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August 23, 2021

Business

The Future of Remote Work

Remote jobs have been gaining traction for some time but now that more of us are working from home in response to COVID-19, it’s likely the trend is here to stay.

As many organizations and employees embrace this “next normal,” here’s a look at where the future of remote work is headed.

Permanence

According to recent research, home work looks to be less of a trend and more of a mainstay. It’s predicted that 36.2 million Americans will have home jobs or flexjobs by 2025—an 87% increase pre-pandemic. A study by Gartner supports these numbers. Its survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow their employees to work from home full time. And an additional percentage also allow part time remote opportunities for their workforce.

Hybrid Models

As organizations look to the post-pandemic future, many are planning, or already adopting, a hybrid model that allows employees to split their time between working virtually and in the office. In a recent study by McKinsey, more than half of employees said they would like their companies to have a more flexible hybrid-virtual working model. That same study revealed 50% of employees want to work from home at least three days a week.

This increased shift to a hybrid remote job model is not just great for employees who like to work from home, but it also benefits those who have long commutes to work or those who would have to pay for childcare five days out of the week. Home jobs help ease burdens for many different types of employees.

Work from Anywhere

Who says you can’t mix business and pleasure? Now that the world is opening back up and travel restrictions are easing, more remote employees are becoming “digital nomads.” This influx of workers is taking advantage of the ability to work from anywhere—from beach towns to country cottages and everywhere in between. According to Airbnb data, its users are increasingly using their platform to work remotely or temporarily relocate. In fact, the volume of reviews by Airbnb guests mentioning “remote work” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has tripled since 2019. A recruiter that is able to capitalize on home or remote jobs is able to appeal to potential employees who are interested in traveling or who live in a different location. This opens up the candidate pool to even more potential employees.

Diverse Communications

Remote work and at home jobs have changed the way managers, employees, and entire organizations communicate, and with that shift has come a more diverse pool of communication options. Online platforms such as Zoom, Slack, and Google Meet have seen an enormous jump in users as more organizations are transitioning from in person to digital communication. This also opens more job for project coordinators and other administrative work that involves organizing all this communication. Cloud technologies (such as Google Drive) have also been essential in helping with the transition to—and management of—remote work.

Focus on Performance Management

Performance expectations of employees have changed drastically since COVID-19. For a long time, traditional performance management has been used as a tool to help managers monitor and evaluate employees’ work and provide them with feedback via an in-person meeting or review. However, all that has shifted since more employees are working in a different location than their managers. Today’s organizations and HR coordinators are now focusing on the quality of work completed, rather than hours worked. Quarterly and yearly reviews are becoming a thing of the past, too. Instead, managers are creating a more open environment for communication and providing feedback on a continual basis, rather than just yearly or quarterly.

Focused teen girl writes notes while watching an online video or school course.

Cybersecurity

The major transition to remote working spurred by COVID-19 created more cybersecurity vulnerabilities for organizations and their data. In 2020, hackers ramped up their social engineering and ransomware attacks and were largely successful because many home-based employees use personal devices and networks that aren’t as secure as corporate networks. Many companies are recognizing the importance of hiring IT experts to combat and prevent cybersecurity issues. In fact, U.S. Department of Labor Statistics’ Information Security Analysts Outlook expects cybersecurity jobs will grow 31% through 2029—that’s more than seven times the national average of 4%.

Asynchronous Work

Asynchronous work can be a big asset for remote teams that have employees in multiple time zones. An async work environment allows employees to complete tasks at a time that best suits them, which could be different than when their colleagues are working. When done effectively, asynchronous work can give employees more control of their workflow and a better work/life balance.

Work/Life Balance

One of the biggest trends to come out of the rise in remote work is that more employers are embracing flexible schedules. With no commute, fewer office distractions, and more time for family and exercise, many employees report they have better overall work-life balance when working from home. In a survey by Mental Health America, 48% of employees with flexible work options (including remote work) said their work-life balance was excellent or very good, compared to 36% for respondents without flexible work schedules.

Professional Social Media Use

A growing number of remote workers are using social media to network, stay on top of trends in their industry, and join discussions with those who have the same professional interests. One example of this is Twitter, where users can search specific hashtags and follow topics and conversations they’re interested in. In fact, Twitter reported more than 199 million active users per day in 2020—up 20% from its pre-COVID-19 numbers the year before.

Retraining and Reskilling

The growing adoption of technologies such as AI and automation—combined with the rise in remote workers—has created a new set of skill requirements for today’s workforce. A recent survey by McKinsey found 87% of executives said they were experiencing skills gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. Because of this, retraining and reskilling have become priorities for many businesses.

Some of the most in-demand skills right now are tech related, including machine learning, cloud computing, healthcare IT, and cybersecurity. To stay on top of these shifts in skill requirements, more and more employees and organizations are focusing on continuing education through online degree programs, certifications, workshops, books, software programs, and more.

Because the future of remote work looks less like a trend and more like a mainstay, it’s crucial for organizations—and employees—to be aware of how the landscape is changing. Those who can adapt to shifts and adopt an agile approach to strategic workforce planning will be able to better compete in a remote workplace world.

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