On remote work as a separate category of work

Remote work (or ‘distributed’ work in academic parlance) is an increasingly popular way to work. The work-from-home movement has been growing, and remote workers report higher job satisfaction than office-based workers.

It’s interesting to me that remote jobs are often considered as a separate class of jobs. I sometimes talk to an employer who says something like ‘I could never have remote employees’ for a variety of reasons – trust, inability to look over their shoulder, need for in-person meetings, etc. I’m not going to discuss counter-arguments to those reasons right now.

However, I do want to dispute that remote work is a separate category of work. All jobs have remote aspects today. An email to a colleague in the next cubicle is a virtual interaction; the same kind of virtual interaction a remote worker has. Messages on the company Slack from the boss is the same in the office or remote.

An increasing percentage of interactions at work are virtual interactions; arguably making remote work more and more suitable for many job roles. The more interactions that move into the virtual world, the less excuses exist for not having remote employees.