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paragraph icon What is a Remote Job?

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic a few years ago, more and more companies have begun allowing employees to work remotely. As many as 37.5% of companies have increased their remote working allowances since 2020 – and 56.8% of teams now work remotely at least some of the time.

So what does it actually mean to work remotely? Whether you’ve heard these jobs called “at-home work,” “telecommuting,” or “virtual careers,” many people are now enjoying some level of work-from-home benefits in their careers. Remote jobs are ones that allow you to complete your work from an environment outside of the traditional office.

While the current work-from-home craze was spurred by the pandemic, remote work has actually been possible for a long time. It’s only now, however, becoming more mainstream. The mentality behind remote work is that many job-related tasks do not need to be done in a traditional office environment in order to be successful.

Additionally, a work-from-home component is becoming an attractive benefit for many companies when it comes to attracting and retaining talented employees. Here’s the thing: People who are able to work remotely feel overwhelmingly positive about it. As many as 97% of remote workers want to work remotely in some capacity for the rest of their careers.

With this in mind, many companies are shifting their models in order to allow for remote work. In one survey on remote work with just over 2,000 respondents, 72% of people reported that their employers had plans to allow some form of remote work going forward.

It’s important to note, however, that remote work means different things at every company. While some companies are fully remote and allow employees to work from anywhere, those businesses are in the minority – most remote work opportunities today involve some location requirements and many of them offer hybrid in-person and remote schedules.

A common misconception about remote work is that “work from home” means “work from anywhere.” That’s actually not the case. About 95% of remote job listings necessitate that employees are based in a certain location. In other words, only 5% of remote work positions are true “work from anywhere” careers. You’re probably wondering why this is.

There are numerous reasons why an employer might require remote workers to be based in a certain location (whether that’s a state, a region, a country, or a time zone). Employers have to consider factors like tax issues, travel requirements, availability for on-site trainings or meetings, professional licensing, and proximity to clients when they are deciding where to allow their employees to work.

For instance, an employer that is based in Maryland but looking at an applicant in California may have to pay additional fees in order to add that person to their payroll and withhold the appropriate taxes. Plus, since many employers are now encouraging (or requiring) employees to come into the office on some occasions, it’s helpful to hire people who live close by.

In general, there are four categories of remote jobs when it comes to location requirements:

  1. U.S.-based jobs can typically be done from anywhere within the country and are often fully remote or require only monthly or quarterly visits to the office. 
  2. Country-specific jobs are based internationally but must be completed from within the country in question. 
  3. City- or state-based jobs require employees to be located in a specific area of the U.S. (for example, you might have to work from the greater Boston area, the state of New York, or the Southwest region of the country). 
  4. Work-from-anywhere jobs are those select few positions that can actually be completed from anywhere in the world, with no location restrictions. These jobs are typically fully remote and offer flexible hours.

If you’re looking to live the life of a digital nomad, taking your work with you anywhere you go, it’s important to check the compliance rules that apply to a potential employer. Even jobs that don’t require you to go into the office may still necessitate that you live in and work from a certain area in order to meet licensure standards, tax requirements, and other considerations.

It's also crucial that for every location an employee relocates to, that the employee has a valid work visa or digital nomad visa permitting them to work in that location.

Jobs that are billed as “remote” might not actually be fully remote 100% of the time. It’s important to understand the different classifications of remote jobs so that you know what you’re signing up for ahead of time. 

1. Fully remote

Jobs that are fully remote allow you to work from home all of the time. These jobs do not include any in-office time or regular travel expectations. Of course, they may still have location requirements in terms of where you can conduct your remote work. 

2. Hybrid 

Jobs that are classified as hybrid usually involve some work-from-home time and some time working in the office or traveling. For example, a hybrid job might ask you to spend two days per week in the office and allow you to spend the other three days working from home. Other hybrid schedules could include week-on-week-off schedules or half-days in the office. 

3. Remote-friendly 

Some jobs are described as “remote-friendly,” a term that implies the job allows for remote work but with restrictions. These jobs typically expect employees to be working in the office most of the time, but allow for some flexibility to support remote work. For instance, you may be able to work from home if you’re sick or traveling.

Most office jobs can be done at least partly remotely, but there are certain fields in which remote work is especially popular. Areas like IT support, software development, marketing, and sales are just a few of the job types that are seeing lots of remote growth.

So why are these fields seeing especially high rates of remote work? Well, any professional who is able to do their job through the use of technology may be able to thrive with a remote work schedule. Let’s take a look at the software development example: developers are typically able to do their jobs well as long as they have access to the computer. You don’t need to be in the office for that!

Likewise, new technological advancements have allowed IT professionals to work outside the office. Remote management tools and project management systems have allowed IT departments to efficiently and effectively manage off-site ticketing.

The marketing and sales fields have also shifted more and more toward digital tools, including SaaS (software as a service) products like automated CRM (customer relationship management) tools and internet-based marketing and design products. These tools have allowed marketers and salespeople to perform strongly while working from home.

Many different careers and industries now offer at least some work-from-home components to their jobs. No matter what field you’re in, there are likely opportunities out there. And when it comes to working remotely, most employees see a host of attractive benefits.

The biggest benefit of remote work cited by employees was flexibility: to live where you choose, to decide how to spend your time, and to maximize your career options. When employees have flexible schedules, they can work during their most productive times of day.

This is an especially attractive benefit for parents, who often use their remote job flexibility to spend more time with their children and attend their activities when possible. Of the surveyed working parents, 76% said they appreciated the flexibility of remote work for that very reason. People with chronic illnesses also benefited from this flexibility.

Many people additionally mentioned saving time as a benefit of remote work. By getting rid of the typical morning and evening commute, some employees are able to gain back hours of their days that would have been spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Remote workers tended to see better health and wellness – including mental health. Plus, some reported finding a renewed passion for their job that they found when they were able to select their own working environment, filtering out distractions as they desired.

There are also benefits to promoting remote work from an employer’s point of view. While some people question the productivity of remote employees, two-thirds of managers who oversaw work from remote employees reported higher levels of productivity. In addition to the productivity and efficiency factor, companies may also save money by allowing remote work.

If a business doesn’t need an office space – or can downsize from an existing one – they can save on overhead incurred from costs like rent or office furniture. If employees are only coming in some days out of the week, they may not need as much space or amenities in the office as they once had.

In addition, businesses that offer remote schedules (whether 100% remote, hybrid, or remote-friendly) often have an easier time finding and retaining employees. Some degree of opportunity to work remotely is becoming an in-demand feature on job postings, and many employees prefer to work somewhere that has some level of flexibility.

Of course, there is a flip side to this coin. Remote work offers many attractive businesses, but it can come with a few important downsides as well. The two most commonly reported struggles that remote workers faced were not being able to “unplug” from work and feeling lonely.

Some people struggle with transitioning out of the mindset of work at the end of the day. This can be especially challenging when your work life and your home life take place in the same location – in this case, your own home. It can be difficult to separate your day in terms of work time and non-work time when your desk and your computer are always available.

In terms of social struggles, making friends at an in-person job can be much easier than building friendships through a screen. The proximity factor isn’t going to do much for you, and there won’t be any water cooler banter to get you through the day. While it can be more challenging to foster interpersonal connections with your coworkers, some companies are clustering employees around urban hubs in order to foster out-of-work socialization.

For any companies introducing remote work, it is crucial that the company consider the best way to introduce a strong remote work culture to mitigate some of these potential downsides. 

Whether or not a remote job is right for you depends on your own personal preferences as well as your financial and lifestyle priorities. If you want or need a flexible schedule and highly value the freedom of working in your own home, looking into a remote job may be the right move. Remote work comes with plenty of benefits, including boosts to your mental health and saving time that you would have spent commuting.

For many individuals, remote jobs offer much-needed flexibility that’s needed to juggle the various other responsibilities of adult life. There are some cases, however, in which a remote job may not be the right fit.

If you’re especially prone to loneliness or highly value the in-person social interactions that take place each day in a traditional office environment, you may prefer an in-person position. You also might enjoy traveling to a physical location if you have trouble unplugging from the demands of work each night. 

The right job for you all depends on what you want to prioritize. Remote work certainly allows for plenty of flexibility, but it can have disadvantages too, depending on your preferences and your priorities.