The COVID-19 pandemic, which started in 2020, significantly impacted the global economy and forced many governments to institute massive quarantines, resulting in companies shifting to flexible or remote work setups. Consequently, remote work trends have been on the rise, and companies have come to realize the benefits of remote work as an alternative to traditional office work. The question of whether remote work is a viable long-term strategy, however, still lingers. This article aims to provide insights into the viability of remote work through exploring remote work trends, with a particular focus on flexible work, people enablement, and HR automation.
Remote Work Trends
Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years, with flexible work setups increasing by 140% since 2015. More companies are switching to remote work, and employees are beginning to embrace the benefits of remote work such as work-life balance and flexibility. Moreover, remote work has become acceptable to employees and employers alike, with over a third of all remote employees willing to accept a 10% pay cut to work from home, and Gen Zers increasingly expecting flexible work arrangements.
Long work hours often lead to stress and employee burnout, which can cost companies billions annually and increase the turnover rate. Consequently, the 8-hour workday may soon disappear, paving the way for more employers to offer freelancing and short-term options. Flexible schedules are a significant benefit to remote work, and 52% of workers negotiated flexible work arrangements in 2019. This trend will affect the HR department and the entire company, including hiring and onboarding processes, corporate policies, and communication strategies. Flexible work can increase employee retention by up to 10%.
People enablement is an approach to developing and empowering employees to explore their potential, learn new things, and gain experience. This trend is essential in remote work because it focuses less on a top-down way of managing things, making it perfect for a team dispersed across geographical regions. By using HR to deliver what remote employees need, organizations can tap into a department traditionally meant to offer support to the workforce and give them more tools to do so. Remote work alleviates stress for 86% of employees, making them more receptive to strategies that grant them more freedom and development.
HR professionals must use all available technology to optimize remote work setups, considering that employees will not be interacting in the same physical space. HR automation is essential to this end, and more HR departments are likely to see their processes partially or completely automated. For example, chatbots can cut customer support costs by 30%, while automation can be used for hiring, training, and data analysis.
Remote work trends show that remote work is a viable long-term strategy for working. Flexible work setups, people enablement, and HR automation are significant trends that companies should embrace to capitalize on what’s coming in the remote work industry. Remote work can increase employee retention, reduce stress, and empower employees to explore their potential, learn new things, and gain experience. Companies that adopt remote work early and implement the right processes, teams, and technology will reap significant benefits.
Not all remote work arrangements are full-time, as some employees are allowed to work from home once or twice a week. In contrast, some companies require them to report to the office at least once a week. Moreover, even companies that have a full-time remote work setup have at least annual or biannual meetups, typically for team building purposes or company alignment. There are benefits to in-office workdays, as they keep workers grounded and reinforce the idea of being part of a team. Managers use these workdays as part of broad strategies to immerse employees in the company’s values and work culture. While remote work has a lot of practical benefits, in-office work reduces isolation, which is crucial, especially during a pandemic, as social isolation can promote inflammation.
Suburbia Is Remote Work Central
The rise of remote work has made areas with little population density, such as the suburbs, more desirable. By working remotely, employees can unlock a lot of opportunities, including more time, increased savings, and better work-life balance. States like Vermont offer incentives to remote workers who move to their area. Under the Remote Work Grant Program, the state can pay workers up to $5,000 a year for two years. Other rural areas are also developing their own initiatives, as they have all the amenities required for remote work, including high-speed internet and real estate values that are currently a steal. As more towns follow suit, suburbia would become hubs for remote work, further developing them into a kind of a feedback loop.
A Shift in Urban Planning
Cities used to be the center around which white-collar commerce happens. However, in a future where most people work from home, cities will become less important. It is a shift in urban planning based on decentralizing business districts in cities and a more balanced, dispersed style of development throughout the city and its outlying environs. To achieve this, cities must revise how they are laid out. Modern cities still follow an industrial pattern where a central business district (CBD) is “downtown,” where many commercial establishments are located. When remote work becomes more prevalent, CBDs will have less importance as remote workers can work from anywhere. Urban planning in 2021 and beyond will also utilize some tenets of a smart city, where every area is connected using a high-speed, low-latency network, like 5G wireless and symmetrical fiber networks. Cloud computing will give way to edge computing, and data will be “open,” allowing citizens to co-create solutions tailored to their personal use. This means that the entire smart city is a playground for telecommuters and remote teams alike.
Gen Zers to Take Remote Work Further
As the newest generational cohort, Generation Z, or the “new millennials,” are even more tech-savvy than their predecessors. Their expectations when it comes to job opportunities vary from their predecessors, as they expect to have flexible schedules, be able to acquire new skills for future jobs, and have a job that has a large and positive impact on society. This goes to show that Gen Zers will take remote work as a precondition. While other generations are still figuring out how to work remotely from home, this generation is already familiar with remote work.