Remote work has been one of the key terms and key ideas in technology and the workplace ever since the pandemic started. And now that it has been a few years since we were first talking about it on a global scale, there is currently a discussion about where it is going. Some managers and groups want everyone to return to the office as soon as possible. Others are realizing some of the benefits of remote work and noticing that employees are willing to stay with employers that offer it. This all leads to a discussion of whether we consider remote work to be normal or not.
And that’s a hard question. It seems as though everyone has at least a slightly different opinion about it and its place in the world today. What we do have are polls, statistics, and data collected after several years of heavy remote work. After the initial discomfort of transition and the acceptance of necessity, we know much more about how people feel about it.
Here is what you need to know about remote work in today’s world:
Remote Work in 2022
Now that we’re in 2022, the conversation about remote work has changed. Before we were asking whether it was possible and how in the world were we going to make the transition during a global pandemic, especially for jobs that were traditionally done in the office.
Note that remote work didn’t start during the pandemic. People have been working remotely for a long time. Often writers would mail in manuscripts before the computer was invented. The telephone allowed for remote offices and some people to do their work from home. It was more of a privilege than anything else. Yet adding in today’s technologies and conveniences make it incredibly easy to work as though you are right there at the office. Files can be moved around in milliseconds, conversations can happen anywhere, and meetings and briefs might be easier online. There is a lot to work with, and still more possibilities to come.
With that in mind, here is where remote work stands in 2022:
- Globally, 16 percent of companies are fully remote work. They have no true office or headquarters to speak of, and everyone communicates remotely and online to get the job done. It won’t work for every company, but it shows that many businesses are successful and even thrive with remote work.
- Conversely, 44 percent of the world’s companies do not allow remote work whatsoever. Perhaps they are in-service companies, restaurants, and the like. There might be a small portion that simply culturally disagrees with the idea of remote work.
- If you do the math, it does leave a lot of businesses in the middle, and a lot waiting to decide what to do next. Technology and potential savings will likely pull them towards the side of remote work, but it might take time. It might also take a shift in management culture, as managers can be the ones upended the most by the sudden shift.
- On the other side of things, how many people are working remotely? It is estimated that 62 percent of employees between the ages of 22 and 65 work remotely at least on occasion.
- The numbers vary depending on the exact timeframe and study, but overall the amount of remote workers has risen dramatically over the last decade or so, to the degree where the total has far more than doubled.
- Due to the pandemic and efforts to reduce its spread in 2021, 70 percent of full time employees last year worked remotely during at least some period of time.
- We are still waiting for the numbers for 2022 (it might be some time yet), but there will likely be a decrease as some employers demand a return to the office, but levels will still be vastly above pre-pandemic levels.
- Out of remote workers, 56 percent of them began working from home after the start of 2020.
- As we’ll explore later, remote work or a hybrid arrangement is quite popular with employees. Only 29 percent of employees prefer to be in the office full time, with 34 percent of workers wanting a full-time remote arrangement.
- It is estimated that there will be 36.2 million Americans by 2025. This number is liable to vast changes, and yet it is still well above the number of Americans working pre-pandemic.
- However, one clear trend we will see in 2022 as a result of remote work is that national borders will matter, but not matter so much. International contractors will be doing more work, and remote capabilities will enable it. Additionally, decreasing language barriers and a more educated world population all contribute to this trend.
- Whether managers, workers, and owners like it or not, managers think remote work is coming. 85 percent of them think that remote work teams will be the new normal, whether in conjunction with office teams or not.
- On a similar note, workers are expecting the same. About 81 percent of them expect their employer to keep supporting remote work practices.
All of this points to a rising trend in remote work, which might have a minor fall due to the end of the pandemic. It is not going to be about if remote work is considered normal eventually, but how fast the adoption rate is.
The Clear Benefits of Increased Remote Work
There are several things people like about remote work. You might find that there is a particular element that would be make or break for you when it comes to remote work, and that is the case for a lot of people. People have different priorities in different stages of their lives, and remote work isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are different arrangements. Nonetheless, let’s look at some of the clear benefits of remote work, whether it’s for the business or the employee.
- People are loving the lack of a commute. On average people spend about 56 minutes on their commute each day, and this is just the average. Some people spend hours commuting to their jobs that they would be perfectly able to do remotely. This is a huge quality of life increase for people, and many employees willingly admit they would take a pay cut to not have to commute to work. If time is money, then these people want to save money, even if they would take a pay cut to do so. The math works out for them.
- It truly does work out for them. On average a remote worker will save $7,000 per year between transport, childcare, and food (eating out for lunch is expensive). This number can rise to even greater heights if someone would need full childcare or have an especially long commute.
- While there were fears that people would not be as productive involving remote work, the evidence has mostly been to the contrary. There was some that thought that people would slack off without supervision, but these people would also find ways to slack off at the office as well. Around 77 percent of remote workers say they are more productive when they are remote working. Whether they are getting fewer distractions or whether they work better in a familiar environment, the results speak for themselves.
- Work-life balance is key to a healthy life and ultimately a productive workday. And 75 percent of employees believe this is improved by working remotely.
- If you ask employees, work-life balance is the main benefit. However, that’s not the only one, based on the information from Zippia:
- You will notice that not everyone agrees on the benefits. However, also note that just because someone isn’t taking fewer sick days because of remote work, that does not mean that they aren’t taking more. It’s just not something they notice or agree with.
- People often feel more engaged with their work when working remotely. This may be a result of a better work-life balance, less stress in other areas of their life, or fewer distractions at home than they would have at the office.
Why Are People Choosing Remote Work?
- As explained, it certainly has a lot to do with work-life balance. The main reason people decided on remote work was so they could have a work-life balance. There is less of a commute, people can spend more time with their loved ones, and people who work remotely can likely set their schedules more to their liking.
- A lot of this comes down to more flexible scheduling. People like to choose where and when they work.
- Going off of a previous point, 75 percent of remote employees say they work remotely because there are fewer distractions to work with.
- Some people are enjoying the freedom remote work gives them regarding where they live. People are no longer bound to the cities or their metro areas and instead can live in a quieter, more spacious area if they so desire.
- In a 2020 survey, 36 percent of USA respondents said that being able to care for family or pets was a major benefit and the reason they stick to remote work.
- It’s probably not the first consideration for most people, but working remotely does have environmental benefits. It keeps cars off the road and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of cars every year. People who are environmentalists or cannot drive are finding remote work a more satisfying way to support themselves.
Why Are Companies Choosing Remote Work?
There wouldn’t be remote workers if businesses didn’t have remote positions open or didn’t operate remotely. But to do so is a choice, and a serious one. It determines in part the operating structure, reach, and capabilities of the business. It means that plans have to be made to get around the difficulties of setting up. The default best position is against change, all else being equal. So why are companies choosing remote work?
- To start with the obvious, many positions switched to remote work, at least temporarily, due to government mandates. If a business couldn’t be open to the public or workers, it wasn’t doing anything or making revenue. By going remotely or offering remote services, at least some work could get done. After a bit of onboarding, workers got better at working remotely and businesses got better at managing themselves as such.
- Worker retention is the other huge reason more companies are choosing remote work. And now that there is remote work in a lot of positions, about one in three remote workers say they would quit their jobs if they couldn’t work remotely after the pandemic.
- Similar to worker retention, when creating a remote position a company can get applications from around the world, or at least the entire country. With some specialist positions, it can mean that there are opportunities to fill the position. When people don’t have to uproot their life for a position, they are more likely to consider it.
- Sometimes people have to move, perhaps for family reasons. In the past, this meant they would have to resign from their job, whether they wanted to or not. No more. Now top performers can stay with a company after they need to move, removing a disruption for both the employee and the employer.
- Small companies are choosing to hire remote workers more (at twice the rate), partially because by offering remote work options they can have an edge over the big companies and their hypothetically larger hiring budgets.
Of course, there are other reasons that companies might be interested in switching to more remote work. The studies are continuing and the effects of the increased practice are still being determined.
Challenges with Transitioning to Remote Work
However, there are reasons why employers might be more hesitant to shift to remote work:
- Some employers are set in how things are done and they want people back in the office. It isn’t necessarily a fair assessment nor one that will do well by their employees or company, but it can be the reality of the situation. Employees might move from companies before owners and managers realize that remote work is the future for some but all businesses.
- It isn’t necessarily just “this is the way things were always done” that might be concerning employers. There is also the matter of data security in some cases. There might be network protections or protections on work devices that keep client information or company secrets safe from sabotage, espionage, and hackers. This is a huge deal, as one major information leak can sink a company. When considerations such as HIPAA and financial information are involved, it isn’t so easy as moving the computers home sometimes. There are ways to still keep the information safe while having employees work at home, but you cannot deny that there is a roadblock.
- Some jobs simply cannot be done remotely. One cannot erect a telephone poll, do construction, or work at a power station remotely, at least until we can remotely control machines that do that safely. Some related jobs can be done remotely, but for physical jobs, a physical presence is required. Similarly, jobs in food service and physical retail (as opposed to eCommerce) require people to be around to prepare the food and handle the goods. Automation might reduce the number of people needed, but it will be some time until a robot cooks your steak to perfection.
- Managers and owners need to rethink their methods in terms of workplace priorities, workplace culture, and task management. More might need to be planned ahead of time. Communication is faster, but often employees might be focused on their tasks and not looking at messages all the time. In fact, it might not be a good idea for messages to be checking messages, as it could break their concentration.
- For some people, remote work can be lonely, and the remote workers don’t realize this until some time into the job (a few months, perhaps). This is not productive or helpful for anyone, and remote workers and on occasion employers will want to combat this. Remote workers spend time cultivating a social life outside of work or still gain some of the benefits from being around coworkers, such as a remote coworking group.
- Technology doesn’t always work the way people would like, and there’s a setup process, especially if certain apps are used. Companies can pay for equipment, computers, and the like, but they might not be able to remotely set everything up. Workers who are used to certain devices or in-person methods might need to learn new programs and technologies Some tutorials and training can help with this, but the workers will have to be eager and willing to learn the new technology. This hurdle was passed for many during the pandemic, but not all.
Most of these problems have solutions, or the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. However, it will require preparation and planning. When these are routinely solved, we can consider remote work the new normal.
Is Remote Working the New Normal?
To people who are considering career moves and strongly considering a position with remote work (as well as a boatload of investors), this is the billion-dollar question. Remote work has appeared so often in the news and was so prevalent during the pandemic. Now the president is hoping people will return to the office and there is a bit of a crisis when it comes to business real estate. If businesses don’t have to pay for office space and employees can do a good job working remotely, why would they?
There are hundreds of millions of people around the world who would love to work in a remote position. In some cases, such as people with disabilities or people who have parental responsibilities at home but otherwise have a lot of time they could spend working and skills they could utilize, it’s a necessity. Many companies see the potential in remote work in finding the top talent around the world.
And as time goes on, there will be fewer excuses why people cannot remote work. Some people might not have great internet access at home, but that is likely to change over time. Apps will continue to develop in order to provide people with more options.
In short: Perhaps not yet across the globe, but it’s getting there. And many people wish it would be.
There is a lot left to learn when it comes to remote work You might want to see if you can get more into it yourself, or if you are in a management position whether utilizing it more would be better for your organization. Whatever your situation, we hope that you have a better understanding of remote work and the modern workplace. It can be tough to keep track of when you have your own worries to deal with and career to progress in, but understanding all of this now is vital when organizations are shifting and we are reconsidering the very idea of the office. Keep learning, keep seeking out new information, and you will be able to come to the best conclusions in no time.