’t mean working in isolation. From cafes to co-working spaces, remote working means you can quickly switch-up your environment when you’re feeling demotivated or uninspired.
More autonomy over how you work
It’s not just where you work you’ll have control over, but also how you work. Whether you need complete silence, want to blast loud music, or break the day up differently to how you would in the office—you can work in the way you work best, without feeling like you have to ‘perform’ productivity.
Disadvantages of remote work
Lack of in-person face-time with colleagues
Having opportunities to talk socially with your colleagues is key for building a positive company culture, and it comes much more naturally in-person. While digital tools that facilitate remote collaboration have come a long way, there’s still a lot you can miss out on without being in the same physical space.
Risk of digital burnout
Over-reliance on remote tools can lead to serious digital burnout, which many tech professionals collectively experienced during the pandemic with ‘Zoom fatigue’. Without supplementing your online work with offline social interactions, you could find yourself in serious need of a digital detox.
Advantages of WFH
Better work-life balance
Whether it’s more time with your family, or managing a big life transition—working from home means you can maximize your time doing the things that really matter to you.
More money saved
Travel is getting increasingly more expensive, even to the office and back. Not only will working from home save money on travel costs, you’re also less likely to splurge on a grab ‘n go lunch and eat at home instead.
Depending on your home office setup, you might find that your productivity increases without so many office distractions. In the quiet comfort of your home office or living room, you can customize your space to maximize focused working.
Disadvantages of WFH
Blurred line between work and housework
While you might find you have fewer people around to distract you, housework can also be a distraction. Feeling like you have to clean between meetings, or do laundry on your lunch break, might make the line between work and home life more blurred than ever.
Isolation and boredom
You might find that WFH completely tanks your motivation and productivity levels—especially if your personality type is more extroverted. If you generally feed off other people’s energy, you could quickly become disengaged with the monotony of WFH.
Easy to overwork
When you’re not in a physical office space, and you don’t have to close your laptop and commute home, it’s all too easy to just…keep working. You might find yourself logging on earlier to get a head start, and working late to make your life easier the next day. Going above and beyond might not seem like a bad thing, but overworking can lead to burnout.
Advantages of the hybrid work model
More face time with your colleagues
Between important meetings, strategy sessions, and opportunities for socializing—being in-person allows for more team-building opportunities and faster decision-making processes.
More intuitive working
If your company’s hybrid work model offers optional in-person work, you only have to go into the office when you really feel like it. This way, you can work more intuitively—knowing you have somewhere to go when you’re craving socialization, without feeling pressured if you change your mind.
Access to office perks
Some offices have great office perks, like free food and drink, great equipment, or free lunches on set days. Having set days in the office means you can make the most of these amenities without dipping into your own supply.
Disadvantages of the hybrid work model
Work might feel disjointed
Some people enjoy having more variety throughout their working week. For others, having some in-person days and some remote days might make it hard to stick to a consistent daily routine, leaving you feeling disjointed.
Feeling out of sync with colleagues
In some hybrid work models, different teams or colleagues have different in-person days. Working in the office might also be optional, so you might still find yourself using remote working tools despite being in the office in order to connect with remote colleagues.
More money spent commuting
Commuting to the office and back, grabbing multiple coffees throughout the day, that ‘innocent’ grab ‘n go lunch, an after work drink with colleagues—it all adds up!
3. Is remote work right for you?
On paper, remote work might seem like a great fit. Less commuting, better work-life balance, more autonomy—what’s not to love?
In reality, it isn’t for everyone. Some people have fallen head over heels for remote work, and others find it significantly stunts their ability to be happy and productive in their role.
Before we explore how you can figure out if remote work is right for you, you might be interested in this video. We spoke to some tech employees who are working in either a remote setting or hybrid set-up, to find out what they consider the biggest benefits of remote work are, what challenges it presents, and understand how working remotely has impacted their professional lives:
So before you commit to a remote work position like the career-changers in the video, it’s important to understand whether this type of work is the right fit for you. Here are three key factors to consider when exploring remote work:
There’s no research to back that a certain type of person might work better remotely over another type of person. But how you’ll fare with remote work does depend heavily on who you are, and how you work best.
Remote work requires an increased level of self-discipline, as you’ll need to rely solely on yourself to get the work done without being too easily distracted. Without your colleagues around you, you’ll also need to be comfortable with autonomous (and maybe even asynchronous) working.
If you find you’re able to focus better without being distracted by others, you’ll likely thrive doing remote work. If you relish grabbing lunch with your colleagues, and feel energized by in-person collaboration, you might prefer an in-office or hybrid work setup.
Your remote work setup
Where you work has a huge impact on your productivity, and how positively you relate to remote work. For this, you’ll need to reflect on whether you’ll be changing your working environment regularly, or creating a remote work setup at home. If you crave a regular change of scenery, remote work might be right for you. You’ll have full autonomy over where you work, and have the option to change your working environment as and when you please.
On the other hand, if you don’t have somewhere quiet or appropriate to get your work done efficiently, you might benefit from having a dedicated office space to go to—which might make hybrid working a better fit.
Your company’s culture
How much a company has invested into creating a remote-first culture will impact your remote working experience, and the friction (or fatigue) you experience as a remote employee. Some remote-first or hybrid companies have done a lot of work to build remote working cultures. This means they’ve invested in best-in-class remote tools to facilitate remote collaboration, as well as additional tools and meetups that mean you don’t miss out on opportunities to socialize with your colleagues when working remotely.
Many companies also offer stipends for remote perks, like being able to kit your home out with software or ordering food. Some companies also fund annual company meetups and trips, which mean you’ll still get a chance to meet your colleagues in person. Make sure you research the company’s culture to understand how well you’ll be supported as a remote employee.
One example of a great remote culture is Berlin-based tech program provider CareerFoundry. In addition to remote-first work, CareerFoundry offers flexible working hours, a generous work-from-abroad policy of up to six months per year, and 30 days vacation a year. They’re also trialing a reduced hours work week, with every Friday afternoon off.
4. How to find a remote job
Once you’ve established remote work is right for you, the only thing left to do is find a fulfilling remote job. The good news? Finding a remote job has never been so easy.
Let’s take a look at three practical tips for finding a remote job.
Find out which remote companies are hiring
If you’re new to tech, it’s a good idea to get a sense of which companies are hiring remote workers in your field. Luckily, you’re spoilt for choice. Now, in 2024, an increasing number of tech companies have either gone fully remote, or allow for flexible remote working. Deel, Hopin, Atlassian, Hubspot, and CareerFoundry are all examples of some of the best remote-first companies you should follow to stay in the loop of any openings.
Explore remote job boards
These days, most job boards are inundated with remote work positions. Popular career sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed feature specific ‘remote’ filters where you can browse through remote jobs in your area. On LinkedIn, you can also make yourself ‘open to work’ to recruiters, and specify using the filters that you’re open to remote work specifically.
What’s more, there’s no shortage of job boards specifically for remote work, like JustRemote, We Work Remotely and Remote.co.
Market yourself as a remote worker
When hiring for remote positions, recruiters don’t just want to know that you’re comfortable with remote work; they want to know you thrive in remote settings.
One of the best ways to market yourself as a remote worker is to familiarize yourself with industry-standard remote tools, like Slack, Salesforce, Miro, Jira, and Asana. Listing remote-friendly tools and skills in your tech resumé will signal to recruiters that hiring you would make for a seamless remote onboarding process.
5. Best practices for remote work
From the outside, the transition into remote work might seem like an easy one, but in reality it can take some time to adjust. You might find yourself experimenting and optimizing how you work remotely before you really settle into it.
To help you get the most out of remote work, we’ve outlined some tried-and-tested best practices.
Build a routine
You might have opted for remote work because you’re craving more variety in your working week, but you can still benefit from creating a working routine. This could mean waking up at the same time each morning, maintaining regular working hours, and incorporating exercise and fresh air into your working day.
Start by building healthy and productive daily habits, and you’ll soon find that you’re able to get into a ‘working flow’ no matter where you (and your laptop) are.
Optimize your setup
Many people choose to invest in state-of-the-art tech to help them get the most out of their remote work setup. While we’re not suggesting you necessarily need all the latest tech in order to do your job, it’s worth making a list of some of the hardware, tools, furniture, or accessories that would make you more productive when working remotely.
Maybe it’s a pair of noise-canceling headphones for working in a cafe, or perhaps it’s more plants so you feel more relaxed when working from home. If what you need is within reason, your company may well have the budget in place to buy it for you.
Have a separate work space
Many remote workers choose to work outside of their home; whether that’s traveling around the world, or simply working from various co-working spaces. But on those occasions when you do have to work from home, it’s good to get into the habit of ‘zoning’ your home so your work space and living space feel separate. Not everyone has the luxury of a home office, but even creating a dedicated working corner or desk in a multi-functional room is better than nothing.
Mix it up
Autonomy over where (and how) you work is one of the perks of remote work—so be sure to make the most of it! While it is important to build a daily routine, that’s not to say you can’t give yourself things to look forward to. If you’ve been WFH for a few days, why not venture into a co-working space and socialize with new people? You could also plan a few ‘working holidays’ that give you a sufficient change of scene. Adding variety into your working week will help you avoid stagnation, and remind you of why you were drawn to remote work in the first place.
Prioritize mental health
An important pillar of remote work is knowing when to close your laptop and take a proper break. Many people feel that working remotely somehow means they should be more productive than they would be in an office. But this mindset can quickly lead to digital burnout. You shouldn’t feel guilty for taking your breaks in full, or asking for time off. Make sure you’re actively working towards your optimal work-life balance, and building proper down-time into your working week.
6. What does remote work mean? Final thoughts
In this blog post, we answered the question: what does remote work mean? We compared remote work to working from home and the hybrid work model. In today’s working world, we have more autonomy than ever. More and more companies are realizing that flexible working arrangements means every employee can create their perfect work-life balance, and work effectively and productively in a way that suits them.
The remote work trend is a relatively new one, and there’s still so much innovation and development to take place around optimizing remote working. New remote work tools are cropping up everywhere you look, and there’s an increasing amount of research into the positive impacts of flexible and remote working. Truly, there’s never been a better time to join the remote work revolution—as long as it’s right for you!