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The Appeal and Reality of Remote Work

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There is and always will be a power disparity between employee and employer. The employer sets the pay, the schedule, the time frame, and the tone of the workplace. Of course, this is the price one pays for working under someone. After all, the opportunity would not exist without that employer.

Even still, employees strive for and appreciate changes which can reduce the power disparity. Remote work has become one of those changes. Remote work was brought into the public eye by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a near necessity for countless industries if they wanted to keep their employees safe. Zoom and other digital services also saw rapid growth and development during this time.

Although this popularity has not lasted. In 2020, during the prime of the pandemic, 35% of people were working primarily from home. Today, in 2023, that number has dropped to 12.7%. The reason behind this is more complicated than one would think. This is illuminated by the fact that 98% of people want to work remotely, at least some of the time.

If remote work is so popular in public perception, why is it disappearing so quickly within reality? The answer to this question is complicated, although it mainly goes back to the disparity between employers and employees. Employees appreciate all that remote work offers to them as individuals. Remote work means no commute which means no gas or transportation fees, more free time, and more freedom.

These changes have very positive appeals to employees. Although of course, remote work doesn’t bring positives alone. For employees, there are risks around social interaction. Remote workers interact less with their peers and employers alike, and when they do, miscommunication is common. Overall though, as seen by the popularity of remote work, the positives outweigh the negatives. 

For employers, remote work is brought under much more scrutiny. Remote work means employees are setting more of their schedule and are operating under less supervision. While employees may believe this increases their productivity, employers do not agree. In terms of reality, the results are complex.

On some scales, remote work has been found to be overwhelmingly positive. Employees working remotely are more likely to show up, and less likely to turnover. This follows from employee’s positive reception to remote work. If the job is worked remotely, employees are more likely to want to work. 

Although on other scales the reality of remote work is much harder to grasp. The central issue to employers tends to be productivity. Are workers who are working remotely more or less productive? The results are not clear. Some studies have found that productivity is increased, at times by massive margins. Yet others have found the exact opposite. 

The reality likely lies somewhere in the middle. Remote work, at the end of the day, is not being applied the same way across industries. For an industry built on utilizing technology, remote work will work better than one built on social communication. Information technology, for example, has 67% of employees working remotely. While wholesale trade only has 39% working remotely.

 Another issue is how specific employers incorporate remote work. Employees working remotely and physically ultimately cannot be treated the same. They require different types and levels of supervision, support, and instruction. For older and more old-fashioned employers this can present a big issue. The incorporation of remote work takes flexibility and understanding, which not all employers possess.

This is the reality of remote work today. It’s complex. The appeals are obvious, at least to employees. Yet where and how it can be effectively used is an infinitely more complex topic to breach. Still, it’s worth talking about the changes that are being made to make remote work a more approachable solution.

The central issue is productivity, so these efforts are attempts at increasing productivity. The first change is the incorporation of connectivity platforms. Remote work creates weak communication, connectivity platforms are an exact attempt at correcting this. These platforms can help employees stay in touch and allow employers to more adequately supervise. 

The second change is better cybersecurity. A smaller but real concern for many employers is the risk associated with remote work. Cyberattacks are becoming more common and accessible everyday, so cybersecurity must evolve to match these attacks. And the final change is AI-powered scheduling software. Employers want to maintain control of what their employees are doing. Yet many employers don’t really know what’s best for their employees’ productivity.

AI-powered scheduling software fixes this issue by taking it out of the employers and employees hands. The schedule chosen is what’s most practical for the employee to work efficiently. This also increases the efficiency of remote workers, helping to alleviate this central concern of employers. Of course these are small changes, but this is because the larger solution is simple education.

Remote work, at the end of the day, is a tool. It can be positive, it can be negative, it all depends on how it’s used. This tool has been decreasing in popularity, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place in society today. The challenge will ultimately be figuring out exactly where it fits in, and allowing that place to change alongside society.

About the author


Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast.  Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.