Remote work trends have held centerstage in conversations about the labor market ever since COVID sent everyone to their home offices and/or living room couches. Now, almost two years after the pandemic began, how has remote work developed? And what does this mean for companies going into 2022?
An in-depth survey reveals three key takeaways: (1) remote work is here to stay, (2) remote work is drastically reshaping the geography of hiring, and (3) remote work affects everybody.
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Remote work: the new normal
The ongoing growth of remote work is undeniable. Percentage of remote positions doubled over the course of a few months in early 2020. Since then, that number has more than tripled compared to pre-COVID and continues to climb.
On-the-ground reports from companies tell the same story. In a recent survey done with the US Chamber of Commerce, 36% of middle-market companies reported having remote employees in Q4 of 2021 who weren’t remote pre-COVID. Nearly half of the companies polled said they’ve provided permanent full-time remote options, with another 42% considering the opportunity.
In many ways, employees are leading the charge. A survey of remote workers by GitLab reported that 1 in 3 respondents would quit their job if remote working was no longer an option, and 52% would consider leaving their co-located company for a remote role. 80% said they would recommend remote working to a friend, and 82% claimed that remote work is the way of the future.
Remote work is much more than a pandemic-exclusive phenomenon. It’s here to stay.
Significantly, remote work gains aren’t exclusive to so-called “white collar” occupations. While jobs that require a college degree have seen the biggest growth (“Degree” in the chart above), jobs that don’t require a college degree (“Non-Degree”) have grown considerably as well.
All of this means that remote work is something no employer or employee, regardless of industry, can afford to ignore. As it alters the relationship between employer and employee, city and suburb, and work life and home life, expect remote work to change how you hire in 2022.
Explosion of the geography of hiring
One of the major effects of remote work is a total reimagining of the where of hiring. Remote work radically expands the reach of a company’s hiring efforts. As an illustration, research by The Conference Board shows that over 40% of the jobs posted by West Coast tech companies are now being posted outside of the West Coast.
For employees, this means that their home locations are less and less determined by their work locations. It’s now possible to get big-city work in small-town locales. While this trend has the potential to revitalize some of those smaller towns and cities with new skills and increased cash flow, it can also have some unintended consequences. For example, thanks to the wave of remote workers washing over from the West Coast, the median home price in Boise, Idaho, has vaulted to ten times the median income.
For employers, this trend has two major implications.
(1) More competition. Your competitors for talent are no longer limited to your region. Prepare to get creative with your hiring tactics, especially since those competitors may very well be paying Silicon Valley or New York City wages.
(2) More opportunities. On the flip side, your opportunities for talent acquisition are no longer limited to your region. The world is up for grabs: expand your hiring efforts to find the best-suited candidates for your needs.
Top remote work roles
Currently, the occupations that are moving online the fastest are the following:
For occupations that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, there’s been particular remote work growth in finance (e.g. loan processor), sales (e.g. sales support assistant), and customer service (e.g. technical customer service representative). For roles that do require a bachelor’s degree, there’s been particular remote work growth in finance (e.g. financial services representative), programming (e.g. .NET developer), and data (e.g. data warehouse developer).
There are a few important takeaways from this list.
First, if you’re in one of the industries heavily represented here, expect remote work trends to impact you particularly significantly. These occupations point to where big changes are happening the fastest.
Second, if you have roles in your workforce that resemble these occupations, consider fast-tracking their remote optimization. Companies are bringing these occupations online in massive numbers—this indicates that they lend themselves to remote working.
Third, note again that both degree and non-degree occupations are seeing hefty gains. And recognize that this list isn’t anywhere near exhaustive! As we saw earlier, remote work affects just about everybody.
How can you take advantage of remote work?
Remote work is a powerful tool with important ramifications. On the one hand, it presents many challenges, ramping up competition and overwhelming small towns whose economies can’t keep up. On the other hand, it presents many opportunities, allowing employers to hire anyone anywhere and empowering employees to take more control of their lives.
So what does this mean for you? How can you combat the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by remote work?
The first big step is simply being aware of remote work trends, and being willing to adjust accordingly. Take the time to understand how the labor market is changing, and use that data to fuel your strategy. For a comprehensive overview of the economic dynamics shaping the new year, check out the 2022 Talent Playbook.
Next, make sure your internal org chart is optimized for remote work. Take a look at the existing roles in your company and determine which of them are remote-ready. Efficiency and flexibility are key. Opening up a position to remote work gives your employees the freedom they’re asking for, while broadening your horizon of opportunity.
Last, make sure your external hiring strategy is optimized for remote work. Geography is becoming a secondary concern in the hiring process. Companies who are stuck within a geographic-specific framework are going to get left behind. Plan to compete nationally (and internationally) for talent, taking full advantage of the new opportunities.
Remote work is exploding. But that can empower your company’s growth rather than obstruct it. By keying in to the latest remote work trends and building a plan accordingly, you can ride the wave of change—and come out on top.
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