Working remotely, also variously known as home-working, teleworking or telecommuting, describes the situation of undertaking paid work for an employer from your home using IT tools, a phone, etc. The technology required for remote working may have been with us for a number of years, but we have the Coronavirus pandemic to thank for helping employers understand how many roles can be effectively delivered by staff working away from the office base.
As well as working remotely for an employer, many people work from home – or a range of locations anywhere in the world – in a freelance capacity. These people are sometimes known as ‘digital nomads’, and while there are many points of overlap between remote working and work as a freelancer/digital nomad, the key difference is that of your status as an employee of a company and your contractual relationship with your employer. This page focuses primarily on working remotely for an employing organisation; for complementary tips on working in a freelance capacity see our briefing on Freelance and Portfolio Careers and the guidance on Working for Yourself.
Why students might consider working remotely
As the 2020 coronavirus pandemic demonstrated, working remotely may be required by your employer in extreme circumstances to facilitate continued working, but at other times, remote working can be an attractive option if you want to:
- avoid a daily commute
- have flexible work hours
- achieve a good work-life balance
- stay in your home region or country but secure work with a company based elsewhere
Alongside the factors above, which can have a considerable, positive impact on your (working) life, bear in mind that there are downsides to remote working too. Employees who began remote working in response to the recent pandemic have reported the following drawbacks to their work from home lives:
- Blurred lines between ‘work’ and ‘personal’ lives
- Physical disruption/space constraints for people without a dedicated office area
- Isolation from colleagues impacting mental health as well as team-working tasks
- Tech-induced stress as a result of long hours in front of a screen, plus the pressure of dealing with IT-related challenges on your own.
Whether remote working is right for you will depend on your home circumstances as much as your personality, and may therefore change over time. See the sections below for tips on minimising the more challenging aspects of remote working, and if you’re unsure if it will work for you, try listening to one of the podcasts listed in the Resources section.
Is remote working here to stay?
As the years of the pandemic have passed it has been demonstrated that many office-based jobs can indeed be performed very effectively by people working from home in multiple locations. It is valid to ask whether we can expect a more permanent shift to remote working for such roles. However, that question remains difficult to answer. During 2022, the ONS Opinions & Lifestyle Survey reports that the proportion of workers working at home and their normal place of work ( hybrid) has been increasing whilst those working exclusively from home has fallen. In the period between April and May 2022 14% of working adults worked from home exclusively while 24% both worked from home and travelled to work.
Some companies have already introduced new working policies which provide more flexibility on working from home, if not fully remote working. Insurance company Aviva committed to closing three office buildings and giving staff the choice of working from home or in one of its remaining offices once restrictions were lifted. Law firms have introduced policies which allow any member of staff to work between 40%-100% from home under new hybrid arrangements. Many companies – and individual workers – are as yet undecided on what the future will or ought to look like: expect changes ahead!
Whatever the balance, graduates are likely to be comparatively well-placed to be eligible for the kind of jobs which have the greatest potential to continue remotely. A November 2020 report by McKinsey identified the sectors with the highest potential for this mode of working to include finance and insurance; management, business services and information technology, all sectors which typically recruit degree holders. Roles which require physical proximity to service users or specialist equipment are likely to remain predominantly site-based, while other jobs which may on the surface appear suitable for home working may have limitations in terms of requirements such as security considerations.