February 20, 2023
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After nearly two years of working from home or remote, employees are reluctant to return to the office. Surveys show that 64% of global employees would consider quitting their job to look for a permanent remote position if asked to return to the office full-time. While many employers have made remote work a permanent arrangement, others are starting to call their staff back to the office, with CNBC even reporting that 50% of companies want their employees back in the office full-time.
Ever since it became apparent that remote and flexible work is highly popular with employees, the number of remote job postings has literally exploded. For instance, LinkedIn reported a 357% rise in job postings offering remote work between May 2020 and May 2021. And an article published on Forbes claims that the number of remote job openings has doubled over the course of the pandemic.
Many job postings are nowadays full of keywords like “work from home”, “home office”, “remote work” or even “work from anywhere”. Unfortunately, not all these allegedly remote jobs are what we would call truly remote. In many cases, they come with a lot of restrictions and location requirements, and it isn’t rare for applicants to only find out about the unwanted fine print after signing the employment contract. So, how can you tell if a job posting is really remote?
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, let’s cover the basics and define what a remote job actually is - and what it’s not. If a job description reads “The work location is remote,” what does this actually entail?
Basically, a remote job is a job that doesn’t require the employee to go into the office to work. While this basic characteristic of a remote job might be fairly straightforward, we shouldn’t forget that remote work can take on many different forms. Remote work is, in fact, an umbrella term for various different working arrangements. When someone works remotely, it can mean that they either work from home or at home (yes, there’s a difference between these two terms!), or follow a hybrid work model, combining telecommuting with working in the office.
Despite the common misconception of remote work being interchangeable with working from anywhere, most remote jobs actually have certain location requirements (more on that in the next paragraph). According to Flexjobs, geographic requirements apply to around 95% of remote jobs. This means that only 5% of remote job postings out there actually are what many would consider “properly remote”.
Interested in knowing more about the legal definition of remote work? Then check out our article “Remote Work: What I think it is, what my employer thinks, and what it really is by law“.
Finding out that the job posting which sounded so perfect isn’t actually remote can be disappointing; however, if a company advertises a position as remote although there clearly are some ties to the office, it doesn’t always mean that they are misleading job applicants on purpose to try and sell them on a position.
Sure, there probably are some companies out there which use false advertising to attract candidates in a desperate attempt to fill their open positions (and in the current war for talent, who could blame them?), since adding the tag “remote” to a job posting works almost as a clickbait, leading to many applicants being drawn to the job description.
In many cases, however, false remote job postings are not down to bad intentions. Instead, it’s rather a matter of having different interpretations or misjudging the feasibility of a remote working arrangement. Despite there being many blog posts and articles on what remote work really is, there still is a multitude of different interpretations and the misconceptions about what constitutes a remote job persist. Therefore, your potential future employer may not have the same notion of remote work as you to begin with.
Yet another possibility is that the business initially intended for the position to be remote to suit applicant needs, but that job requirements simply changed at some point, making it necessary to work in the office at least from time to time. This may be the case if the organization initially lets employees work remotely and then realizes that remote work simply isn’t a feasible option for the position in question.
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For remote-job hunters, the current amount of listings that have the label “remote” already in their job title might seem like a dream come true; however, candidates should make sure to check the fine print to see if the job is really remote before getting overly excited. Yet many job seekers find themselves wondering, “How do I know if a job is remote?” How is it possible to tell from the job description alone whether the advertised position really qualifies as remote? Here are some red flags to watch out for.
If the remote job posting you’re looking at mentions something along the lines of “Candidates must be able to work on-site as needed” or “Candidates may be required to work from the office from time to time”, this clearly means that the job listing is not 100% remote, but hybrid. Those looking for jobs in their geographic area and planning to work from home most days might find that a hybrid work model suits them just fine. Those looking for full flexibility and independence, however, will have to continue searching if they read about on-site work requirements in the fine print.
Very often, job openings are listed as remote, but include a relocation requirement for candidates, meaning that successful applicants are required to relocate to the area where the company is headquartered. Relocation requests are a good indicator that the job isn’t actually fully remote, but that the position is likely to entail at least the occasional day spent working in the office or that there is a need to be available for the occasional in-person meeting.
Without any further specifications, a phrase like “must attend weekly department meetings” is reason enough to question the remote nature of the job listing in which it is mentioned. That’s because, unless the meeting can be attended virtually, your physical presence will be required, which means that you will be tied to working from the area where the company is located. The need to participate in regular in-person meetings is also a common reason why many companies request candidates to live within commuting distance.
US-only remote job ads have caused quite some frustration among non-US remote-job hunters. Applicants looking for a remote job will often find that, although the job is listed as remote, there are restrictions as to where applicants need to live in order to even be considered for the job. Location requirements for remote jobs are often down to tax reasons or employment laws. Working remotely for a company based in a different jurisdiction can trigger unwanted legal and tax complexities. Employees looking for full flexibility and the opportunity to work for their employer from wherever they want should look for a company with a globally distributed team whose members are compliantly hired via an Employer of Record or a similar global employment solution.
Another red flag remote-job hunters should look out for are hints in the job description that indicate that the company is working on a return-to-office plan. Once this plan is finalized, it’s likely that the company will revoke its current remote work policies and request workers to work from the office on one or several days per week. Therefore, you should carefully check that the remote work policy that is currently in place in the organization will stay valid in the future.
Regardless of the reason for which a job is falsely advertised as remote, finding out about it at a later point of the application process after already having invested time and efforts into applying, and maybe even preparing for the remote job interview, is very disappointing and annoying. But what to do when you find out the remote job you applied for isn’t remote at all, or when you are unsure to which degree the job in question can be done remotely?
The appropriate code of conduct largely depends on the situation. If, after carefully reading the job description, you have doubts about the remote nature of the position, but are otherwise interested, the best thing to do is to reach out and ask directly. Like this, you can avoid putting any unnecessary effort into applying for a position you may not even want in the end.
If the remote job description seems genuine and you only find out later in the application process (for instance during a pre-interview call) that there is a location or on-site work requirement of some sort, you should politely point out that the requirement doesn’t match the initial job description and, if the the company insists on the location requirement, withdraw your application.
Looking for a fully remote job which allows you to be part of a globally distributed team and work from wherever you want? Lano is hiring! Check out our Careers Page to see our open positions.
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