Over the past month, anyone focused on the future of work and where/how people will work has had a wild ride. There’s no doubt that there was already a growing movement towards remote work and that working from home was becoming more of an accepted practice - but COVID-19 automatically accelerated that movement by making it mandatory. But the question still remains how many organizations will end up adopting more widespread remote policies even after the pandemic subsides.
Let’s face it - there are so many stats about the future of remote work floating around that you can find a data point to support any argument you’re trying to make. For example:
The “State of Remote Work 2020” survey & report concluded that an overwhelming 82% of people currently working from home do not plan to ever return to an office setting.
Global Workplace Analytics, a leading research and consulting firm focused on remote work, says: “Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”
There’s a big delta between 82% of workers never going back to an office and 25-30% of workers working from home “multiple days a week” after the pandemic. But at the end of the day, one thing is for sure:
The remote working landscape is forever changed.
No matter which of the stats below you choose to believe, the one simple reality is that there will continue to be significantly more people working from home than there were before the COVID-19 outbreak. Some people will work from home permanently, while others will become telecommuters (sometimes working from home, sometimes commuting to an office). Either way, IT organizations need a long-term solution for ensuring their increased remote workforce have the tools they need to remain productive from anywhere, on any device.
We’re certainly seeing this borne out in our conversations with customers, partners, and industry analysts. We’ve spoken to customers who vary widely on their approach to remote work moving forward, but the one common denominator is that all of them are preparing for a future where at least some percentage of their workforce continues to work remotely.
With that, let’s take a look at a collection of data points, stats, and predictions regarding the future of remote work:
Growth in Remote Work
- 3.4% - the total percentage of the workforce in the U.S. that worked remotely prior to COVID-19, according to an analysis of U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. (FlexJobs)
- 159% - the increase in remote working between 2005 and 2017, according to an analysis of U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. (FlexJobs)
- 88% - the percentage of organizations that have either encouraged or required their employees to work from home since the COVID-19 outbreak. (Gartner)
It’s interesting to see that even with 159% growth in remote working (between 2005-2017), we still only had 3.4% of the workforce working from home before the pandemic. Clearly, now that 88% of organizations are encouraging or requiring people to work remotely, that number has increased dramatically. So it will be interesting to see what percentage of those people continue to work from home.
The Future of Remote Work, After COVID-19
- 82% of all remote workers suggested that they never planned to return to an in-office setting. (State of Remote Work 2020 report)
- 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. (Global Workplace Analytics)
- 98% of remote workers want to continue to work remotely (at least for some of the time) for the rest of their careers. (2020 State of Remote Work report by Buffer)
As discussed, the predictions vary widely. But the one thing that all reports agree on is that a significantly higher percentage of workers (than the 3.4% that worked remotely prior to the COVID-19 outbreak) will continue to work remotely after this pandemic. Even if the total percentage only increased to 10%, that would still be a 3X increase in the number of remote workers. Considering it took 15 years for a 159% increase, seeing a 300% increase in permanent remote workers within a matter of months would be staggering. And based on predictions, it could be much higher than that.
Employee Perceptions of Remote Work
- 97% of remote workers would recommend working from home to others. (2020 State of Remote Work report by Buffer)
- 76% - remote workers are happiest when they can spend at least 76% of their time working from home (only visiting the office on occasion). (2020 State of Remote Work report by Buffer)
- 55% of remote workers would be likely to look for another job if they were no longer allowed to work remotely. (Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report)
- 61% of remote workers would expect a pay increase if they were no longer allowed to work remotely. (Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report)
- 91% of respondents cited better work-life balance as a key benefit of remote work. (Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report)
- 79% of respondents cited increased productivity/better focus as a key benefit of working from home. (Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report)
For years reports have shown that remote work is a popular option with employees. When you consider the amount of time, money, and stress that people save by eliminating their commutes alone, the popularity of remote work amongst employees is not surprising. But do the individual benefits also translate to benefits for their employers?
The Organizational Benefits of Remote Work
- 13% - the average productivity gain per employee, according to a 2-year study on remote work by Stanford Business School. (Stanford Business School)
- $11,000 per year, per person - the amount a typical employer can save for every person who works remotely just half of the time. (Global Workplace Analytics)
- $44B - the amount that companies saved in 2015 alone by enabling remote work and telecommuting. (Fundera)
- 34% of people would take a pay cut of up to 5% in order to work remotely. (Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work report)
- 25-50% - the reduction in turnover rate by allowing remote work. (Krisp.ai)
- 32% - the amount of employee turnover that can be attributed to “lack of flexibility.” (Krisp.ai)
Higher productivity, significant cost savings, and happier employees/greater employee retention. Even for organizations that had previously opposed remote work policies, it’s clear that they are going to have to reconsider after this global experiment disproves many of their concerns.
Remote Work Technology Trends
- 40% of Americans who've begun working remotely say one of the top challenges is setting up technology (G&S Business Communications via Newsweek)
- 50% of HR leaders admit that poor technology and infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier in the grand transition. (Gartner via Newsweek)
- 33% - the increase in VPN usage to support remote workers, despite the security and performance issues. (ZDnet)
The technology challenges that organizations are facing during this transition to remote work are very eye-opening. One of the biggest fears that organizations have always had around remote work was that it would decrease productivity. Studies (like Stanford’s) have proven the opposite - that remote employees can be MORE productive - but only if they have the right tools in place.
And when it comes to enabling hundreds of millions of people to work from home, with many of those people working on their own personal devices (since 68% of organizations still provide their workers with desktop computers instead of laptops that can be taken home), providing the right tools becomes paramount. Even when working on their own personal devices, you can still safely and securely give all of your people access to the business-critical applications they need to be productive. To learn more about how to protect your people AND their productivity, you can read more here.