Remote work became an immediate and sudden necessity for many employees last year, and it was utilized by business of all size and type. While a huge and sudden adjustment for most workers and employers at the time, remote work has now become not only preferable, but a high priority for many workers returning or reentering the workforce.
Workers and economists cite a variety of reasons that remote work has gained widespread popularity: lingering fears about infections, continuing lack of reliable childcare options, and reluctance to resume long commutes are among them; but the number one reason cited by the majority of workers who want to continue working remotely is that this past year compelled them to reprioritize the value of their time. Working remotely eliminated the many hours per week the average American spends commuting and gave people more time to spend with their families and to pursue their hobbies and interests. The time spent each day on office distractions, many argue, was spent more productively at home this past year.
The reevaluating of lifestyle priorities and the work-life balance has also compelled people to change jobs and careers altogether. As people begin to put much higher premium on their time, they become less willing to endure arduous, inflexible, unsatisfying work that consumes more time than it leaves.
A recent article from NPR explains the changing trends:
“As pandemic life recedes in the U.S., people are leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time.” <https://www.npr.org/2021/06/24/1007914455/as-the-pandemic-recedes-millions-of-workers-are-saying-i-quit?utm_source=pocket-newtab>
Not all jobs can be done remotely, and not all businesses can offer remote options to employees. Small businesses may be well suited to benefit from the shifting trends and the exodus of talented professionals from less flexible companies. Those businesses that can offer remote positions will encounter a new, larger pool of talent to choose from as people seek out more satisfying work that can be done from anywhere.
A report commissioned at the end of 2020 by Upwork showed that the majority of small business owners and hiring managers who were surveyed indicated that the shift to remote work went more smoothly as time went on. They cited the reduction of non-essential meetings, schedule flexibility, and lack of commuting as top contributing factors to the overall productivity that remote work made possible. < https://www.upwork.com/press/releases/economist-report-future-workforce>
A QuickBooks survey of current and prospective business owners conducted last fall showed some of the impacts remote work was having on small businesses: “75% of people who plan to open a business within the next 12 months say they’ll have at least some remote workers. 23% say they’ll be hiring a 100% remote workforce.” <https://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/coronavirus/small-business-impact-2020/>
Some advantages to offering remote positions:
Remote work is not a fad, but the outcome of a major cultural shift. The number of people working remotely is expected to increase significantly over the next five years. Workers are reevaluating and reprioritizing the relationship between their jobs and their lifestyles, and industries must adjust as well. The current labor shortage across the business spectrum testifies to the need of hiring managers and small business owners to recognize changing worker needs to and to adapt to them. Affordable software and online services that automate business tasks can help a small business stay seamlessly connected to its remote staff. Those businesses that have already made the investment in the technological infrastructure that enables a remote staff are the ones best equipped to transition into a new era of remote-heavy employment. Remote work is revealing long-term benefits to companies as well as its employees.