The digital revolution of the internet, smartphones, video chat, and social media has been so dramatic because its technologies are accessible to almost everyone.
According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans own a smartphone, 73% have a desktop or laptop computer, and 53% have a tablet device. These are now everyday technologies used by everyday people, every day. In fact, a quarter of the population describes their internet use as almost constant.
These devices are attractive because they fit in with the way we live our lives. They don’t require much specific learning, and they don’t make any great demands on us.
The same affinity with technology is beginning to affect the way we work. And it’s affecting where we work. Telecommuting and working remotely continue to grow in popularity, and it isn’t just for people who work in the technology sector.
The most common telecommuting jobs are the same jobs that have populated the workforce for years. Just like smartphones and iPads, telecommuting is for everyone, no matter their occupation.
The Most Common Telecommuting Jobs
Job service site Flexjobs recently published a list of the most common jobs in its remote work database. In no particular order, the top 14 most common positions included:
- Account manager
- Client services director
- Software developer
- Speech pathologist
There’s no common thread to those positions, and–software developer aside–no strong link to digital or computer technologies. There’s no doubt the duties of a remote nurse, teacher, or speech pathologist are different than those they’d perform in an onsite role, but there’s no reason to think that the candidates that’ll eventually fill the job had to take extra “online suitable” classes to get their qualifications.
These are common occupations, with salaries comparable to their brick-and-mortar equivalents. They’re the kinds of jobs that, frankly, you might be surprised to see make a top 14 list for a telecommuting recruitment site. But the expertise required to perform these tasks isn’t dependant on the location in which they’re performed. Working remotely, or rather, employing remote workers, is just an efficient way of deploying the kinds of core skills most businesses need.
Webcam, Laptop, Office
Taking these roles online has in many cases become an option due to the rise in video conferencing sophistication and a decrease in video conferencing costs. Internet infrastructure is wide-ranging enough that two-thirds of adults have broadband at home, and 75% of students attend a school that has a high-speed connection. Factor in the connections between business and in public institutions like hospitals and libraries and you have a society ripe to go digital.
Video conferencing vendors have taken advantage of this powerful network by supplying software-based platforms at low cost–our Best Video Conferencing Software of 2018 guide includes more than a dozen apps that are free or cost less than $15 a month.
Software platforms can be loaded directly to personal devices and desktops, so that the end user just needs a webcam in order to get to work online–and you can buy HD-quality webcams for around $100. With telecommuting technology ready to be put to use, the only hurdle to remote employment becoming a major part of the workforce is our own perceptions.
Benefits of a Remote Working World
The benefits of telecommuting are potentially substantial. Research has shown:
- Businesses save $11,000 a year per telecommuter
- Telecommuting increases productivity
- Telecommuters are happier
Unfortunately, public perception of the industry hasn’t been helped by some big corporate decisions. Both Yahoo and IBM first embraced telecommuting and then recalled their remote workers, and other companies such as Bank of America and Aetna have followed suit.
That seems like short-term thinking when findings like the Flexjobs announcement show how versatile a remote workforce can be. Rather than limiting telecommuting options, business should be exploring ways to solve telecommuting hiccups and to increase their employees’ reach and flexibility.
We’ve seen several recent examples of teachers and health care providers extending specialized services into rural and remote areas via video conferencing, including statewide, government-supported programs.
Using video conferencing-enabled mobile devices, it’s possible for more occupations to be added to the Flexjobs list. For example:
- A construction foreman can oversee several building projects from a single remote office.
- Logistics and warehouse management can be monitored remotely.
- Customer service operators can reach clients via home-based video portals.
- Human resources and administration functions can be shared among online organizations.
- Retail sales assistants can use on-demand video to boost e-commerce connections.
The tools necessary to telecommute are all around us and the benefits are available to any business with an internet connection. With video communication already playing a role in our home and office lives, it seems only natural that we find a more efficient way to live in both worlds.