Future of Remote Work in a Post-COVID World

Published on Jun 12, 2023

Updated on Aug 3, 2023

Written by Lightcast

increase in remote work chart

During COVID, remote work skyrocketed. And even as we’ve seen local and national economies begin to rebound, remote job postings haven’t decreased to their pre-coronavirus levels. In fact, the trend for future work is toward remote work. Our new report on The Global Skills Marketplace gives details on the latest Remote Work trends.

During the “Great Resignation,” a staggering 95% of workers were and are considering changing jobs. One of the primary drivers of this resignation is an increased desire for the increased flexibility of remote work. In response, many businesses are using the offer of remote work to attract more workers in the middle of the current labor shortage.

Let’s dig into the numbers to understand the future of remote work, and see how remote work is affecting the economy.

Remote work job postings are staying steady

Our data indicates that employers are advertising for remote positions much more intensely than they were pre-COVID. In the US, employer demand for remote work has increased almost 400% since 2016, with over 3.5 million remote job postings listed in 2022. Postings around the world show a similar pattern, up over 250% since 2019.

Between January 2020 and January 2023, the number of workers living and working in a different state is up 40%, and the number of workers living in the US and working for firms based elsewhere is up 36%.

Demand for remote work has truly soared. The question naturally comes up as we think about the future of work: which industries and regions have been most affected by this seismic shift in the workforce?

Remote work and the demand for skills

Comparing both job postings and workers in our recent report on the global skills marketplace, we found that there is no substantial skill gap between in-person and remote work. In nearly 80% of cases, there is little difference in skills between the remote and in-person versions of the same job. This level of similarity expands possibilities for remote work.

Where there is a difference between listings, it often comes down to the level of specificity. Comparing postings for Software Developers at different organizations, we found that remote jobs generally demand more soft skills like leadership and interpersonal communications. In-person jobs tend to lay out more specific technical skills than remote roles.

Other research supports these findings. A recent FlexJobs report, for example, recommends workers develop their technological knowledge, online proficiency, and ability to work with other cultures and time zones. An article by translation company Tomedes suggests that remote work is opening up new opportunities for communication skills involving multiple languages. Career development manager Brie Reynolds advises workers to familiarize themselves with project management apps, document sharing programs, and remote communication tools.

Skill requirements by role for remote vs non-remote workers are reflected in our job postings data. Consider the top in-demand skills for the following roles, which are very similar between work formats:

figure 4 from global skills marketplace report
figure 4 from global skills marketplace report

Given the similarity of requirements for remote and non-remote roles, we can look to the top growth specialized skills overall:

top growth skills chart - talent playbook 2023

Many of the top growing skills are digital skills/tools. As future work moves online, we should expect to see digital and remote-enabled skills like these increase in demand.

Remote work and the demand for soft skills

But that’s not the end of the story. Reynolds also suggests that employers aren’t only interested in employees with online-specific hard skills, but also in employees with soft skills such as administration, time management, and self-motivation.

As previously noted, when we look at Software Developers at various organizations in job postings, we found that remote jobs generally demand more soft skills like leadership and interpersonal communications. 

The top growth soft skills show the great increase in remote work, with telecommuting and virtual collaboration at the top of the list:

top growth common skills chart talent playbook

Though it certainly requires some specific digital skills, remote work certainly isn’t rendering soft skills obsolete. If anything, soft skills are becoming even more valuable in the future of work.

Remote work’s impact on migration in the U.S.

Remote job postings are highest in major metropolitan centers. New York posted almost twice as many remote jobs as any other MSA, followed by Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

This isn’t much of a surprise. Job postings have always been higher around major cities. In fact, the top 10 regions with the most remote jobs postings and the most job postings overall are almost exactly the same.

But change may be coming. According to a CBRE report, 2020 saw a significant increase in emigrants from dense, high-cost urban metros. Fifteen percent more people left urban centers in 2020 than in 2019. One of the major distinctives of those leaving urban centers is the ability to work remotely.

As of now, this exodus isn’t taking people very far. The report indicates that many of the migrations were relatively short distances to neighboring counties. Some people will most likely return once life goes back to normal. An article from Brookings found that, of the millions who relocated from coastal “superstar” metro areas, less than 1% moved to the Heartland and Mountain states.

So while we’re not seeing a significant urban-to-rural or a coast-to-heartland migration, we are seeing a considerable urban-to-suburban migration, made possible by remote work. 

In addition to the remote worker migration, we are seeing the actual jobs move to more rural areas as well. Of the top 10 counties with the highest growth in posting share from 2019 to 2021, nine of them are rural. This growth isn’t just limited to specific sectors; job postings for a wide range of occupations have grown more in rural areas than urban, including fields such as healthcare, technology, storage and transportation, and science.

Remote work’s impact globally

We also see a global phenomenon, where we see growth in people working in different countries than they live in. Data from social profiles can show where workers live and where their employers are based, giving insight into where businesses have found their global remote workforce. Increasingly, they show that businesses based in higher-paying regions are finding workers in lower-cost regions. 

Often, these pairs are aligned north to south, in order to minimize time differences. An office on the east coast of the US might find it easier to navigate work with a South American contractor in the same time zone than one that’s three hours behind in California.

The region pairs with the highest increases in remote workers include:

  • North American companies with workers in Central America and the Caribbean (300% growth since January 2020)

  • Southern European companies with workers in Sub-Saharan Africa (200% growth since January 2020)

  • Southern Asian companies with workers in Eastern Asia (100% growth since January 2020).

remote work pairs map global skills marketplace report

Future of remote work

Remote work’s continued presence (even as we pull out of lockdown) indicates that it’s here to stay, at least in some capacity.

There are many questions to answer as businesses continue to incorporate remote options into their plans for future work. Concern for in-person collaboration, the loss of restaurant and retail workers, and potential remote burnout are all things for employers to consider.

But one thing is clear: remote work is sticking around and we have to be ready to adapt.

To learn more about how our tools can help you prepare for the workplace of the future, fill out the form below!

Contact Form