In just a few months this pandemic has totally transformed the workforce. Anyone’s whose work depends solely on a computer and an internet connection has found themselves working from home, most people for the first time in their lives. We are talking about tens of millions of people in the United States.
Major tech companies have been announcing their plans to make their workforce remote until at least the end of 2020, and some, like Twitter, Shopify and Square, have even announced employees can work from home forever, if they wish. Facebook will be aggressively opening up remote hiring, and Mark Zuckerberg announced that over the next 5 to 10 years about half of Facebook’s workers could be remote.
As a pre-covid 100% remote worker I am delighted by this silver-lining. Even though remote work has been on the rise for many years, I find that it is still quite misunderstood and under-appreciated by both companies and non-remote workers. It’s time for a remote work revolution! 🙂
Here is what I hope this aggressive mega-exposure to remote work will mean for the future of remote work in general:
More acceptance and understanding. Working remotely 100% of the time is not the same as working from home once a week, and now *a lot* more people understand and appreciate that fact. Remote workers face lots of unique challenges, but in my opinion there are more benefits than challenges, both for employees and employers. Friends who didn’t have any desire to work from home pre-covid now swear by it and want to be able to continue working from home post-covid. A 2020 study from Hired on the state of remote work after covid discovered that “nearly half (48%) of tech professionals in the Unites States are more interested in remote work than they were before.”
Several studies have shown that remote workers are more productive, their retentions rates higher, and they are more satisfied with their jobs that non-remote employees. A Gallup study on the state of the American workplace found that fully remote employees outscore other employees in the percentage who strongly agree they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day and in the percentage who strongly agree they have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right. This resonates strongly with me – remote workers are flexible, efficient, and focused, we get work done regardless of the circumstance.
More and more employees expect work-from-home opportunities and the pandemic will only accelerate that rate. But, it is not enough for a company to allow remote work, they must also deliberately create a remote-friendly environment… which brings me to my next point:
More remote-friendly company environments. This is not something that magically happens. A company has to work hard to create ways for all its remote employees to feel connected and be effective. Processes must be purposely changed – how you run meetings, how you encourage connections, how you incentivize employees, how you inject fun into the day to day grind, how you communicate, how you manage performance, how you create identity, how you get work done, how you make decisions – all of it needs an assessment, a fresh look, and in most cases some sort of alteration. Company leaders and human resource organizations must be willing to humbly assess, modify, and innovate how work gets done. Maintaining status quo won’t be enough for this new world.
With more employees wanting to be remote and more companies creating the right environment for it, I hope that will mean:
More remote jobs! Ever since Alan and I made the commitment to remote work we have been made kindly aware of the challenges with finding good, rewarding, well-paying remote jobs. These types of jobs, at least pre-covid, were *very* limited. To us, this never made sense – plenty of companies have the ability to allow people to work remotely, specially in the tech sector, but purposely choose not to let people do it. These companies have reasons, such as: “it’s harder to innovate remotely”, “there are too many distractions at home”, “we don’t know how to manage employees remotely”, “we have concerns about internet bandwidth”, “we don’t trust employees to self-manage”, etc. Every single one of those reasons can be addressed… but it’s easier to just not do it. However, covid-19 has made maintaining the status quo impossible, companies will need to adapt to this new world and provide more remote opportunities if they want to continue to function and attract talent.
The study from Hire found that an “overwhelming majority of tech talent reported a lack of remote job opportunities as a critical challenge”. The report notes that “this challenge represents a huge opportunity for employers to set themselves apart by leaning into remote work, which gives them access to a much larger talent pool and expedites the hiring process.”
I know remote work is not for everyone. I know offices won’t disappear. But I strongly believe there is a latent opportunity to make remote work more common, one that will be beneficial for employees and employers, and one that will bring the world closer together. We would have gotten there regardless, but covid-19 is accelerating the pace in a tremendous way. I hope that once we are over this, we won’t just go back “to normal”, to the way things used to be, but instead we will make the best of this curve ball, innovate, and move forward in a different, better way. Companies might not have planned for this, but this is the new reality.
Tell me, what are your thoughts on remote work?