Two years ago, remote work had a very different connotation than it does today. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was something that flexible, tech-savvy businesses offered — perhaps just occasionally. Today, most employers across the globe have at least some form of a remote work policy and structure.
In January 2020, Zoom annual meetings were at 101 billion. Flash forward to October 2020, and they hit 3.3 trillion. Revenue has skyrocketed over the course of the ongoing pandemic, too. That indicates that an increasing number of workers and businesses are making telecommuting integral to their operations.
All indications point to the pandemic persisting for some time to come. But even after COVID-19 is all but a distant memory, we will more than likely see remote work continue in some form for the foreseeable future. That begs the question: What does this future look like, precisely?
Major Disruptions Ahead
Of course, we must account for major disruptions to the work landscape. This is true at any point, but especially during a time of great upheaval. Adam Ozimek, a labor economist at Upwork, said the transition we’ve already experienced during the pandemic is “modest” in comparison to what we will see in the immediate future.
“The number one thing that’s happened is that a lot of businesses and a lot of workers have found that remote work works better than they thought,” he said. He foresees startups, in particular, considering asynchronous work and embracing new technological platforms to make this possible.
Ozimek also advised employers to consider outsourcing models and looking to freelancers to offload some of the work. Many businesses are using this model to connect with workers all over the world and find the right fit for their teams.
Hybrid vs. Remote
Many companies have been looking to a hybrid model, combining remote and in-person work as a happy medium. But according to Forrester’s Predictions 2022: The Future Of Work report, this will require some finessing. Of the 60% of businesses that elect to use a hybrid approach, approximately a third will initially fail at it.
That’s because hybrid work is somewhat of a new phenomenon, at least for many companies. As they navigate the challenges associated with the unknown, they must be prepared to cope with hectic scheduling matters, complex software, and a multitude of changing policies.
Organizations will require transparency and openness to new technology in order to address these and other obstacles. They may also demand the skills of qualified IT professionals to help them navigate this world.
Keeping Employees Informed
One enormous challenge organizations of all types are facing during these difficult times is keeping employees informed about what they’re doing. Communication silos, in particular, can upset any worker.
McKinsey found that 40% of employers said that they haven’t heard any “vision” from their employers, and another 28% have only heard vague information. This, they agreed, is contributing to anxiety about the future of their jobs and careers.
While no employer knows with any amount of certainty what will happen with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the work landscape, employers can do their part by being transparent with their employees as they navigate the obstacles it presents. According to McKinsey, organizations that provide detailed plans about their policies and plans see an uptick in their employees’ well-being and productivity.
A “Digital Inflection Point”
“I believe we are at a digital inflection point,” wrote Quyen Pham, Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Swoon.
Pham pointed to a sharp increase in digital interactions, particularly Zoom and other video conferencing tools. “This is a critical moment for business leaders because they must adapt to new digital needs, or they will risk becoming totally obsolete in the working world.”
Embracing sustainable digital technologies and digital transformation will prove critical in adapting to a remote-first landscape. This has proven vital in the past 2 years and will continue to be so for the near future. Fortunately, it’s not too late for those lagging a bit to pivot towards this direction, provided they do so sooner rather than later. Learning management systems (LMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and other tools will be essential in making this transition.
The War for Talent and the Great Resignation
We are still in the midst of the so-called Great Resignation, where employees are leaving in droves to turn to new opportunities. This is connected to the War for Talent, in which employers are competing for top professionals across fields.
One way to prevent employees from leaving and attracting top talent is to give them what they want — which includes flexible work. From asynchronous start and stop times to freedom in the ways employees work — that is, giving the remote-only options at the very least — to nontraditional approaches, there are plenty of methods to meet the needs of current and prospective employees.
Additionally, employers must consider additional remote opportunities, such as those that will help workers learn and upskill, as well as engage with their colleagues.
What does the future of remote work look like? While we can’t predict what course this pandemic will take, we can anticipate that the remote scene will play an enormous role in helping organizations adapt and progress in an evolving professional landscape.
It will also be essential to competing for and retaining top talent — as well as keeping employees engaged.