Remote and flexible working are hot topics, dominating the headlines on an increasingly frequent basis. From MP Helen Whately’s Bill to make flexible work the default (which so far hasn’t progressed) to a report declaring 74% of staff are willing to quit their job to work for a company that lets them work remotely, flexible and remote working are becoming mainstays in the business world.
And embracing remote and flexible work is easier now than ever, thanks to advances in digital workplace technology such as internal social media, cloud document storage, video conferencing, and collaboration tools.
But do we know exactly what remote and flexible work mean in real terms?
“Flexible” and “remote” working are often used interchangeably, but in fact they don’t mean the same thing. It’s important to understand the differences between flexible and remote working, so that your business can make an informed decision about which option works best for you and your staff. Let’s take a look at them:
What is flexible working?
Flexible working is an umbrella term for describing any working arrangements that differ from traditional working patterns. Here are a few examples of flexible working:
- Working part-time
- Working from home
- Flexi-time (starting and finishing work at different times around core business hours)
- Compressed hours (full-time hours spread over fewer working days)
Under UK law, employees who have worked for a company for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working.
There are a number of reasons why a member of staff will request flexible working arrangements. A study by Timewise, which looked at flexible working demands, found 57% cited a better work/life balance as being the main driver behind wanting to work flexibly. 29% wanted to work flexibly to accommodate their caring responsibilities, and 14% said it allowed them to work around their health or disability.
29% of people surveyed want to work flexibly to accommodate their caring responsibilities
What is remote working?
Remote working is a type of flexible working. Although traditionally used to describe working from home, these days remote working has evolved to mean working from anywhere. Remote working examples include:
- Working from home
- Working from a café/coffee shop/library
- Working from a co-working space/shared office like WeWork
- Working whilst travelling
Some companies have embraced 100% remote and done away with offices altogether, such as tech companies GitLab and Zapier. The latter even encourages staff to work whilst they travel; Fran Vieux, a customer champion at Zapier, lives, works, and travels on the road with her partner and dog.
That said, the most popular working location of choice is home. Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2019 report found 84% of remote workers primarily work from home, up from 78% the previous year.
According to a report by Zapier, the most popular reasons for working remotely include saving money, spending more time with family, and to improve mental health. The same report found that 95% of people want to work remotely, but 31% of those are currently employed by companies that don’t allow it.
84% of remote workers like to work from home, but others like to work from cafés, co-working spaces, or on the road
Why both are important
Flexible and remote working both share the same principles; they fulfil the rising employee demand for work that fits around life, rather than the other way round.
Staff who work flexibly and remotely are happier, healthier, more productive, and less stressed. And it’s not just the employees who reap the rewards – businesses benefit from remote and flexible working too. Companies who have got it right have seen a rise in performance and productivity, better employee retention, and a wider network of talent acquisition opportunities.