Remote Work: Year in Review

What was set in motion overnight due to the pandemic has emerged a better way to work. From work-life balance to more diversity and inclusion, the benefits of remote work are clear.

By Silvina Moschini, President and Founder of TransparentBusiness

Last March, the US went into lockdown. Remote work became the new normal overnight. Companies both large and small transitioned their operations from physical to virtual. Most are not looking back, because what started out as an involuntary experiment yielded winning results: a recent survey by Enterprise Technology Research predicts that remote work productivity will double by 2021. The advantages of telecommuting have become evident, as the world has witnessed newly-created opportunities for companies and employees emerge from what started out as a crisis.

Speed of Adaptation

After an initial, and inevitable, state of confusion, it is apparent now that the companies that have emerged triumphant from the pandemic were the ones that were able to implement new modes of processing: a focus on objectives, structures that favor decision-making, and teams whose roles are clearly defined and verifiable through technology.

As a McKinsey study notes, this type of corporate response requires a combination of resilience and agility that has been critical for many companies. As time goes on, organizations with data-based design plans that adopt technologies to support new collaborative work models will have the competitive edge. The business world is already responding appropriately. A recent study by PWC reveals that 60% of executives plan to allocate more resources to virtual collaboration tools and leadership training in order to work in this modality.

Talent and Flexibility

After the uncertainties of “year zero”, both employees and employers can envision greater supply and demand in the future of remote work. Once the obvious restrictions in physical space and mobility have been overcome, they have discovered that talent knows no geographical boundaries.

For many companies, this makes for a double advantage. First, flexibility in human resources management ensures greater chances for success. In fact, a Harvard Business School study reveals that the most competitive companies will be the ones that combine full-time employees with part-time contractors selected for their ability to insert themselves into specific projects.

On the other hand, offshoring talent is allowing many companies to hire men and women with precise profiles and highly defined skills. This phenomenon, known as the “uberization of talent”, is inseparable from the rise of remote learning, which in 2020 has also shown consistent signs of professionalization and increasing strength.

Work Teams and Salaries in the New Era

The ability to successfully insert yourself into a remote work team is directly linked to developing digital skills, which are abilities that are increasingly on the rise, according to a Deloitte analysis on how to assemble teams in the age of Artificial Intelligence. Remote learning doesn’t just mean that companies have to train their workforce; it also involves the incorporation of new tech tools for monitoring different processes at a managerial level. At the same time, many professionals are (re) designing their professional future based on the tools that became popular with the “tele-transformation” of work.

The way in which remote work is reshaped will also have an impact on the concept of “universal salary“. If salaries were once defined almost exclusively by local parameters, international guidelines are increasingly important for determining what workers will earn. The average salary might be a bit lower than it is in the more developed countries, but this allows talent to seek overseas opportunities with the best of companies. According to projections from the Freelancing in America Survey, by 2027, 50.9% of the US population will work freelance.

Diversity, with the Accent on Women

If the “new normal” of remote work has allowed companies to harness ubiquitous talent, for many professionals, it has afforded them a true opportunity to reconcile their professional and personal lives. Certain segments of the population as diverse as retirees and people with reduced physical or geographical mobility now face fewer obstacles to their employability.

However, in 2020, women were the ones who had considerable obstacles to overcome; especially when they were obliged to combine motherhood with the “home office”. The “Women in the Workplace” study, published annually by McKinsey, reveals that the impact of the pandemic on the workplace was more negative for women than it was for men.

But, in balance, once the initial sense of overwhelmingness subsided, better remote-work opportunities became available for women. In the “Pre-COVID World”, 51% of women left their jobs when they became mothers due to rigid and inflexible working schemes; the scenario post-COVID has made inhabiting both home and office simultaneously more feasible. Furthermore, women are the differential that companies are looking for: a McKinsey study shows that companies with women on their board of directors could earn up to 50% more, and innovation also increases because organizations that bring a variety of perspectives to the table can solve problems more creatively, recover better from failure and transform a challenge into an opportunity.

Although the impact of the “2020 scenario” is still being analyzed in detail, as companies and employees continue to discover its multiple advantages and opportunities, remote work shows strong signs of being reconfirmed in its importance. The same innovation that was “mandatory” in the first hours of the pandemic is now giving way to the consolidation of more efficient and satisfactory professional environments for people of all types.