Remote Work and the Future of Work Trends
A few years ago, remote work wasn’t an option for most. Staff came into the office to work, and only a few industries considered allowing employees to work remotely. Then the 2020 global pandemic hit, nations went into lockdown, and companies everywhere introduced telework options that allowed them to keep their business open while their employees worked from home.
While the US may now be “out of the pandemic phase,” remote work appears to be here to stay. What employers once envisioned as a temporary solution has become a top priority for many workers in America.
Learn more about the remote work trends of 2020 that changed America and which popular telework practices are here to stay.
Remote Work Trends in 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the world worked. Not only did we learn the value of toilet paper, but a lot of companies changed their business operations.
Here are a few of the biggest remote work trends in 2020.
In 2020, a majority of employees worked remotely from home. With that explosive change in the workforce, both companies and individuals had the chance to redefine what remote work looked like.
The first hurdle businesses had to overcome was communication. With the loss of watercooler moments and office check-ins, digital communication tools like Slack, Zoom, and Discord became a way to improve communication and support company culture. In 2020, we saw the introduction of everything from virtual happy hours to virtual group activities like remote cooking classes to help employees feel more connected.
With pandemic guidelines changing weekly and layoffs a continual threat, 2020 was a stressful time for everyone. With that stress came an increase in companies focusing on their employees' mental health and wellbeing. More companies focused on establishing and sustaining a healthy work-life balance, growing mental health initiatives, and creating wellness campaigns to help prevent burnout and improve employee satisfaction.
Remote work also redefined what a normal work day can look like. Companies changed the traditional 9-5 work schedule and discovered remote work could be much more flexible while providing the same or better results. Some companies created mandatory collaboration hours in the middle of the day to help guarantee that employees communicate and work together, while others abolished shift requirements, which allowed remote workers to work whenever suited them best.
During this temporary solution, both employees and employers recognized the benefit of working remotely. Employees experienced a better work-life balance and enjoyed saving time and money by avoiding daily commutes. Employers saw an increase in productivity and efficiency while also saving on office space rental costs.
Why Remote Work Is Here to Stay
Remote work provides the flexibility and freedom many workers desire, reducing stress and improving job satisfaction. It removes the work commute, giving people more time to do what they love instead of wasting time in traffic. Working remotely also improves productivity by removing the distraction of office politics. Remote workers can focus on their responsibilities rather than catching up on the latest drama of the workplace, making them more productive and efficient.
For many companies, remote work has opened the door to finding the best employees. Rather than only hiring locally, the remote work model allows organizations to interview candidates anywhere in the nation. Companies can now get the most qualified person in the country for the position.
For some people, the most important benefit of remote work is that it’s the green option. Working from home means fewer carbon emissions and also helps reduce office-related waste.
5 Remote Work Trends You Can Expect to Continue
More employees are favoring remote positions, and the telecommuting model has become popular with businesses, too. Where do we go from here? Here are a few remote work trends we expect to see in the future.
1. The Great Resignation
The Great Resignation affected every industry in 2021 and into 2022. Many employees quit their jobs for better opportunities because they felt they weren’t valued and compensated fairly, whether through salary, benefits, or both.
In the years to come, employees will continue to expect better pay and recognition, along with remote work options. Companies have tried to enforce a return-to-office plan, only to discover that talented employees don’t want to return and will leave their positions for another company that will provide remote work options.
2. Hybrid Solutions
With employers pushing a return to the office while employees want to stay remote, hybrid work solutions are growing in popularity and are a key part of future work trends.
Hybrid work solutions blend in-person and digital work and can come at any ratio of those two. Hybrid solutions can be as generous as 1:30, where employees only have to work one day a month in the office with the rest of the days worked remotely, or as strict as 30:1, where employees have only one telework day a month.
Some companies that have already adopted the hybrid solution include Apple, 3M, Microsoft, and Spotify.
3. Workplace Flexibility
With different time zones and schedules in play during the pandemic, a rising trend in remote work is a workplace flexibility model that empowers employees to design their own work schedules.
For some companies, this means employees can choose if and when they work remotely, hybrid, or in the office. Other companies are providing even more flexibility and allowing employees complete control over their work schedules. For example, employees can opt out of the traditional 9-5 and work nights, early mornings, or weekends to complete their assigned responsibilities.
The most common concern with workplace flexibility is the fear that employees will take advantage of their freedom and not do their work. Rather than trying to police and monitor employees, companies should set clear boundaries and expectations. This can ensure work gets done while serving as a way to monitor employee performance.
4. Supporting Remote Workers
Remote workers save companies money because they don’t require office space. It’s becoming more common for organizations to pass along some of the savings to their employees by helping them create a professional work-from-home office setup.
A small stipend for a desk or chair is becoming more common with companies that support remote workers, but there’s room for more. Some of the same benefits companies boast for their office workers can be provided to support remote workers. It may not be feasible for an organization to buy every employee their own ping pong table or Italian espresso machine, but employers should still provide job perks when possible.
A growing trend in remote work is to support remote workers by involving them in the company culture, no matter how far away they are. For example, Taco Tuesdays in the break room have evolved into tacos being delivered to every employee. As remote work continues to grow in popularity and demand, companies will need to become inventive with how they support remote workers so they feel part of the team.
5. Digital Support
Thirty years ago, remote work would have been impossible. Employees had to come into the office because that was where their job tools and materials were located. But that has changed with the digital revolution.
As remote work continues to increase, there will be a higher need for the technology and tools that make telework possible. Companies will have to undergo a digital transformation as they transition to remote work.
Digital transformation involves a company switching from manual processes to digital solutions. For younger companies, there is less to transition and update, but for more established companies, a digital transformation may require sweeping organizational and structural changes.
As part of the rush toward digital transformations, companies will also need to establish a way to manage tasks and time without overreaching or becoming burdensome.
There will also need to be more advancements in digital communication to connect teammates to each other. Programs like Zoom, Slack, and Discord have served as a good foundation for organizations, but they’re not perfect. Future work trends demand easier and more consistent forms of communication to support the move to remote work.
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