Remote work is no longer a privilege. It’s become the standard operating mode for at least 50% of the U.S. population. Virtual retreats are no longer attributed solely to progressive startups. Traditional employers are finally on-board and ready to propose a flexible work arrangement higher up the pipeline.
2019 will further reinforce the current global shift towards “remote-friendly” workplaces and dictate a few more unique trends.
1. Employer expectations of digital skills are shifting from basic to advanced
The demand for technology-savvy professionals now extends well beyond the software development space. According to fresh data from LinkedIn, general tech skills—web design, social media management, and so on—are among the fastest growing in-demand skills. Whereas basic digital literacy – fluency with email software tools and word processing software—witnessed the fastest decline compared to other skill groups. Companies now expect employees to be more comfortable with all sorts of digital tools, even for entry-level positions and more so for remote employees. So if you are just considering the transition, make sure that your technical skill set is up-to-date and you know how to run a virtual office.
2. “In-the-office” days may become more popular
No, it’s not because more employers want to micromanage their remote teams. Quite on the contrary, employers are finally starting to address the mental health factor more seriously. The biggest reported struggle of remote work is lack of community—21% of remote workers named “loneliness” as one of their main on-the-job issues.
To address this, companies are now encouraging remote members to come back to the office at least once per week. And this strategy gives results—Gallup poll estimated that the “visiting” employees tend to be more engaged and fulfilled when compared to their 100% remote or full-office counterparts. Such members are more likely to have friendships at work and state that their job includes opportunities to learn and grow.
3. Workplace cybersecurity will move upstream
This year, a lot of large companies have fallen prey to cybersecurity attacks and Internet giants (think Facebook) reported massive data breaches. While large corporations already have a good grip on security policies for remote employees, smaller employers have been leaving this area neglected. A new survey says that 38% of remote workers hired by SMEs do not have the technological support or expertise they need when working at home or in a public space. Interestingly enough, an additional 18% of respondents say that they would have been concerned as an employer about IT security. Rightfully so, as 72% of breaches actually occur at companies with under 100 employees.
In 2019, smaller companies should really catch up on their IT security. A good start is to develop unified security policies for both in-house and remote employees; restrict access to sensitive data to those who try to access it from public Wi-Fi networks and explore new-gen security tools, especially those powered by the blockchain technology.
4. Employers should start addressing the “trust issues”
E&Y survey revealed that less than half of global professionals trust their current employer, boss or team/colleagues. While the survey only included responses from in-house team members, the trust factor often gets more complicated for remote team members. Working solo, without regular access to company updates and the “water cooler” corporate chit-chat, can amplify the employee’s exclusion from the work process and make them question whether they are treated fairly or not.
The same survey indicated that unfair employee compensation, unequal opportunity for pay and promotion, lack of leadership, a work environment that does not promote collaboration are the key reasons for low trust. Promoting more transparency and collaboration between remote/in-house teams and management should become the new norm for 2019.
5. Having a specialization is a must
The era of generalists is over. Most employers are now after talent with specific skill sets: 78% of HR managers said that most skills will become even more niche in the next 10 years. Possessing those coveted skills means that you will remain in high demand and have a lever during salary negotiations. Most employers are ready to pay the top dollar for hiring and retaining a remote candidate, whenever they cannot find certain expertise locally.
6. Legislature changes may lead to more remote work opportunities
FASB/IASB accounting changes are due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, in the U.S., affecting every company that leases commercial real estate. A lot are now forced to seek alternative solutions for accommodating their offices. As a cost-optimization strategy, savvy businesses may choose to switch to telecommuting and hire new personnel on a remote basis. Gartner also estimates that “choose-your-own-work-style” decisions do not just lead to operational savings, but as well boost employee rates by more than 10%. So a lot of employers will likely diversify their work policies.
7. More training for remote staff
This year, employers have finally recognized the fact that the lack of meaningful learning and progression opportunities leads to high attrition rates. In 2019, this line of thinking also extends towards remote teams. Micro-learning and self-paced learning programs are bound to get more traction as more employers realize the incremental benefits of nurturing and re-engaging existing teams.
8. Get prepared for Gen Z competition
By 2020, Gen Z will comprise 36% of the global workforce. Being digital natives, who grew up in an internet-centric society, the members of this generation are likely to be more comfortable with newer technology and more inclined to seek remote or flexible working arrangements, rather than pursue traditional corporate roles. Account for the competition that’s coming.
9. Nomadic remote workers will find new bases
Co-working spaces became the usual habitat of the remote worker. In 2019, the travel-seeking remote employees may finally succeed in combining their need for a decent Wi-Fi with an affinity for some pool time. Selina, a hotel chain, mashes up high-end suites with dormitory rooms in the same building, along with coworking spaces is expanding to the US and Europe. After successfully testing their operational model in Latin America markets, the company secured a new building in Miami and is now location-scouting in Portugal.
10. Remote work is expected to grow stronger in 2019
All signs indicate that we are nowhere close to hitting the plateau. Businesses across public and private sectors increasingly recognize the benefits of hiring and retaining remote workers. Societal trends with millennials and Gen Z also push more businesses towards adopting more flexible working policies and allowing at least partial telecommute. If you are planning to transition to remote work, 2019 may be just the right time to do so.