6 Types of Remote Work Arrangements for the Modern Workforce

6 Types of Remote Work Arrangements for the Modern Workforce
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COVID-19 accelerated existing business trends, forcing organizations to fast-track initiatives that previously seemed doomed to the “we’ll get to that later” pile. One trend that roared to the forefront is remote work. This flexible way of working is so widespread that it transformed the office from a required element of business into an optional tool for workers.

According to Tsedal Neeley, Harvard professor and virtual work expert, the world of work has changed so profoundly that organizations should see the workplace as a tool workers use to facilitate their success, just as they would use technological tools such as email and video conferencing.

Used as a tool, the office may not be a place workers must commute to every day. The office becomes a place where people go to socialize, hold meetings, solve problems, and carve out quiet spaces for deep focus.

Both organizations and employees support this workplace transition. Labor market studies show that nearly half (48%) of organizations will continue to have some form of remote work in the near future.

Remote Work Trends

And multiple surveys show that when offices safely fill up with life again, the majority of employees want the flexibility of working at least a few days a week from home. Employees value remote work so much that if forced back into the office full-time:

  • 51% of UK workers say they would quit
  • 39% of US workers say they would quit
  • 49% of US millennials and Gen Z say they would quit

So, how should remote work look for you?

The “best” remote solution for your organization is one that’s developed through exploring possibilities, challenging assumptions, and experimenting with different models. Then repeating the cycle again and again so that your model adapts to changing talent demands and the business environment. You can get an example of this process by downloading the free white paper, The Grand Redesign.

There are 6 types of remote work options ranging from 100% remote to not remote at all. We’ll briefly describe each and their advantages and disadvantages.

6 types of remote work design options

  1. Remote-first. Working 100% of the time is supported
  2. Remote-friendly. To attain and retain top talent, a company may allow select roles to be 100% remote
  3. Remote by role. Employees, based on their level of experience, geographic location, or job function, can work remotely part- or full-time
  4. Remote by day. Employees may work specified days remotely, such as every Friday
  5. Remote for now. Current remote policies may change as people become comfortable with public gatherings
  6. On-site first. Everyone works in the office 100% of the time

1. Remote-first

Remote-first is the ultimate in remote work in that everyone, including the CEO, has the opportunity to work remotely 100% of the time. Although employees aren’t required to report to a central office daily, you may want to keep some office space open. Or you may want to provide a subscription to coworking spaces such as Impact Hub, WeWork, and Regus. Doing so gives employees the option of a productive space to work quietly and meet in person.

Pros

  • Reduce overhead by shrinking or eliminating office space and hiring people in cities with a lower cost of living
  • Expand talent pools since you’re no longer geographically limited to where you search for talent
  • Increase innovation and diversity with greater opportunities to hire people with different backgrounds and experiences
  • Level the playing field for employees who did not feel included when they worked on-site


Cons

  • More work for HR, as they must keep up with different payroll and employment laws for the locations where each person works
  • Managers must work harder to maintain team trust, unity, and collaboration
  • Requires more effort to maintain company culture as your workforce expands

2. Remote-friendly

Remote-friendly organizations expect employees to work in the office daily, but business leaders are willing to make exceptions. This tactic is usually used to obtain top talent who will only work remotely. It’s also used to retain valuable employees who may threaten to leave if not given a remote option.

Pros

  • Retain top talent
  • Hire people you couldn’t win over otherwise

Cons

  • May increase discontent among other employees who want a remote option
  • Teams must adapt processes and mindsets to maintain collaboration and communication
  • Must have the appropriate technology and practices in place to maintain productivity and security
  • Remote employees may feel excluded and have fewer opportunities for advancement

3. Remote by role

This model may apply to entire teams or individuals based on their level of experience, geographic location, or job function. For example, you could structure the entire customer service team as remote roles. Or offer the option to all employees at the director level and above.

Pros

  • Reduce overhead costs with fewer people in the office and smaller spaces
  • Save on payroll costs as you can hire people outside of expensive city centers
  • Retain experienced employees

Cons

  • On-site employees may feel remote employees have an unfair privilege
  • Employees must learn to collaborate with or manage remote team members
  • Remote employees may feel excluded
  • Must invest in technology to maintain productivity and security

4. Remote by day

Executing a remote-by-day approach can be tricky. Some organizations experiment with having an entire office working specified days remotely. This may be every Monday and Tuesday, or every other Friday. Some organizations divide remote by group so that an office isn’t completely empty. They may have some people work remotely every Monday, another group work remotely every Tuesday, and so on.

Pros

  • Provides remote work flexibility to all employees
  • May help with employee retention

Cons

  • Can disrupt workflows and productivity as some team members may be remote while others are on-site
  • Employees must learn to collaborate with or manage remote team members
  • Does not expand talent pool
  • No overhead cost savings
  • Must have technology and processes in place to maintain productivity and security

5. Remote for now

When the coronavirus became a pandemic in early 2020, organizations transitioned as many employees as possible to work from home. The understanding was, we’ll do this for now, then return back to normal when it’s safe.

Pros

  • Maintain business continuity through disruption
  • Keep employees healthy and safe

Cons

  • May increase employee attrition as work returns to the office because employees have adjusted their lives around remote work
  • Does not expand talent pool
  • No cost savings as you’re planning to return to the same office footprint
  • Takes careful planning to transition the workforce and operations fully back on-site

6. On-site first

This is the traditional everyone-must-report-to-their-desks-every-day model that’s been the norm for generations. Some organizations may prefer on-site first out of habit or belief. Some don’t have a choice because their work can’t be done remotely, such as first responders, warehouse workers, mechanics, and cashiers.

Pros

  • May strengthen company culture and team cohesion
  • Managers can observe team members to address potential problems early on

Cons

  • May raise turnover rates as employees seek jobs with greater flexibility
  • Increases overhead and office space needs as teams expand
  • Limits talent diversity
  • Does not improve the situation for people who don’t feel a sense of inclusion and belonging
  • Talent pools remain limited

Why you need a remote solution now

Many organizations are doing the bare minimum around remote work as they wait to see how the trend will play out over the next few years. Neeley believes that’s a mistake. She thinks technology is going to further disrupt how companies work, and it’ll happen soon. So, the changes you make now are preparing you for what’s ahead.

Yes, setting your organization up for the future takes time, tools, and new skill sets. But you don’t have to do it all yourself. You can access the experts you need on demand.

Through Upwork, you can find experts for shoring up your tech to upskilling team members to succeed in a remote work world. Not only have these independent professionals helped other organizations; they’re also remote workers themselves. So, they may offer best practices that better meet the needs of your organization and workforce. Browse the experts available now.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Author Spotlight

6 Types of Remote Work Arrangements for the Modern Workforce
Brenda Do
Copywriter

Brenda Do is a direct-response copywriter who loves to create content that helps businesses engage their target audience—whether that’s through enticing packaging copy to a painstakingly researched thought leadership piece. Brenda is the author of "It's Okay Not to Know"—a book helping kids grow up confident and compassionate.

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