Before the worldwide web, the standard of work was that most roles had to function at the business’ location. But by 1990, the federal government was already conducting studies on how telecommuting workers (now remote teams) operated. When most people think about what is remote work, it basically comes down to leaving the office to, you know, work. If you’re just starting out or want a refresh on how working remotely got started, this guide is for you and your team. Read on to learn all the facts behind what is remote work!
History of remote work
Remote work was originally called telecommuting in the ’80s, looking quite different compared to digital nomads today.
In 1973, the term “telecommuting” was coined by physicist and engineer Jack Nilles. Nilles researched the effects information technologies such as telephones could have on work. By teleworking, an individual could communicate with their team via phone, saving valuable time used to commute.
By 1990, most individuals had access to both a personal computer and the internet. This dramatically changed the ability to perform telework. And in effect, it was the true beginning of what we now call remote work. The main difference between working remotely and telecommuting was the possibility of working in-person. With telework, the need for in-person functions still was necessary from time to time. But with remote work, a true disconnect was created between a role’s function and the need for physicality.
When did remote work change?
By the early 2000s, something changed that truly revolutionized how remote work could be done: video and instant messaging. With the implementation of both, teams working remotely no longer required long conference calls. Everyone was an instant message away. Simultaneously, video created the ability to still have face-to-face conversations without crossing the gap of distance and time.
With both of these communication tools, Nilles’ work was confirmed that removing the commute of a workweek improved productivity. Teams could be located across farther distances while still operating at higher productivity levels. It also meant freedom from the traditional office space as we knew it.
💡 Pro-tip: what tools are needed for remote work have changed a little since telework began in the ’70s. To get a head start, check out our list of the best tools for working remotely. Our team did the hard work researching the best gear to become a power remote employee on day one.
What is remote work like today?
By 2010, technology had reached a point where any office role could be fulfilled remotely. This created some huge benefits for companies including:
- Access to a larger talent pool.
- Decreased operation costs associated with in-office.
- Improved team engagement.
For professionals, the benefits were just as great. Individuals were able to:
- Access more job opportunities outside their home areas.
- Work-life balance became more attainable than ever before.
- The ability to perform a role’s function from nearly anywhere the internet is accessible.
- Productivity and fulfillment within a role were greatly improved.
But not all of these benefits were enough to address the misconceptions of remote employment. What’s a remote worker supposed to do when they aren’t able to socialize around a water cooler or join happy hours? Loneliness, disengagement, miscommunication, and hindered productivity are all concerns of companies and leaders managing remote teams. While it’s true that these issues are valid, they can be avoided with proper planning.
If you are a team leader or business owner interested in ways to prevent mishaps from occurring, we have three guides that are perfect for you. As remote experts, our team built a standard of communication and project management systems to prevent friction from occurring. Check out our remote guides to learn:
- How leaders are managing remote teams.
- How to boost morale for teams working remotely.
- How to engage remote employees.
These guides can help you recognize your remote employee’s needs, how to engage them, and how to improve remote productivity. All without an office space required—you’ll be ready to go digital.
A recent study by MIT researchers analyzed 25,000 companies and professionals to see how remote work was being implemented. Their results found that nearly half of that group had transitioned or allowed for roles to be serviced remotely. That’s an impressive number signifying that remote work is fastly becoming the standard for companies and professionals.
We hope this helps you understand what is remote work, some ideas on how to start, and a little history of what's changed for remote teams in the last 30 years. For even more ideas on how to leverage online training with your team, chat with us! Our experts have developed hundreds of solutions to create scalable growth for businesses like your own.
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