As the workplace continues to evolve in response to new technologies and workers’ preferred lifestyles, remote work is becoming increasingly popular. Instead of being tied down to a traditional office environment, many professionals are now able to travel and take their jobs with them, successfully execute projects from the familiarity of their homes or the comfort of a coffee shop and take a few steps closer to hopefully achieving work-life balance.
According to FlexJobs.com, “Remote, flexible workers tend to be happier and more loyal employees. Working from home has been shown to lower stress, improve personal relationships, and provide time for hobbies and interests.”
Working remotely does not look the same for everyone. Some professionals truly work out of a home office and manage a team of remote workers from all around the world without ever meeting in person. Others work remotely for part of the week and only commute to the office for in-person meetings or events a couple of days a month. Still, others make use of coworking spaces where they can collaborate and connect with others while still exercising location flexibility.
Working remotely is the dream for a lot of professionals, but if not managed well, it can turn into a nightmare for business. Productivity can decrease, collaboration can stop, and personal issues can trump professional priorities. Whether you are already familiar with remote work or just thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, there are several trends to take into consideration.
Remote Work Trends to Consider
Here are 15 of the latest remote work trends to think about in 2019.
- Industries beyond tech to get in on remote work. The remote work revolution is said to have started in the tech industry because tech workers had devices on which to work from home. Many tech companies today now have a workforce that is either completely or majority remote. Other industries may soon be joining. According to research by Gallup, in sectors as traditional as finance and insurance, remote workers increased by 8% in four years.
- Remote working may become an employee right. With so many Gen X and Gen Z workers entering the workforce and advocating for more flexible working, governments may institutionalize such policies. Gov.UK already states, “Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs … All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and careers.” More countries, including the U.S., may soon do the same.
- Cafes will become more “remote work” ready. Interviews conducted by Remoters.net found that remote workers did not mention coworking locations or their homes, but cafes, as the top location to do remote work. Most cafes today do have power access and Wi-Fi accessibility, but there are other services that could be offered such as collaborative spaces for teams and higher flexibility.
- New tools for remote working will continue to be introduced. Professionals who work remotely already make use of a number of tools to increase productivity, improve communication and better manage projects. These tools include Asana, Slack and the Google Suite. As remote work continues to rise, a new set of tools will be needed to provide greater support.
- IT protection expands to include remote work. A big benefit of working in a traditional office is the security provided by having an IT department that protects data on company computers and other devices. When working from home, professionals leave that security behind and open themselves and their home devices up to cybersecurity attacks and data breaches. According to WeWorkRemotely.com, “Companies will begin strengthening and enforcing the rules about where remote and in-house employees can access sensitive data.”
- Training for remote workers will gain traction. Opportunities for skills to be improved and for progression to be made within a company are necessary to avoid high attrition rates. “Micro-learning and self-paced learning programs are bound to get more traction as more employers realize the incremental benefits of nurturing and re-engaging existing teams,” writes Abdullahi Muhammed for Forbes.
- Specific skill sets will be in demand. Companies no longer want to hire remote workers who know how to do a variety of things. They are now looking for those who possess specific skill sets and technical knowledge. Those who have mastered a skill and have advanced digital knowledge are more likely to get hired.
- Companies may start covering remote work expenses. Companies have been able to save money on office space and equipment by allowing professionals to work from home. There is, however, still costs associated with remote working – Internet, coworking spaces, coffee, etc. Most companies don’t reimburse or cover these costs for remote workers. That may soon change as more companies embrace remote working.
- Remote work policies will become defined. A report from Upwork.com found 63% of companies have full-time employees who work outside the office, but they do not have the policies in place to support it. As time goes on, it won’t be enough for companies to have only the resources and processes to enable remote work. They will also need to have defined remote work policies in place.
- Programs will be introduced to help remote workers feel more involved. According to Igloo’s 2019 State of the Digital Workplace report, 70% of remote workers feel isolated and left out of the workplace. Companies will need to improve communication practices and introduce programs that will help remote workers feel they are a valuable part of the team even without them being in a traditional office.
- Remote positions will need to come with benefits. As Gen X and Gen Z workers make their way into the workforce, they are looking for positions that will give them better balance between their personal and professional lives. They are often working harder and longer hours for less money. Because of this, “We’re seeing more companies offer unlimited vacation days, healthcare, paid time off and retirement options that help to alleviate the burden of lower salaries,” says Reuben Yonatan, founder, and CEO of GetVoIP.
- AI and automation will play a bigger role. According to eMerchantBroker co-founder Blair Thomas, “Instead of training workers with new skills, more businesses will likely use artificial intelligence.” Companies will need to figure out how robots and remote positions can best work together.
- Women are leading the way. Since day one, it has been an uphill struggle for women to advance in their careers, but remote work could change that. Research by Remote.co shows nearly 30% of remote work companies were either founded by women or have a female CEO.
- Education after graduation will be encouraged. Companies will want their digital workers to continue to improve their skill set and there are many resources for them to do so from the comfort of their home. LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Udemy, and The Khan Academy are just a few of these resources. Career expert Steve Grant says, “2019 will continue to see knowledge seekers obtaining the additional training they want and need but companies will also continue to push their employees to do more of such readings, lectures as lessons.”
- Remote work will become clearly defined. As of now, remote work is not very well structured or understood. One of the reasons for this is because the terms remote and distributed are often used interchangeably. According to Terminal.io, “this confusion will subside and be replaced by distinct definitions of remote and distributed.”
While the discussion or remote work has been polarizing over the last few years, remote work and the abundance of remote workers are here to stay. With the options for flexibility and growth, employers and employees will soon see the need for and the benefits of remote work. The HR tech space is filled with tools and techniques designed for remote workers. As attitudes change and employers keep pace with technology, the remote workforce could soon surpass the number of people that commute to their offices each day.