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Future of Remote Work: Can Technology Overcome?

This article will provide you with the definite conclusion that remote work will continue to increase. Find out what work trends are affecting the future of remote work. Know the pros and cons of remote work going forward.

Future of Remote Work Conclusions.

Based on recent work trends and a multi-year pandemic, we are all wondering what will be the future of remote work. For remote work there are several pros and cons detailed below. The overall conclusion is that remote work will continue to increase in the following areas:

  • Industries That Have a Lot of Office Workers. Industries like the Financial & Insurance Sectors are well suited for employing a remote workforce. Other sectors favorable to remote work include management, business services, and information technology (see Rave Pub for details).
  • Highly Productive Employees. These are employees who are just as productive being remote or they are workers who favor remote work over a higher salary.
  • Some Well-Managed Companies. Companies that have the opportunity for a lot of their workforce to be remote will increase remote work opportunities if they effectively manage remote worker’s productivity and thus remain profitable.
  • Increase Use of Hybrid Offices.  Where it is not conducive for an employee to be fully remote, there are opportunities for some employees to work at least three days a week from home. Hybrid offices balance the benefits of both remote work and the office environment.
  • The Majority of the Workforce Will Not Be Remote.  Most workers have tasks that require their on-site physical presence. According to Mckinsey, In the US workforce, they found “…that just 22 percent of employees can work remotely between three and five days a week without affecting productivity,”
Future of Remote Work
Future of Remote Work

Recent Work Trends and Events Affecting the Future of Remote Work.

  • The Pandemic Effect. Many of us could not work during the worst parts of the pandemic, but many office workers and companies gained valuable experience on the pros and cons of remote work.
  • Gig Economy. Even prior to the Pandemic, the “gig economy” was growing where people work multiple jobs without the constraints of traditional office hours. This was and is extremely prominent with younger workers. According to SpaceIQ, many gig workers will even “…forgo potentially higher-paying jobs with less freedom in order to secure several jobs without giving up their productive work arrangement.”
  • WorkForce Shrinking. According to the U.S. Census, “The national labor force participation rate … decreased from 64.4% in 2010 to 63.6% in 2019.” The primary reason for this shrinkage is that older Americans are retiring in greater numbers. “The percentage of the population ages 65 and older grew nationally (from 13.1% to 16.5%)” during the same timeframe.
  • Office Worker Occupations Have Increased Significantly. Over the last century, office workers as a percentage of the U.S. workforce went from just over 10% of the workforce to over 40%. This is according to the  US Bureau of Labor Statistics where the U.S. saw significant increases in office workers between 1910 and 2000 for following worker occupations: professional, technical, and clerical.

Pros for Increasing Remote  Work in the Future.

  • No Commute.  Besides eliminating commute time, remote workers spend less on transportation, lunch, and wardrobes suitable for the office. 
  • Less Office Overhead. With reduced need for office space, businesses save money, but this may be offset by increased costs for remote communications and cyber security expenses. Additionally, costs increase if businesses reimburse remote employees for computers, internet connection, and home office furnishings.
  • Opportunity for Increasing Employee Productivity. If remote employees have the right “soft” skills, remote workers can be just as productive as in the office. Soft skills include administration, time management, and self-motivation.
  • Incentive to Retain Workers. As many people would like to work from home, remote work is an incentive to retain workers. This includes both retaining high performing employees as well as retaining workers who favor remote work opportunities over higher salary.
  • For Some Types of Work, Location Is Not A Factor.   For industries like the Financial & Insurance Sectors, work location is not necessarily a factor with proper employee training and management controls. This also holds true for other sectors to include management, business services, and information technology.

Cons for Increasing Remote Work in the Future.

  • A Lot of Work Tasks Cannot Be Done Remotely. Most workers have tasks that either require on-site physical presence (ex. hospitality industry) or require machinery (ex. manufacturing) to do certain tasks.
  • Remote Communications Challenges. Many remote challenges include insufficient computer hardware, slow internet, home network problems, cyber attacks, software problems, and cloud service outages.
  • Distractions at Home. Many workers have a home environment that is not conducive to work. They may not have a dedicated home office space; they have small children or pets that need attention; or they have other distractions that can break their concentration or take time away from work during work hours. Also, the employee may not have the soft skills such as time management or self-motivation. 
  • Onboarding / Training Employees More Challenging. Onboarding new employees as well as job training is interactive by its nature. These activities also contribute to an employee sense of belonging.
  • Potential for Loss of Company Cohesion and Focus. Leading a remote workforce is a challenge. Many managers and executives may not overcome the challenges of managing a remote workforce, communicating the company’s vision and instituting effective policies. Remote workers may have more challenges feeling that they are part of the team and company culture. Also, Informal collaboration and exchange of ideas that are critical to many companies may be stifled where workers are remote.
  • Career Advancement. Especially for workers just starting out in the workforce, there can be less opportunities for mentorship or apprenticeship that could lead to faster career advancement. An additional consideration of working remote or not is the old adage “Out of sight, out of mind”. This can definitely become a factor in receiving a promotion or not.
  • Remote Job Being Outsourced Offshore. If your job is completely remote, it means that it could be outsourced overseas. There are less advantages to the employer to outsource a job that needs to be done at the local work site or is a hybrid office situation.

For more information from Unvarnished Facts, see Challenges To Remote Learning.

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