The global pandemic changed how companies and workers viewed remote work permanently. While only a tiny percentage of full-time employees primarily worked remotely before the COVID-19 outbreak, those numbers skyrocketed during lockdowns.
While some employers assumed things would return to pre-pandemic levels, only part of the workforce is returning to a full-time office setting. It’s now expected that at least 22% of professional workers will remain working remotely by the end of 2025.
What Remote Work Trends Are Setting the Pace for 2023 and Beyond?
The potential for remote work going forward is high, but not all employers and employees are on board with a fully remote model. Here’s what remote will look like in the years ahead:
Hybrid Work Is Emerging as a Front-Runner
The Pew Research Center reports that six out of ten employees want to work remotely all or most of the time. However, research from the same organizations shows that most employers aren’t on board with fully-remote options, with only 13% of executives saying that full-time remote employment would be acceptable.
Six out of ten employees want to work remotely all of most the time.
50% of leaders say they are accepting of some sort of hybrid work arrangement.
A hybrid work environment, however, seems to satisfy a larger percentage of employers and is acceptable or even attractive to many employees. 50% of leaders say they are already accepting of the idea of some sort of hybrid work arrangement that has employees working a few days a week from the office, and a few days a week from home.
In fact, employers and employees are less than half a day apart on the number of days that would be deemed appropriate for working from home in a hybrid job. Employers would like to see the limit set at an average of around 2.4 days, while employees are pushing for 2.8 days. That's pretty close to agreement.
How is this working out in practice? According to McKinsey, 90% of Americans with the option for hybrid work take advantage of that opportunity. It’s a great way to keep productivity high and absenteeism low, especially if employees are having transportation issues or combatting childcare conflicts.
Key Takeaway: Attract and keep better candidates with hybrid options.
Hiring talent may be much easier if hybrid work is on the tableau. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry labor market and what employees really want can help you make better hiring decisions and improve employee retention.
Remote Freelance Work Is Exploding
Formerly, many companies looked askance at freelance contractors, claiming it was too difficult to manage them, track their progress, and measure their value due to their remote status. This led to freelancers being used sparingly and typically related to short-term positions or consulting in areas without in-house oversight.
The wide-spread acceptance of remote work hinged on the capability of remote employees to work productively without being on-site or micromanaged being proven. Once this fact was established, employers started seeing the potential in contract workers, and turned to freelance platforms to bolster their hybrid workforce.
Research conducted by Harvard Business School reveals that nearly 50% of respondents to a survey about hiring freelancers expected their use of new digital platforms to increase significantly in the near future, and almost 90% of business leaders reported that freelance talent platforms would be somewhat or very important to the future competitive advantage of their organization.
Key Takeaway: Remote freelance workers provide an additional productivity option.
Freelance platforms can provide recruiters and hiring managers with access to top-tier remote talent. Leveraging these types of sources can be more beneficial for both employer and new hires, removing the middleman and eliminating fees associated with such platforms. It can also make it easier to gain access to in-demand skills when a full time employee option isn’t available or affordable.
Remote Employee Well-Being Is Viewed as Critical
In the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study, 80% of almost 9,000 survey respondents identified employee well-being as important or very important to organizational success.
Data from the Social Connection in Remote Work survey, remote workers report increased feelings of loneliness, with 55% saying they feel lonely at least some of the time. Additionally, 68% report that they believe social connection during the workday is at least somewhat important to well-being and mental health.
Key Takeaway: Employee happiness is connected to communication.
Finding ways to keep remote workers engaged and interacting with team members can be critical to maintaining well-being and reducing turnover. Frequent surveys of remote and hybrid employees to gauge their job satisfaction and uncover any feelings of isolation can help you keep tabs on employee sentiment and uncover any challenges that need to be addressed.
Some Micromanaging Employers Seek to Keep a Tight Rein
With the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work comes a new way for companies to play “big brother”: bossware. Bossware is a technology designed to allow employers to literally spy on employees to see their every move.
60% of employers are already requiring remote employees
to have monitoring software installed on their devices.
One survey concluded that 60% of employers are already requiring remote employees - and freelancers - to have monitoring software installed on their devices, and another 17% of employers are considering implementing such requirements.
Bossware may take random screenshots, record movements of the mouse, log keystrokes, note when a computer goes into standby mode, and even activate webcams and microphones remotely and without warning to record the employee in their at-home setting.
Employers claim bossware is in place to ensure employees are staying productive, but employees argue that their productivity can be measured in other ways, without invading their privacy.
To complicate matters, some states allow installation of bossware on company owners devices without the employee’s knowledge or consent. One study concluded that this type of invasive remote worker monitoring, if known about by the employee or discovered after being put in place discreetly, can cause negative health effects.
Key Takeaway: Set distinct goals and check in consistently to ensure productivity.
Bossware may be tempting, but could have a myriad of drawbacks, including lost trust with the employee. A robust and transparent hiring process that clearly details job expectations and requirements is a good start to setting the stage for employee success. The best path toward keeping a remote employee motivated and productive includes agreeing upon clear goals, setting distinct and measurable KPIs (quantifiable metrics), and communicating consistently, including frequent meetings to check ins.
Remote Workers Mean More Cybersecurity Exposure and Risks
Many companies were completely unprepared for the transition to remote work, especially in terms of risk management and the vulnerabilities that accompany remote work.
85% of organizations globally claim that cybersecurity is currently a top priority.
79% have misgivings about the risks of staff working from home.
Devices and internet gateways used to connect to company networks and databases are under increased scrutiny. The practice of using mobile devices for work starting with the Blackberry in the late ‘90s, and followed by Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, posed serious security challenges.
Today, vulnerabilities have only multiplied thanks to the overwhelming number of mobile devices, touchpoints, and the Internet of Things. Employees working remotely need specific training and tools to prevent their remote role from becoming an IT nightmare.
Key Takeaway: Don’t wait for a security breach – be proactive in training employees.
Learning and development (L&D) and continuing education courses required across your workforce on the topics of cybersecurity risks and social engineering can help train employees to avoid some of the biggest snafus. Conduct regular surveys to see how remote workers use and secure their devices, and act accordingly.
Does Company Culture Exist for the Remote Workforce?
Companies are striving to keep culture and collaboration alive in a remote workforce. While most employees don’t see remote work as having a large impact on company culture, employers are concerned.
Two-thirds of CEOs said maintaining company culture while
working with remote employees has become a top management challenge.
More than two-thirds of CEOs who responded to the 2021 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Omnibus Survey said that maintaining company culture while working with remote employees has become their top talent management challenge, with enabling collaboration and communication for their remote workforce coming in a close second.
A BCG survey noted that remote employees who needed to work closely with other distributed workers on a group project could find it hard to maintain productivity levels. These team members need appropriate tools and technology to make communication and collaboration easier.
With the right support and communication channels that keep your distributed workforce in the loop with each other, remote workers can feel more connected, and diversity can flourish as culture add edges out culture fit.
Key Takeaway: Use collaboration tools to keep employees connected.
Discovering, implementing and training on these types of communication and collaboration tools will help maintain productivity with an increasingly hybrid or remote team. In addition, consider using screening tools that gather data from a potential hire’s previous managers and coworkers about their ability to work both independently and as part of a team (in office, or remotely) before selecting your next remote hire.
Hiring employees who will thrive in a remote or hybrid work environment.
The future of work is remote. If you’re in an industry that can benefit from the cost-savings and enhance productivity of a distributed workforce, but don’t know where to start, we're here to help.
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