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Text | Assessing the growth of remote working and its consequences for effort, well-being and work-life balance | 009
Table 1: Extent of remote working: skills and employment survey estimates
Main work location
In same grounds and buildings as home
(e.g. adjoining property or land)
In a single workplace away from home
(e.g. office, factory or shop)
In a variety of different places of work
(e.g. working on clients’ premises or in
Working on the move (e.g. delivering
products or people to different places)
Note: Weighted estimates.
Source: Skills Survey 2001, Skills Survey 2006, and Skills and Employment Survey 2012.
trends in the composition of the British labour force may have contributed to, or even fully determined, the aggregate trend pattern in remote work. To examine this possi- bility, we decompose the time series into five components. One reflects the descriptive changes observed in the data, three correspond to the compositional changes outlined above and one takes the three explanations in combination (see columns 1–5 in Tables 2 and 3).
Column 1 in Tables 2 and 3 report the observed average annual change; the prevalence of workers working mainly remotely has increased by on average 0.116 percentage point per annum, whilst working at least on one day a week remotely has grown at a greater pace of 0.219 percentage point per annum. As additional covariates are added to the logit model, the ‘unexplained’ change falls as one would expect. The slightly more potent explanation is the one of- fered by knowledge economy theorists. When entered into the estimations, prox- ies for this theory explain a quarter of the growth in those who mainly work remotely (i.e. (0.116 − 0.088)/0.116 = 0.24) and a fifth of the growth in those who work remotely for at least one day a week (i.e. (0.219 − 0.175)/0.219 = 0.20). The other two possible explanations considered here—the rise in flexible working and the changing demographic profile of the workforce—are also supported (note the marginal effects in Tables 2 and 3). However, even after accounting simultaneously for the shift towards the knowledge economy, the rise of flexible working arrangements, and the changing demographic make-up of the em- ployed workforce, there remains a positive, statistically significant and sizeable residual growth of remote working that is not explained by such observed deter- minants. This holds for both the narrow and wider definitions of remote work- ing. Comparing the estimates in column (5) with the average annual change in column (1) in both tables suggests that around two-thirds of the growth in re- mote working cannot be attributed to changes in the composition of the British employed labour force (i.e. (0.076/0.116)*100 = 65.5 per cent) for Table 2 and (0.141/0.219)*100 = 64.4 per cent for Table 3). The scale of the ‘spatial revolu- tion’, then, is a little more modest than suggested by the headline figures, but significant nonetheless.
Additional LFS data also show that technology may facilitate the detachment of work from place. In 1997 a fifth (21.8 per cent) of those working at least one day a week remotely reported that they did not rely on a phone and a computer to do so, but by 2014 this had fallen to around one in ten (9.0 per cent) This provides empirical support for the idea that technology is able to stretch the reach of the conventional workplace well beyond its physical boundaries. However, the LFS does not ask all workers whether execution of their work tasks is dependent on these technologies. Therefore, we cannot gauge its differential effect on work location.
Growth and consequences of remote working 9 published by Brian Towers (BRITOW) and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
© 2017 The Authors
New Technology, Work and Employment
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