The Remote Work Lexicon
In the 21st century, remote work has become the norm for millions of workers around the world, whilst a rapidly increasing number of people are making the transition to working remotely. Taking full advantage of the rapid advancement in digital tools and communication technologies, the remote work model of business is coming to the fore due to its enabling a greater level of productivity, by way of the enhanced working speed and efficiency it affords.
One of the most appealing aspects of remote work is the ability to conveniently yet efficiently work from the comfort of your own home. However, there is far more to the remote work model than working from home, which in fact opens the door to a host of new possibilities for both solitary and collaborative modes of work.
Furthermore, the nature of remote work is in a state of rapid evolution, as it continues to be shaped by continuous technological innovations that stimulate a diversity of solutions.
So whether you're a freelance entrepreneur, a small business owner, or an employee of a high-tech company, you should really be well acquainted with The Remote Work Lexicon—because remote work is the work of the tomorrow.
The Activities of Remote Work
Remote working refers to a style of work that is regularly conducted outside of a traditional office environment—most commonly at home; or in a public place, such as a coworking space or a coffee shop.
Remote work generally involves the collaboration with other members of a (remote work) team, via a variety of digital apps - mostly video conferencing and instant messaging apps - together with the more traditional communication mediums of telephone and email.
Digital nomads are people who travel whilst remote working; and who are hence nomadic (a nomad being someone who doesn't remain in one place for long, essentially having no permanent home by choice). A digital nomad is thus a person who moves from place to place whilst working remotely—be it as a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or an employee whose work is based on contracts for distant clients.
Usually requiring a work or travel visa, a digital nomad is more able than most to enjoy new types of work and styles of life made possible by the latest mobile technologies, including wireless connectivity and cloud computing. Among the jobs most commonly adopted by digital nomads are freelance writing, web development, tech design, and various forms of consultation.
Digital working - also known as virtual working; and closely associated with remote working - refers to any work performed by the use of mobile devices (essentially laptops and smartphones); and which relies on an internet connection (generally a wireless connection), together with digital apps and accessories that enable workers to communicate efficiently, so as to remotely collaborate effectively.
To telecommute is to use telecommunications in the performance of your work—be it from home, coworking spaces, coffee shops, or any other place you're using instead of a central office (i.e. thereby avoiding the traditional practice of commuting).
Synonymous with telecommuting, home working is any job for which the regular tasks can be performed from home, i.e. by using the internet, cell phones, and other digital tools (in the form of software and devices).
Freelancing refers to the work of a person who is self-employed; who performs work for different companies (occasionally called 'gig workers'); who typically charges clients by the hours spent for the job, or on the basis of the nature of the task; and who often performs their work remotely, either at home or using a coworking space.
Due to the rapid advances in mobile technologies and cloud computing, freelancers today are easily able to advertise their particular expertise and perform their work for a diverse range of companies without needing to commute daily—the benefits of which has led to a great rise in freelancing.
The Tools of Remote Work
The Gig Economy
The gig economy is the term used to describe the labor market for 'gig workers'—gig workers being those whose work is characterized by short-term freelance jobs, known as 'gigs'. Gigs range from work such as delivery and cab driving services to many I.T. related jobs, such as web development.
Gig workers are then similar to freelancers, in that they are usually self-employed and perform short-term tasks for different companies.
Business centers are business environments that provide the rental of workspace in various forms - usually under short-term flexible agreements - such as furnished office space, coworking space, and meeting rooms.
Business centers (which used to be known as executive suites) are staffed to provide a range of business services, such as receptionist support (including call answering), the sorting and forwarding of mail, as well as assistance in general daily business tasks.
Meeting Rooms (or Conference Room)
Meeting rooms (or conference rooms) are rooms that can be booked by the hour and hired on a flexible basis, i.e. without the need for membership—such rooms being most often found inside of business centers and coworking spaces.
Meeting rooms and conference rooms thus provide a very useful model for individuals or team members who routinely perform their work remotely, as they are able to hire professional meeting spaces - i.e. in a business environment - featuring all the necessary facilities, such as suitable furniture, whiteboards, Wi-Fi connectivity, and amenities for conferencing.
Boardrooms are usually a premium meeting space with furnishings of a high standard; and which are fitted with facilities for audio/visual conferencing.
Typically, a business center or large coworking space will feature at least one boardroom, which will be available for 'on demand' use by remote workers and local businesses.
The Virtual Office
The virtual office is a variety of fundamental business services, including a professional business address, mail forwarding, meeting room access or office space rental, live receptionist services, a business phone number, and a VoIP system—from which a business can enlist services as and when they need them, to suit their changing requirements.
A virtual office thus combines the offering of business services, workspace, technologies, and remote work processes to form an overall business support service that is essential to the remote work model.
Virtual receptionists (also called live receptionists) are receptionist services that are both flexible and remote, offering the performance of tasks such as live call answering, call forwarding, appointment scheduling, and general customer service support.
Effectively, a virtual receptionist service allows businesses to outsource their call handling to a live receptionist, whilst being allowed to pay for this service on a sliding scale, i.e. depending on the number of call answering minutes the business needs each week.
Similar to virtual receptionists, but providing a more advanced service, virtual assistants serve remote businesses by offering support on a flexible basis: In addition to performing the call handling and customer service support of a virtual receptionist, a virtual assistant will often be able to perform secretarial tasks, such as managing your diary (scheduling), data entry work, and cold calling to generate leads.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality (or VR) refers to an artificial environment created by computer software, designed to be perceived via the use of a VR device - such as a headset or eyewear - that enables the user to interact with and feel immersed in this virtual environment.
Quietly growing in prominence, VR technologies are being more frequently employed for purposes including tours (e.g. of virtual workspaces or real estate properties), architectural design, and training schemes.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality (or AR) artificially adds features onto ordinarily seen reality, i.e. instead of attempting to replace it, as VR does. Generally, AR technology is interacted with via a screen of some kind - typically a smartphone or a tablet device - on which images, videos and sounds overlay the real world feed displayed via the device's camera (Pokémon Go is the most renowned example of AR).
A further example of AR is holographic technologies; which, for example, can allow business people to meet with each other virtually, i.e. by their holograms appearing in the presence of each other.
Cloud Storage Solutions
Cloud storage solutions (sometimes called online storage) is a cloud computing model for the storage of digital data (files, documents, etc.) on remote servers, to be accessed via the internet, i.e. 'the cloud'.
Cloud storage is an almost essential solution for remote work businesses, as it enables them to grant access to files - which are cloud-based - selectively, allowing teams to remotely and cumulatively collaborate on documents in a most efficient way.
Online Password Vaults
Online password vaults are essentially cloud-based password managers allowing remote workers to secure their devices and data, i.e. by storing all their passwords in the cloud—which can only be accessed by the master password, whenever required.
Due to the continuing increase in digital forms of work and means of telecommuting developed, the average remote worker has a whole plethora of online accounts and passwords to remember—a problem that the online password vault effectively solves.
VoIP Phone Systems (Voice over Internet Protocol)
VoIP phone systems (Voice over Internet Protocol; sometimes called a virtual phone system) are an internet-based form of communication (i.e. it's hosted online) that enables users to make and receive calls from multiple devices - such as from a cell phone, tablet, or computer - whilst always using the same number.
VoIP is most useful for mobile workers, or for entrepreneurs who remote work frequently; and it's often featured as part of a virtual office provider's list of services.
Instant Messaging (IM)
Instant messaging (generally abbreviated to IM) is a kind of online chat - between individuals or teams - by use of a computer, a smartphone, or another type of mobile device; and is characterized by the fact that messaging takes place in real time. A requirement of instant messaging is that all participants use the same application—some prominent examples being WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype.
Instant messaging is used very frequently for collaboration between a team of remote workers, due to its ability to enable the quick sending of questions and responses between people who are geographically far from one another.
Video Chat Software
Video chat software enables an audio/visual form of communication that allows users to see and hear each other in real time.
In business use, video chat effectively enables 'virtual' conferencing, in that an organizer of a meeting can 'share' his or her screen so as to present their information to the entire group simultaneously. For remote workers, video chat proves to be a most appreciated tool: as the virtual face-to-face communication it affords proves to be an excellent substitute for in-person interaction—the absence of which would otherwise leave workers feeling isolated from the other members of their team.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (or IoT) refers to the technology used for all things 'smart', such as 'smart meters', 'smart homes', 'smart buildings', etc. The Internet of Things is essentially a network of physical objects - such appliances and vehicles - each of which are 'smart' enabled—meaning they are embedded with the electronics, software, and sensors from which to connect with the network, so as to transmit and receive data.
The Internet of Things also has the potential to be utilized in a variety of ways within the workplace: in the analysis of workers' use of and interacting with the 'smart' workplace; in enhancing office security by providing people with 'smart' access; and, in the economizing of office resources by optimizing the use of heating or lighting (i.e. by preventing wasted usage).