What’s Next for Remote Work? [Work Trends for 2021 and Beyond]
Since 2020, the whole world has shifted to remote work schedules. While some companies are adopting a permanent remote working culture, others are investing in massive new office spaces.
Google recently announced that they will be spending $2.1 billion to buy a huge new Manhattan office space, while Apple has been pushing back its return to office plans. Beyond these giant companies, small businesses all around the world are changing the way they operate through remote work.
Is remote work really the future, or was it just a pandemic trend? Does remote work benefit or slow down businesses? And what are some remote work trends we’re facing right now?
We explore this in our guide all below.
Employees today don’t even want to return to offices as cool as this. Source.
1. The Global Shift to Remote Work
2. Is Remote Work a Long-Term Solution?
3. Advantages of Remote Work for Businesses
4. Remote Work Challenges
5. What Will the Future of Remote Workspaces Look Like?
6. Hybrid Work Trends
7. Wrapping Up
The Global Shift to Remote Work
The Covid pandemic of 2020 resulted in a lot of big changes for the world - one of the biggest being a new wave of remote working. Out of nowhere, offices around the world shut down as their employees moved their work to their homes. What may have seemed like a temporary situation during lockdowns quickly turned into the new norm.
Businesses that once relied completely on physical office spaces realized that they could continue their operations remotely. With this realization comes the question of whether remote work is a permanent fixture, or a short-term trend?
Today’s modern employees choose to spend 40% of their time working from home, and 62% of employees now expect their employers to let them work remotely going forward. On top of this, a whopping 83% of employees say they are more productive working from home.
Looking at the way things are going, it seems like remote work is the direction the world is taking. So what does this mean for small businesses? And is remote work really the best solution?
Is Remote Work a Long-Term Solution?
Now that employees are getting comfortable working from home, businesses are starting to question if they will ever return to their offices again.
Let’s go back to Google’s New York office plans. The city’s real estate industry was completely cut down during the pandemic, but now Google will be paying one of the highest prices in the last couple of years for an office building in the US. Clearly, this major company sees a big future in office spaces.
About 28% of office workers in this region had returned to the office during the time Google announced their plans. This is more than double the rate a few months ago. So clearly the world doesn’t plan on being fully remote just yet.
Companies are starting to return to the office, although this doesnt mean that offices are looking the same as they once were. As companies start to reopen, they need to consider the new wave of remote workers. Office spaces are being cut down to align with the new way of working. For example, Conde Nast, whose offices are close to the new Google office, is cutting down on office space in a big way since the pandemic saw their employees take their work remotely.
For companies that have already established remote working strategies, there’s no major need to go back to office spaces.
Google’s new Manhattan office building. Source.
Advantages of Remote Work for Businesses
Working at home in your sweat pants may sound like the dream for most employees. While remote working might be questioned by some, it does offer a range of unique benefits to companies of all sizes.
At Wishpond, we have successfully transitioned to a fully remote company and we love it. We get to collaborate with people all around the world and enjoy the perks of working from any environment we choose.
As Jordan Gutierrez-Keever, COO of Wishpond, says:
“Being remote helps us reach talent without borders, we've been able to find great employees in over 15 different countries”
Here are some reasons why remote working should be considered.
You Get to Work With People all Over the World
With online work and communication technology improving, businesses can now find talent all around the world. Instead of being limited to employees in your area only, you can now sift through a much larger pool of candidates to find the perfect match for your business.
As a business owner, this means you don’t have to just settle for the best candidate in your area, you can find someone who really offers the most to your business. Beyond the fact that you can choose from a larger talent pool, working with people around the globe is also exciting. You can create a more diverse and multicultural business, which has many advantages.
And being able to choose from talent around the world allows you to find people with specific skills more easily. Instead of trying to find the only German speaker in your area, you can now reach out to Germany directly.
Working with employees all around the world also makes it easier for many businesses to find clients from different countries.
Can Small Businesses Take Their Staff International?
Even if you are a small local business, remote work gives you an opportunity to find employees around the world. This could be for administrative staff or marketing staff that don’t need to be based at your physical location.
As a small business, this also means you might be able to find staff that you can afford more easily. Many small businesses put exchange rates in their favor to hire skilled employees that they can afford.
You Get to Work From Anywhere in the World
Just as you get to work with people based all around the world, you can also work from anywhere in the world yourself. Ever fancied the idea of working in a hammock between two palm trees on a tropical beach? Now you can.
Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a strong work-life balance is important for both managers and employees. Working from home allows employees to unlock more hours out of each day, through things like skipping the daily commute.
An important result of remote work is the improved work-life balance, which means happier and more productive staff. Of course, employees can also struggle with blurred lines between their work and home life.
Remote has been proven to improve productivity rates. In a study done by Stanford, the results showed a rise in productivity that equals a full day’s work.
Without unnecessary coffee breaks, commutes, and a more comfortable working environment, employees have been proven to get a lot more done. On top of this, sick days and employee attrition also decrease with remote work.
Remote Work Saves Businesses Money
Cutting down on renting office space can have a major impact. The Stanford study mentioned above also showed that businesses could save around $2000 per employee by cutting out office spaces. When you think about things like electricity, office equipment, rent, heating, and parking bays, the costs really add up.
Remote Work Offers Better Employee Wellbeing
Finally, employees can enjoy a better state of wellbeing through remote work. By working from home, you can have the time to fetch your kids from school, see friends, eat a home-cooked lunch, and fit an exercise routine into your day.
With more time available, employee wellness improves. This helps to reduce stress levels, improve productivity, and increase job satisfaction.
“I really enjoy working fully remote because it allows me to get up later, not have to worry about traffic, and I can use the saved time to work on personal projects,”
said Themba Kriger from Wishpond.
Remote Work Challenges
Remote work certainly has its benefits, but these don’t come without challenges. Not all businesses are able to transition to fully remote work environments and the ones that do generally face plenty of speedbumps along the way.
Here are some common challenges that businesses face when moving their operations away from office spaces.
Distractions and Loneliness
Getting away from certain coworkers may have been a dream when you were in the office, but you could soon start to miss them. According to a recent study, loneliness is the second biggest struggle to remote work. This is a problem found alongside struggling with distractions at home, and not being able to unplug after work.
At the office, you’ve got nothing to focus on besides your work. At home, distractions are everywhere. Being alone can also have a negative effect on employee wellbeing and happiness.
The ability to spread your team around the world is a major advantage, but it can also be a challenge. When you’re working between different timezones, communication can be affected in a big way.
Workers at other ends of the world work different hours and struggle to overlap their schedules. Or, they could work the same hours while one worker sacrifices their time by working the graveyard shift -which is not ideal.
This can have a major impact on productivity and creativity, affecting how your employees feel about their work. It’s important to encourage a balanced lifestyle and allow remote workers to set up a schedule that works for them as much as for the company.
Collaboration and Communication
When you’re not sitting next to your team members at work it’s easy to miss out on what everyone’s busy with. Even if you have regular meetings and use efficient communication tools, staying up to date with every action is tricky.
Collaboration and communication are essential for the success of any business operation.
Home Network Problems
Nothing hurts a remote workday more than a bad wifi connection.
Remote teams need to be properly sorted with a strong wifi connection, and adequate hardware in order to keep their productivity levels up to standard. Ensuring that a large team is all equipped with a good enough wifi connection can be a challenge.
What Will the Future of Workspaces Look Like?
This is a tricky question to answer because different companies have different opinions about the need for office spaces.
The percentage of permanently remote employees is expected to double in 2021 compared to the 16.4% level before the pandemic.
Major companies, like Facebook, REI, and Shopify have also announced that some form of remote work will remain an option for workers in the future. It seems that remote work isn’t going anywhere.
Some companies are taking this even further by introducing a 4 day work week.
At the end of the day, the most important factor in deciding between remote and office-based work for a business is productivity. A 2021 survey showed that 52% of employers think that productivity levels have increased since their teams started working remotely due to the pandemic.
It seems that remote work will become a major focus for businesses going forward. If you’re considering starting a business, or are concerned about your current working environment, it would be a good idea to start focusing on how you can utilize remote work in the future.
Hybrid Work Trends
When looking at remote work trends, it seems that hybrid work is the direction that we’re heading. Hybrid work is a model where some employees head back to the workplace from remote working, and others continue to work from home. Most big businesses, like Microsoft, have implemented a more flexible hybrid working from home approach.
When we look at the movement towards working remotely and creating a hybrid work environment, there are a couple of remote work trends and considerations that stand out. We’ll outline these below.
Flexible Work Seems to Be the Future
In our post-pandemic world, the biggest work trend is flexible work. We’re not talking about flexible hours as much as we’re talking about the flexibility of working from home.
With this work trend, employees can enjoy the benefits of both working remotely, as well as in an office space. This is why 66% of business decision-makers are busy redesigning their physical office spaces to better accommodate flexible remote work trends.
One challenge of this is understanding where to invest. Should businesses invest in remote employees by helping them set up their home office spaces? Or should companies focus on their own offices?
What is the Price of Productivity?
We’ve already covered how remote workers are more productive, but how exactly is this affecting them? Is the work-life balance better when working remotely, or do team members blur the lines when they work from home?
One trend we’ve noticed about working remotely is that the digital intensity of remote workers’ days has increased. When working remotely, we’re faced with more meetings, more chats, more emails, and more time spent online.
A lot of remote workers struggle to turn off, and many are expected to respond to work queries and be available around the clock. If employers don’t pay careful attention to the work-life balance, remote jobs can be non-stop.
Networks Could Get Smaller
Even though working from home allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, data has shown that the shift to working from home has actually shrunk our networks. People that work from home tend to have increased interactions with their close networks, but they spend less time expanding their broader network.
This means that companies that work from home could become more siloed than they were before 2020. A downside of this could be a decrease in innovation. While working from home full-time could continue to shrink our networks, hybrid work trends could help us to see more growth in this area.
Cybersecurity Becomes More Important
40% of organizations that work from home have shown concern about cybersecurity risks. This means that the future of remote work will likely include a heavy focus on cybersecurity, the use of VPNs, and increasing compliance and security training processes within companies.
Companies with remote workers need to find the balance between flexibility and security. This is especially true as remote workers change their locations and implement a more nomadic lifestyle.
Reskilling and Upskilling has Become More Important
Another big trend that has come out of work-from-home businesses is that more career path opportunities have opened up with remote work. Upskilling and reskilling have become an increasing trend because workers now have more flexibility about the paths they can choose.
With more remote jobs becoming available, freelance work has also grown. This means more people are looking into different opportunities and areas that they can shape their careers. Online learning, upskilling, and exploring new directions is a major work from home trend right now.
Flexible Work Hours Are On the Rise
Many organizations have become more open to flexible hours as they have shifted their workforce to remote work. Working in a traditional workplace is limited by specific office hours, which is completely freed up when you work from home.
One of the big benefits of working from home is greater flexibility, which workers are taking full advantage of. Taking on a more flexible work schedule is also changing the way that companies operate (because now they could have workers online around the clock).
Work Has Become More Human
Even though there is a physical distance with remote work, many companies have found that working from home has actually helped to create more of a human connection within a workforce.
Instead of the regular office culture that we’re used to, workers now present a more realistic view of their lives to coworkers. This includes dogs barking during meetings, children playing next to a work desk, and a workforce adjusting to each worker’s personal schedule.
This has helped to improve work relationships and make people feel more comfortable to reveal their at-home life. This adds up to a more comfortable and happy work environment.
Remote work doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. In fact, businesses are focusing on developing their future operations around remote work.
Here at Wishpond, we’ve got hundreds of people based all around the world - and it works great. Even though Google is investing so much in their new office spaces, it doesn’t mean remote work is over.
Sure, many employees are returning to the office, and remote work doesn’t always work out for every business. But it seems that remote work is only getting stronger, and it will continue to be an important area of focus for businesses in the future. Let’s also not overlook the fact that 83% of workers say they are happier working remotely.
Do you work remotely? Or do you run a business with remote staff? Let us know your experience in the comments below.