What's the Future of Remote Working?
“I want to have a good job, but I also want to have a life.” This sentence sums up one of the most important statements of Millennial and Gen-Z workers. These are the fastest growing, most prevalent groups in the workforce today, which means it’s not a sentiment to take lightly. In fact, it can be argued that younger workers are dramatically changing the way we work, based on the current and projections on the future of remote working.
Today, more than ever before, people are working in places outside of the conventional office. Coworking spaces are a booming industry all their own, established corporate giants are adopting hot desk policies, and some companies exist entirely thanks to a telecommuting workforce. Going to a job, sitting at a desk for eight hours, and going home at the end of the day are no longer the undisputed norm.
Remote working isn’t a novel concept. It’s been around for as long as people have traveled for work. The recent rise of remote working is largely technology-driven, since collaboration via cloud systems is so prevalent. The future of remote work will be dictated by a younger generation of workers intent on working to live instead of living to work.
Today’s remote work trends
Many remote working trends we’re seeing today are due to the shifting concept of what a “workplace” is. For employees, it’s all about having a comfortable place to do their best work. The benefits of remote working for employers is all about keeping costs low and minimizing overhead—more workers in the field means less demand for office space.
The mutual benefits of remote work for employees and companies have spawned several trends. These developments provide valuable insight into where remote work is headed in the coming years:
- Coworking spaces are on the rise and only growing bigger. Giants like WeWork and Ucommune (China) have recognized the incredible demand for flexible work environments. More than just a space dedicated to work, these areas are tailored for comfort and accommodation, offering everything from practical amenities like soundproof rooms, food and coffee, and inspirational themes. Coworking spaces are the ultimate independent office.
- Travel working is primarily growing among Gen-Z employees. It simply involves working remotely while on an extended vacation. This approach to work is part of the “digital nomad” lifestyle trend, with younger workers choosing to embrace a world without anchors. Travel working allows remote employees to hold down a reputable job with a respectable company while traveling to several states or countries over an extended period.
- Gigging is extremely prominent among younger workers and gives them the means to work multiple jobs without the constraints of traditional office hours. Example: A graphic designer is formally employed by a company, but works from home. They set their own schedule to get company-specific work done, but have time to freelance or take a part-time position. Gigging allows younger workers to forgo potentially higher-paying jobs with less freedom in order to secure several jobs without giving up their productive work arrangement.
- Condensed weeks are slowly creeping into remote work schedules. After several successful trials among European companies, many remote employees are testing the concept of a shorter workweek on their own. Working four days a week for eight hours in an environment that allows for maximum production can yield the same output as a full week at a traditional desk job. Younger workers are using free time to live their best lives or, for motivated individuals, take on gigs or side projects.
Each of these trends is extremely telling not only in what the future holds for remote working but what’s driving the demand for telecommuting opportunities. As more workers demand flexible work arrangements, more companies are beginning to comply. The question then shifts from “Does remote working improve productivity?” to “How can we harness the productivity created by remote working opportunities?”
The future of remote working
So, based on these trends and the ongoing demand for remote working opportunities, where is remote work headed? The answer is more of the same in the near-term and likely a shift to how we work in the long run.
In the short-term, we’re likely to see an influx of remote work opportunities in 2019. Due to changing FASB/IASB accounting rules, companies with a traditional office space may see a weight shifted onto their balance sheets. This is incentive to downsize and experiment with remote workers, which will perpetuate many of the trends we’ve talked about.
Also coming down the pike are IPOs for coworking companies. The We Company (WeWork and others) will likely announce its IPO sometime in 2019 to the tune of a $47 billion valuation. It’s likely other companies will follow to remain competitive. All of this means massive bolstering within the coworking sector, which gives these companies incentive to draw in more remote workers.
Further into the future, the focus will shift to a 24-hour work cycle. Just as we have a 24-hour news cycle, globalized markets and the shift to flexible work arrangements will create a full-day work cycle. Night owls will work second and third shift, traditional workers will stay on first and second shifts. And, because everyone is able to work at preferred times, a company can reasonably expect some form of operation at all hours—without the cost of keeping a physical office open.
While no one knows exactly what the future has in store, it’s all but certain remote working will play a major role in how the workplace will evolve in the coming years. More than that, it’s certain to continue changing the way we work.