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Will Working Remotely Be Your Permanent Reality?

The enduring rise in telecommuting

Let’s summarize the vast changes that have happened to telework since the beginning of the pandemic. After a bit of an awkward adjustment period, companies are realizing that they can effectively manage remote teams. Workers are finding the many advantages to working at home. Cities around the country are offering relocation incentives for remote workers willing to take up residence. The result—remote work has increased an incredible 87% from pre-pandemic levels.

So, what does this all mean? A recently released Future of Workforce Pulse Report from Upwork predicts 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025. If you are working from home as a result of the pandemic, you might not be returning to a physical work location anytime soon, if at all.

Upwork’s chief economist Adam Ozimek explains it this way: “Our research shows the long-lasting impact that remote work and Covid-19 are likely to have on how hiring managers think about their organizations. As businesses adapt and learn from this remote work experiment, many are altering their long-term plans to accommodate this way of working.”

Benefits to companies
Companies are saying remote work options are getting easier, but that was after an early learning curve. There were no policies in place for remote workers. Businesses had to figure out the best technology to use for meetings and provide equipment for home-based workers. All of this planning had to occur very quickly for companies to remain operational.

Now, 68% of hiring managers say remote work is going more smoothly than before when their company first made the shift at the start of the pandemic.

The generally accepted benefits to businesses using a remote workforce include:

  • Lower business expenses, including saving on commercial office space and furnishings
  • Greater access to applicants in a wider geographic area
  • Increased productivity, in part because of fewer workplace distractions
  • Better disaster preparedness because people are already sheltering at their home workplace
  • Improved employee satisfaction and retention
  • A reduced carbon footprint, including few cars on the road and less office space needed
Man working from home in his living room

Having run a remote business with a distributed team for many years, I have been able to contribute several articles on telecommuting to this blog.

Businesses, also see:
The New Wave of Telecommuting
Businesses That Thrive in a Pandemic
How to Run an Effective Online Meeting
Workplaces Adjusting to Change in the Wake of COVID-19
How to Make Sure Your Online Meeting is Secure

Benefits to employees
Employers are not the only ones to benefit from increased productivity from remote employees. Getting more work done efficiently aids an employee’s opportunities for advancement.

Topping the list, 70% of employees reported spending less time in meetings a primary benefit. Schedule flexibility was high on the list too, as well as not spending time commuting. Less distractions and greater work autonomy were also important factors to remote workers.

However, there are challenges to working from home, including avoiding distractions, having a good office set up, and taking care of one’s physical and mental health. It is a big transition to go from a social network in an office to working alone at home. These are some ongoing issues employers will have to consider as telework expands.

Remote workers, also see:
A Case for Telecommuting After COVID-19
The Most Productive Home Office Setup
How to Create a Work-at-Home Health and Wellness Program
Procrastinating During the Pandemic?

Hiring managers interviewed by Upwork believe that 26.7% of the workforce will be fully remote in one year. This suggests that some remote staff will return to work locations, but overall, telecommuting will continue at higher levels than before COVID-19.

Filling staffing gaps
Under the economic strain of the pandemic, companies have vastly cut staff. The survey showed that 61% of teams did not have enough people or skills to complete work. Companies had to cancel or delay work. However, as businesses got more comfortable with managing teleworkers, many are tapping freelancers to fill essential roles.

An alternative to unemployment
If you are unemployed, don’t be afraid to pivot, especially in the times of COVID-19. The stark reality many are facing is that certain jobs will not be coming back, or at least not for a long time. At the beginning of the pandemicmore than 22 million jobs were lost. Only 48% of those jobs were recovered by the end of summer. Industry analysts expect this trend to continue through 2021.

Jobs in tourism, air travel, the service industry, office and administrative jobs, higher education and commercial construction and leasing roles are particularly hard hit. If you think your job may not be coming back, start thinking about what you can do remotely. Even though a different, and often lower paying job may not be your ideal, it may be what you need to get through this period of time we are all going through. It’s a heck of a lot better than wondering whether unemployment will be extended or if you will ever be called back to work. You might also consider expanding a side hustle into a full-time endeavor.

Unemployed and gig workers also see:
Unemployed and Looking for Work?
Self Employed? You Can Still Build Your Own Retirement Plan

We’ve gone through the disbelief, panic and upset of 2020, made adjustments and accepted remote work as valuable to both employers and employees. Let’s make 2021 about resolve, flexibility and doing what is necessary to successfully work and do business.

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