The coronavirus pandemic accelerated something that was already happening – the rise of working from home and the growth of the gig economy. Businesses and other experts expect remote working to persist – or to become the new norm – with 74% of professionals expecting it to become standard over the coming years, according to Forbes.
Despite record highs, trends in remote working have been rising steadily for over a decade, as we can see from the graphic below.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, most employees enjoy working from home – 97% don’t want to return to the office full-time and 61% enjoy being fully remote.
While remote working presents some challenges, reports, and stats on employee productivity, engagement, retention, satisfaction, and deadline fulfillment are also generally positive.
So it’s a win-win for everybody then, right?
When done correctly, remote working and the gig economy allow businesses to tap into a unique pool of talent and skill that is not tied down to geographical locations. This allows businesses to assemble the team they really need, rather than the best they can access in any given area.
We’ve now reached a point where many start-ups and small businesses have been founded and run entirely through remote work. One such example is the virtual eventing and conferencing platform Hopin, one of Europe’s most valuable unicorn startups valued at some $7.75 billion. Founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat created Hopin when he became ill from an autoimmune disease that prevented him from leaving the house which really necessitated the need for remote collaboration. Hopin had just 8 employees in March 2020 and with no central office, the entire platform was built, managed, and marketed by a remote team.
Hopin still operates with an all-remote team to this day – it has some 650 employees but no central office and none of them have met each other in person!
There are many benefits to working from home that employees deem worth the sacrifices. Both employers and employees should know and understand the ins and outs of remote working as it provides both unique opportunities and challenges.
The gig economy and freelancing are partially driven by the demand for niche talent and skills.
Traditional roles often have wide, general remits, e.g. a digital marketer might be skilled and knowledgeable in a wide spectrum of marketing activities, but what if you need someone who is extremely skilled in PPC advertising alone?
The gig economy enables highly niche employment. Ad-hoc tasks can be hired individually, and on a short-term basis, allowing businesses to employ the right individuals for specific tasks and only for as long as is needed.
Many reports cite the enhanced productivity of remote teams.
Employees are generally happy to work longer hours when they work at home, firstly because they’re not commuting to and from work and secondly because they’re comfortable, can set some of their own hours and take breaks when they feel they need them.
The employer’s responsibility is to make sure that the home working environment is optimized for productivity. Regular calls, messages, check-ins, etc, help keep teams connected throughout their working hours.
Remote teams need a unified workflow for tracking tasks and deadlines. There are so many options ranging from Monday, Trello, Jira, and Asana to ClickUp, Workfront, Notion, and Wrike.
Each has its pros and cons but they all offer the same basic level of remote team and project management.
The geospatial differences between traditional and remote hiring are huge. One of the primary filters of traditional hiring is location – only employees that can access your business are shortlisted.
Remote working opens employment up to the entire world. This is a massive benefit to smaller businesses that do not operate out of multiple locations or businesses that don’t want (or can#t afford) to position themselves in a city or metropolitan area with greater hiring opportunities.
Global air pollution registered a sharp drop over coronavirus lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021 leading many to posit that remote working is beneficial for the environment. Conventional wisdom certainly suggests this would be the case given that transportation and commuting account for a massive chunk of global emissions.
In reality, it’s not so complex, as heating and powering multiple worker’s individual homes can increase energy usage compared to larger office buildings. Overall, though, preliminary data on working from home’s environmental impacts are looking positive.
Working from home is here to stay and that will benefit both employers and employees, so long as the right opportunities are take and challenges solved along the way.
As we progress into the future, working from home is likely to be a business and behavioral norm and any teething issues will likely dissipate gradually at their own accord.
With the right perspective and strategy, remote working is an exciting new frontier that allows businesses to solve problems quickly with access to the skills and talent they need to succeed.