In his 1973 book The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff, Jack Nilles, a former NASA engineer, coined the terms “telework” and “telecommuting.” Back then, his idea seemed futuristic and quixotic. Nilles promised that remote work would improve traffic congestion and quality of life. Fast-forward 50 years and Nilles’s vision has finally manifested: Anybody with a PC and an internet connection can work remotely. While traffic is still an issue in major cities, if this report by Buffer, Remote OK and Nomad List is any indication, most workers agree that remote work improves quality of life.
- In 2023, remote work is wildly popular among those who can take advantage of it.
- Flexibility is the biggest boon of remote work, but many remote workers struggle with loneliness.
- Remote workers’ ability to engage in focused work, manage stress and avoid distractions justifies their decision to work remotely.
- Remote workers feel connected to co-workers and are optimistic about career advancement, but they wish their companies reimbursed work-related expenses.
In 2023, remote work is wildly popular among those who can take advantage of it.
Buffer, Remote OK and Nomad List collaborated on a 2023 report on the state of remote work. The report’s findings rely on survey responses from a diverse pool of 3,000 remote workers, 53% of whom are employees; 43%, freelancers; and 4%, business owners. The average respondent is white (48%), male (61%), and millennial (58%), with the largest segment (41%) working in software or IT.
Responses demonstrate enthusiasm for remote work, optimism about career advancement, and an unwillingness to return to the office. Some 91% of respondents report positive experiences of working away from the office, and 98% claimed they would like to work remotely, at least partially, for the remainder of their careers. Furthermore, 98% would recommend the benefits of remote work to a friend.
Flexibility is the biggest boon of remote work, but many remote workers struggle with loneliness.
Respondents consider flexibility to be the biggest benefit of remote work. Workers revealed that remote work grants them flexibility to choose how they spend their time (67%), where they live (60%) and where they work (59%). And 63% reported having more free time in the absence of a daily commute.
“While most people seem to be adjusting to the technical challenges presented by remote work, not much headway is being made with the personal challenges.”
In 2020, remote workers’ biggest challenges were obstacles to collaboration and communication. As the remote work juggernaut has progressed, organizations have found solutions to these issues, which no longer rank among the chief concerns. In 2023, the main challenges included staying home too much due to a lack of reason to leave (33%), loneliness (23%), an inability to disconnect from work (22%) and difficulties with motivation (20%). Almost 30% claimed to experience no issues with remote work.
Remote workers’ ability to engage in focused work, manage stress and avoid distractions justifies their decision to work remotely.
Often, remote workers use their time flexibility to work; 81% check email outside business hours. Though 78% claim to have healthy or somewhat healthy work-life boundaries, 44% are working longer hours in 2023 compared to 2022, which may account for rising numbers of remote workers experiencing burnout. However, employer demands for hybrid work, an imminent recession and mass layoffs in the tech sector also play a role. Despite working more, 48% say they’re feeling more energized, and 45% say it’s easier to create a work-life balance when working remotely.
“Consistently and unsurprisingly, flexibility remains one of the top benefits of remote work for 67% of remote workers.”
When remote workers choose their work time and location, 65% of respondents say they’re better able to manage stress, 50% say it’s easier to avoid distractions, and 70% say it’s easier to do focused work. Of the 36% of remote workers who are actively job searching, 66% say being able to work remotely is an important factor for them.
Remote workers feel connected to co-workers and are optimistic about career advancement, but they wish their companies reimbursed work-related expenses.
The perceptions surrounding career advancement for remote workers are shifting. In 2023, 28% of respondents said career growth is more difficult when working remotely, compared to 45% in 2022. Similarly, 36% claimed career advancement was easier, compared to just 14% in 2022. Why is it becoming easier? Three-quarters of respondents reported that remote workers are “measured on their output and impact instead of their time in the office,” while 48% felt that remote work leveled the playing field. Those sentiments aren’t unanimous, however. Those who felt career growth had become more difficult cited a lack of visibility or opportunity to publicize their successes. Many worried about missing out on serendipitous “water cooler conversations” that are vital to career advancement.
“The trend of pay being moved away from being tied to a person’s location is a positive one for remote workers as location flexibility is one of the primary benefits of remote work.”
Most companies don’t pay for vital work-related expenses like home internet connection or memberships to co-working spaces, but workers wish they did. Remote collaborations require technology: 50% of remote workers collaborate using messaging apps, while 22% use email. Only 19% report that collaboration happens in meetings. Most (63%) prefer video calls over those without video, with 67% stating that “it’s easier to communicate when they can see someone’s expression.” When asked if they feel connected to their co-workers and clients, 75% of respondents say that they do.
About the Authors
Buffer is a software application for managing and analyzing brand building and customer engagement on social media. Remote OK is a job board for remote workers, and Nomad List provides traveling remote workers with information about the work and living conditions in global destinations.