Remote work trends and what we can learn from them

February 16, 2024

The remote work trends we’ll discuss in this blog can be summarised with this quote from Tolu Olunbunmi, entrepreneur and co-chairperson of Mobile Minds:

"When people are given the flexibility to live and work where they please, it really does increase productivity and allow a diversity of people to engage in the workforce. Because if in the 19th century, work was about where you went, now work is about what you do, not from where you do it."

The interest in remote work has continuously risen over the years. According to an article posted by FlexJobs, remote job listings have increased by 51% from 2014 to 2017. Moreover, there were 3.9 million American part-time remote workers in 2017, which is a 115% increase from just 1.8 million in 2005, signalling a 115% increase.  

What makes remote work so attractive? Buffer’s 2018 State of Remote Work, which surveyed 1,900 workers from 90 countries, enumerated the top benefits and struggles of working remotely:

Biggest benefits of working remotely:

  • Flexible schedule - 43%
  • Spend time with family - 15%
  • Ability to travel - 12%
  • Work environment - 11%
  • Work from home - 9%
  • Avoid office politics - 4%
  • Exercise regularly - 3%
  • Other - 3%

Biggest struggles with working remotely:

  • Loneliness - 21%
  • Collaborating/Communicating - 21%
  • Distractions at home - 16%
  • Staying motivated - 14%
  • Timezone challenges - 13%
  • Finding reliable WiFi - 8%
  • Other - 7%

As more companies are adopting remote work and more workers are becoming interested in remote work opportunities, what changes do we expect to see in the workplace?  

Remote work will become a business strategy

What started as a nice perk for employees is now becoming a business strategy. Companies are starting to incorporate remote work to accomplish business goals and gain certain advantages, such as reducing operating costs, attracting and/or retaining talent, expanding into new markets, improving worker health satisfaction, and more.

Remote work is proven to boost employee performance as well. According to a 10-month study conducted by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, telecommuting workers worked more hours, took shorter breaks, and used less sick leaves. The flexibility that remote workers enjoy also allow them to follow the flow of their natural brain functioning, which brings out peak performance in workers.

More countries will embrace remote working

Hiring experts expect that more workers will accept remote working this year. This is despite the fact that remote working is still not unanimously embraced in certain countries even with its significant growth.

As prominent organisations such as Amazon, Convergys, Sutherland Global Services, and IBM continue to employ a fully- or partially-remote workforce, talents from the different parts of the world will come to embrace telecommuting.

Here are some companies from different industries which employ remote workforces:

  • Automattic - 500 employees in 50 countries
  • Basecamp - 50 people in 32 cities
  • Axelerant - over 50 global team members
  • Buffer - 80 employees in various countries
  • Convergys - has hubs in 31 countries
  • Dell - Forecasting 50% of employees to be remote by 2020
  • Edgar - 100% remote team
  • FlexJobs - 100% remote since its founding
  • GitLab - 250 employees in 39 countries
  • HelpScout - 75 employees in 12 countries
  • Invision - 220+ staffers in 14 countries
  • Toggl - 65 people in 9 timezones
  • Zapier - More than 100 people across 15 countries

Instead of migrating to another country, employees now have the option to stay in their home country while earning and working for great companies.

Fast-growing jobs with remote work opportunities will grow  

FlexJobs identified 11 fast-growing jobs which also come with remote work opportunities. Ordered from highest to lowest, these are the fastest-growing flexible jobs for 2018 along with their short description and expected growth rate by 2026:

  • Physician Assistants - 37% projected growth

Also known as PAs, they examine, diagnose, and treat patients. They practice medicine alongside physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers.

  • Nurse Practitioners - 36% projected growth

Also referred to as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), these are nurse anaesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners tasked mainly to coordinate patient care.

  • Physical Therapist Assistants - 31%

Sometimes called PTAs, they work under the direction of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement.

  • Software Developers, Applications - 30%

Software developers build applications that run on computers and other devices or systems that control networks or run devices.

  • Mathematicians - 29%

Mathematicians mainly analyse data and solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields through applying mathematical and statistical techniques.

  • Medical Assistants - 29%

Medical assistants handle administrative and clinical in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities.

  • Occupational Therapy Assistants - 29%

Under the direction of occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants typically perform support activities and provide therapy to patients.

  • Information Security Analysts - 28%

Information security analysts are tasked to protect an organisation’s computer networks and systems through planning and carrying out security measures.

  • Genetic Counsellors - 28%

Genetic counsellors mainly provide information and support to other healthcare providers or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited disorders and birth defects.

  • Operations Research Analysts - 27%

Operations research analysts help organisations identify and solve complex issues and make better decisions through advanced mathematical and analytical methods.

  • Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary - 26%

Postsecondary teachers handle a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Real-time communication will be in-demand

Companies usually allow their remote employees to work flexible hours as long as they are able to get their work done.

But as more employees are shifting to telecommuting, experts predict that employers will put a greater emphasis on a collaborative cloud environment wherein remote workers will work together in real time. It is still unlikely that employers will come up with a rigid working schedule, but we will see that they will declare certain hours of the day where the remote employees must make themselves available.

In the age where remote work is a rising trend, employees will meet together by entering video chat rooms rather meeting rooms to discuss their projects.

Remote jobs have specific skill requirements

Aside from an employee’s ability and skills needed to do the job, employers are also looking for certain skills when hiring remote workers. Not all employees can work efficiently while away from direct supervision, so it is crucial for remote workers to demonstrate this skills:  

  • Digital communication skills, both verbal and written
  • Time and task management and ability to self-focus
  • Ease in working with technology
  • Ability to troubleshoot basic technical issues
  • Familiarity with remote communication tools (e.g. IM, video conferencing, file sharing, and virtual office environments)

Increased familiarity with technology

Remote workers of today have a familiarity with computers and technology, and they need to hone and refine these skills for them to stay competitive and keep up with the demands of the 21st century. While remote staff work alone at the comfort of their homes, they are likely to be tasked with greater duties as well as the responsibility to find their way around and pick up new technologies necessary for them to improve their work.

How remote work trends are shaping the future of work

"The remote workforce is growing at an astonishing rate … and it'll be up to employers to keep up with the changing needs of their employees. One of the easiest adjustments management can make is to implement a company-wide set of communication standards that simplify the process for their workers so they're not switching between email, SMS and a slew of apps not secure enough for the enterprise."

- Zinc CEO Stacey Epstein, on remote work

Candidates today are showing more interest in remote work opportunities, and businesses and companies must realise that flexible work options may soon be more than just a perk. Moving forward, organisations must improve their remote work policies and capabilities to be able to attract top talents.  

Productivity and performance are common concerns when talking about remote work, but there are skills that employers should have to efficiently manage teams even from a distance. These skills include strong communication skills, the ability to manage conflict, and a good understanding of cultural differences. Ultimately, employers must also learn how to establish mutual trust with their remote workers to create a smooth working relationship that transcends even the biggest of distances.