Remote work isn’t a new phenomenon but it is one that has been made relevant by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Long before the Internet first appeared, working from home was pretty much the norm. Skilled laborers such as blacksmiths, carpenters, leather workers, and potters would each work from their homes. And although the Industrial Revolution radically changed the business landscape, we are now slowly returning to the older model of working remotely but in a digital context.
Today, remote work is fast becoming the new normal and hashtags like #DigitalNomad and #WorkFromAnywhere on social media are a testament to the prevalence of this new format.
And it’s easy to see why this new trend is gaining traction both among employers and employees.
Because remote workers get to work out of the office and generally on their own schedules, they also tend to have higher engagement rates and increased productivity levels as well. They are happier, healthier and more content with their job compared to their peers who have to commute to the office every day.
For companies in countries hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is good news. The United Kingdom, Canada, US and many European countries are seeing a frightening wave of company bankruptcies and millions of furloughed employees.
In addition to generous government schemes aimed at helping failing businesses, remote work is a simple yet effective strategy to: retain workers, reduce lease space and thus improve cost-savings for employers, encourage the wellbeing of employees and help curb the spread of the new virus. For HR managers hiring remote workers is a no-brainer.
As we struggle to adapt to life in this emerging new reality, the so-called “working-from-home economy” is likely to continue long past the coronavirus pandemic.
With nearly half (48%) of American companies currently using freelancers, up from 43% in 2017, we see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time. More strikingly, if we consider the contribution to U.S. gross domestic product based on their earnings, this group of work-from-home employees now accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
The societal impacts and work-related results stemming from the shifting dynamics of the workforce all point towards making remote-work a permanent part of the labor landscape. From reduced childcare and gasoline expenses to greenhouse emissions and office spaces, the new work at home trend has the potential to have a positive impact across multiple verticals.
It is not surprising then that so many people are embracing it.
In a recent Gallup study: “43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely”,
Companies are too discovering the multiple benefits of employing remote workers or allowing remote work. Increased productivity, better mental and physical health for employees, lower overhead and improved work-life balance, higher employee morale and loyalty are just some of the positive outcomes reported by brands since the start of the lockdown
Swapping stressful commutes for peaceful work-from-home setups seems to be keeping workers more motivated and engaged. A recent study discovered that “People who spend between 60-80% of their working hours remote for at least 3-4 days out of the week report the highest engagement rates compared to those who never work off-site.
A growing suite of tools that facilitate remote work is further facilitating the transition to remote work. For the time being, the greatest challenge remains staying connected and accomplishing time-sensitive tasks while managing diverse teams across different time zones. But both companies and employees are becoming better at aligning their goals and plans while maintain their flexibility.
In fact, the results from expanding the workforce with off-site team members have been so great that the 94% of remote workers recently surveyed said that they encouraged others to work remotely” too.
With these positive results, it’s easy to see why hiring managers were 4x more likely to hire freelancers in 2018 - a trend that will continue shaping the new virtual workplace in the future.