After remote work became accepted by mainstream companies during the pandemic years, this form of work started to attract major public attention and gain traction in a practical sense. More people are working from home today than ever before, and in many cases they are just as effective or even better at their jobs as if they were sitting behind a corporate desk.
With such a dynamic and fast-changing situation, it’s not easy to stay well-informed about this topic. New trends related to this phenomenon continue to emerge, and the remote work job market is looking much different in 2023 than it did just three years ago. Understanding such trends is imperative for both employers and remote workers, as those who are able to quickly adapt to the shifting landscape are more likely to survive and thrive.
This article will summarize some remote work trends that are already very impactful on the global level and can be expected to dominate the conversation about the pros and cons of allowing workers or collaborators to perform their duties from afar.
Before remote work was even an option for full-time employees, it was demonstrated to be viable by freelancers and independent contractors. These professionals can be recruited from online platforms and tasked with numerous jobs that don’t require physical presence. While such platforms were basically considered fringe a decade ago and mostly facilitated low-value projects, they are increasingly gaining prominence and attracting a higher volume of clients and service providers.
Even more importantly, the existence of this ecosystem provides an alternative to office work for highly skilled workers and allows them to demand more flexible working conditions from their employers. On the flip side, the competition for the available jobs is heating up and many freelancers are tempted to take up more permanent positions with established companies if they get a lucrative offer.
More and more employers are becoming comfortable using teams comprised of individuals residing in different cities or countries. A business can acquire critical expertise and/or decrease its HR expenses by finding people outside of its immediate geographic area that meet the professional requirements. Distributed teams can perform admirably if they are managed well and have clearly outlined goals, but due to cultural differences and other factors this is not easy to attain.
As managers gain experience and learn how to maintain the delicate balance between team cohesion and the need for effectiveness, this mode of deployment is increasingly looking realistic and sustainable. While it may still be too early to declare that recruiting has gone completely virtual and borderless, the things are definitely trending in that direction, at least in the knowledge economy sector.
Recent advances in machine learning have unlocked many new use cases, with AI-powered tools for a variety of tasks becoming available and captivating the imagination of the general population. Remote workers are well aware of the innovations in this sector, and some of them have been using similar software for a while.
In 2023, we can expect that AI-assisted work will reach new heights and become a part of the job description in many industries. While these smart tools are still unreliable enough to independently produce the desired outcome or perform tasks that require judgment, properly trained human workers can derive a lot of business value out of them.
A new generation of AI software could move the boundaries again, and remote workers could be the group that directly benefits from innovations in this field.
Instant communication platforms made remote work possible in the first place, and they remain the backbone of the entire system. They continue to evolve in lines with the needs of businesses and individuals who use them to collaborate and communicate, with new features added to well-known software suites and new applications challenging for a place in the market.
In particular, asynchronous communication is a growing trend that is embraced enthusiastically by the digital workforce, as it allows for efficient information exchange with a minimum of disruption. Productivity and time tracking tools are also growing in importance, giving employers a chance to monitor performance more closely and to recognize which workers are deserving of a promotion. As software continues to get better and better, team collaboration is becoming less dependent on geographic location and physical presence than ever before.
Corporate culture is possibly the most difficult business asset to transfer to a digital space. It represents a mixture of values, attitudes, working procedures, and a shared vocabulary that is normally acquired by spending time with the company insiders. The same process can occur when the contact between colleagues is virtual, but it requires a conscious effort from all the involved parties. Since the value of successful ‘cultural onboarding’ is immense, we can expect more employers to invest resources into this effort.
If remote work is indeed here to stay, big brands need a way to ensure continuity and inspire a sense of belonging among the workforce. However, as more and more workers adopt a mercenary mindset, it remains to be seen how successful the transition will be.
A lot of companies started pushing for a return to the office after the pandemic calmed down, but they often experienced pushback from the workers who didn’t want to give up their newfound comfort. A compromise was reached in many cases where employees are required to spend a certain amount of time in the office every week and free to contribute from home on other days. This arrangement can be most accurately described as hybrid work, and in theory it combines the best elements from both ‘pure’ concepts.
As this idea becomes more widely embraced, their purported benefits will be put to a test. The early returns are mostly positive, and that could motivate more experimentation with the hybrid work concept by some of the larger business systems in 2023.
Remote teams need instant access to the services of the HR department, and one way to fulfil this need is through automation. Businesses are integrating cloud solutions that complement their remote working strategies and give the workers continuous support with a minimum of delay. Automated accounting of billable hours and invoicing are reducing the bureaucratic burden for the busiest workers, while online training programs help the newcomers to learn the ropes.
This trend may not be frequently discussed, but it represents a key condition for the long-term viability of remote work at large scale. To put it simply, remote contributors must be treated the same way as their office counterparts, and full access to high-quality HR services is a part of that.
With much of the work process now migrated to the cloud, companies have legitimate concerns about the possibility that some of the proprietary data shared between employees could be compromised. The workers could simply be careless with company data left on their private devices with no malicious intent, while in the worst-case scenario there could be an orchestrated attempt to steal sensitive information.
New, better security solutions are being released to address such concerns, and in 2023 we are likely to see a continuation of the cat-and-mouse game between hackers and security experts. It’s fair to say that remote work introduces some unique security challenges, but they aren’t serious enough to deter even the most secretive enterprises from trying this option.
The employment status of remote workers and their access to standard perks and benefits are starting the draw public attention. While in some cases regular employees are allowed to work from home, less scrupulous employers are replacing their office staff with underpaid or unregistered contractors.
There is a fine line to walk here, but stronger protections for online-based workers are certainly called for. The situation may vary drastically from one country to another, and in many nations the responsible authorities are becoming aware of the potential for worker abuse and starting to formulate effective remedies. In particular, ensuring access to health insurance and psychological assistance should be viewed as top priorities in 2023 and beyond.
Detractors of the remote work concept often cite instances of simulated work or dual employment as proof that workers are likely to take advantage of less stringent monitoring of their daily activities. In response to this issue, companies are increasingly requiring workers to install so called ‘Bossware’ applications that provide a similar level of control that a traditional boss would exert over his office personnel. While such software is understandably not very popular with workers, it reassures the job providers that they are getting good value for their money.
The exact settings can make a huge difference, and good managers have to discover how strict they have to be to keep their team productive. This makes it likely that worker integrity will be another key area to follow in 2023.
Opinions about remote work are divided, but it’s hard to argue that this trend is going to fade out. It represents a rare win-win agreement between employers and workers, with both sides gaining something they consider valuable. In 2023, many new technologies will become available and crucially important factors will be better understood, so it’s entirely possible that some of the trends described above will fundamentally change. Since the implications for so many people are immense, it’s worth following up and checking in which direction remote work is trending as the year progresses.