The terms “work from home” and “remote work” are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle but important distinction. If one considers the literal meaning of both terms, the former is more restrictive than the latter. “Work from home” means employees have the ability and the prerogative to work from their homes. They can keep an eye on pets, avoid long commutes to and from the office, and work in their pajamas if they want—not a bad situation.
Remote Work vs. Work from Home
Remote work theoretically takes things a step further and suggests employees could work from anywhere they have a desk and an Internet connection, and the desk might not even be a firm prerequisite. This might mean a cabin in the woods or a sunny beach in the South Pacific.
For many workers, home is realistically the only remote location they have any desire to work from, but others may relish the opportunity to travel and have a good job without being tied to a particular geographic location. While most companies are hesitant to embrace a true “work from anywhere” policy, there are some notable exceptions.
Perhaps considering its industry, vacation rental giant Airbnb is one such exceptional case.
Offering Maximum Flexibility Despite Challenges
“When COVID-19 hit, Airbnb’s business plunged 80% in two months,” writes Michael Lev-Ram in an article for Fortune. “Today, the rise of remote work and a resurgent travel market have pushed bookings and revenue above pre-pandemic levels. Through it all, Chesky has leaned into big moves, including the recent announcement of one of the industry’s most liberal ‘work from anywhere’ policies.”
But working from anywhere poses several important challenges. One such challenge is the potential for distraction and concerns over reduced productivity. This is an extension of the concerns that accompanied work-from-home policies, but professional, responsible employees should be able to manage the situation just fine. More challenging, perhaps, are logistical issues such as diverse time zones and the potential difficulty getting to the office on short notice if the need arises.
There may be regulatory challenges, as well, depending on the industry. A lawyer representing clients in the United States may not be able to work full time from Brazil, for example. Similarly, employees who handle sensitive data like health or financial records may be prohibited from taking that data out of the country.
While remote work and work-from-home are seemingly similar policies, the added flexibility of true work-from-anywhere policies means that few companies have truly embraced this model. But companies that are considering that option as a way to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market should be aware of the potential pitfalls.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.