Back in January I published an article on workplace trends for 2020, which included the following prediction:
“In 2020 and beyond, employing full-time remote workers won’t be unusual at all.”
At the time, of course, I had no idea that our entire society was about to be turned upside down by a global pandemic, and that most of us would soon be forced to work remotely.
What a wild three months it’s been. If you’re like us (and a lot of our customers), your whole company has been working remotely since mid-March. No doubt we’ve experienced the same ups and downs as companies across the planet scrambled to make the transition to a new way of working.
But the truth is, fully remote organizations were on the rise even pre-Covid. According to a January report, “the number of people working remotely on a weekly basis has grown by nearly 400% in the last decade.”
Sine March, we’ve learned that fully remote organizations are not only possible, but they can be just as productive (or more!) as their traditional counterparts. And that means that remote work isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
So what does this mean for the future of work? A whole lot.
Remote work is here to stay
1) Employers will hire more remote workers
Prior to Covid and throughout the 2010s, a lot of employers were skeptical about remote work. The possibilities were just beginning to be explored thanks in part to innovations in cloud-based technology and the ubiquity of SaaS apps. But some employers just didn’t believe the hype.
In 2013, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer famously banned all 12,000 employees from working from home, citing increased productivity levels when employees are in the same room together.
A lot of tech companies reacted by following Mayer’s lead. My own CEO at the time rescinded our company’s work-from-home policy shortly after Yahoo!. It was a sad, dark time.
But nowadays, the world’s top companies are recognizing that remote work does, in fact, work. A Harvard Business School study conducted just last year showed that “work from anywhere” arrangements that allow employees to work outside of the office actually increased productivity by 4.4%.
Over the last three months, the world has undergone a mass remote work experiment, and the results are positive. What this means going forward is that employers will feel more comfortable hiring remote workers on a permanent basis. Some commentators predict that entirely remote workforces could soon be the new normal.
Which brings me to my next point…
2) People can work from anywhere now
Now that we know for a fact that remote organizations can thrive, it’s only a matter of time before remote hiring practices get underway on a large scale and organizations abandon the notion of “the office” altogether.
A company whose “headquarters” (in name only) is located in San Francisco might actually be comprised of people from all 50 states, and potentially 100+ countries. Even though this workforce collaborates together everyday, they may never physically meet one another. This could create a worldwide job market, which would have lasting effects on things like salary, labor laws, trade, you name it.
Mark Zuckerberg, supreme leader at the forever-embattled Facebook, recently announced that employees may face a cut to their Silicon Valley salaries if they move to cheaper areas to work from home. But don’t fret; unlike Marissa Mayer’s 2013 ban on working from home, Facebook’s new policy seems to be an anomaly… for now.
For those of you excited at the prospect of working remotely in other markets, now is the time to send out applications.
3) Permanent remote work organizations
The lessons learned over this pandemic will irrevocably reshape the future of work. That’s undeniable. In fact, we’re already seeing big names in the tech sector announce their intention to transition to permanent remote work.
Near the end of May, eCommerce giant Shopify announced that its 5,000+ employees will be able to continue working from home, even when shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted. Here’s Tobi Lutke, CEO:
“As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.”
Jack Dorsey, CEO of both Square and Twitter, also decided that both companies would continue to work remotely for the forseeable future. A company spokesman at Square said the following:
“We want employees to be able to work where they feel most creative and productive. Over the past several weeks, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes for people to effectively perform roles outside of an office, and we will continue to learn as we go.”
Global Workplace Analytics estimates that when the pandemic is over, 30 percent of the entire workforce will work from home at least a couple times a week. Before the pandemic, that number was in the low single digits.
From what I gather, this doesn’t seem like a fad or passing trend. It’s been a massive transformation in the way both employers and employees think about work. Personally, I think it’ll become the predominant way of working as organizations around the world catch on.
Remote work works
As we’ve discovered over the past few months, remote work is not all rainbows and unicorns. To be successful it takes transparent communication, trust, accountability, strong leadership, and a whole lot of self-discipline.
But as we’ve learned here at Jostle, people are very good at adapting to change. As we encountered the various pitfalls of remote work, we found a way forward and it soon became second-nature. Because remote work really does work!