Remote work is evolving fast. Case in point: From 2019 to 2021, remote workers tripled from 9m to over 27m.
That’s a rapid adoption rate for any work style — and especially for one that blurs the boundaries between work and home. While remote work proved essential during the covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, it also brought challenges for both workers and employers. Today, there are mixed reviews from both sides about remote work, its pros and cons, and whether it’s worth keeping around.
If you’re wondering whether to adopt remote work for your company, then it’s time to analyze the latest remote work trends.
Remote work trends 2023
Are more employers for or against remote work? Are employees ready to return to work? You'll find the answer to these questions and more below.
Employee-employer sentiment toward remote work increases
Who wouldn’t want to work remotely? Home is where many people feel the most relaxed and, well, at home. So it’s not surprising that a Buffer study shows an overwhelming 98% of respondents expressed a desire to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.
The same amount would also recommend remote work to others.
And why wouldn’t they, when 68% of remote workers describe their remote work experience as very positive? This likely stems from the flexibility and autonomy employees receive when working from home.
According to McKinsey, the appeal of remote work is catching on, with 87% of workers embracing flexible work arrangements when given the opportunity. In fact, most employees’ ideal work arrangement is 100% remote. A report from Owl Labs shows 65% of workers prefer a completely remote setup.
Some believe this trend will die down as fears of the pandemic subside and companies begin to wrest more control back from their employees. Still, 70% of workers expressed a desire for a hybrid or remote working style regardless of the pandemic. So demands for remote work options will likely continue to grow well into the future.
Employer adoption of remote work
If you’re planning to overlook employees’ desires for remote work, keep this in mind: 57% of American workers say they’d actively look for a new job if they can’t continue working remotely. And the same is true worldwide — 65% of employees say they’d absolutely look for other employment if they cansw’t continue working remotely.
Some companies are taking heed: 71% of employers in Buffer’s report revealed plans to allow permanent arrangements for some level of remote work. And according to Owl Labs’s report:
- 38% of workers report that their employers have upgraded video technology to allow for more hybrid collaboration
- 22% of companies have reduced their office space since the start of the pandemic
The competition to appeal to top talent is fierce, so keep an eye on what your competitors are doing to attract the best candidates so you can compete.
Mixed feelings about returning to the office
Many companies are thrilled to return to the office, even if it’s to the dismay of their employees. Some employers require workers to show up to the office full time or part time… or else.
Owl Labs’s survey shows 39% of employers require employees to be in the office, but only 29% of employees want to be there.
Here are examples of companies that made return-to-the-office policies with or without considering employee’s desires:
- Amazon ignored a petition signed by around 30k employees rejecting the company’s policy to return to the office.
- Apple chose to track employee attendance and requires workers to be in the office at least three days weekly or face consequences.
- Twitter sent an email in the wee hours of the morning reminding its staff that the office isn’t optional.
Even with all the mandates and policies employers create, some employees aren’t ready to give up the work-from-home lifestyle they enjoyed the past few years. Owl Labs’s survey shows 57% of employees who returned to the office prefer to work from home full time.
Some workers want to go back to the office
The feeling isn’t mutual for everyone. Some workers missed working alongside co-workers. Owl Labs’s report shows a large portion of remote workers have already returned to the office, with 73% working in the office at least once a week.
And out of those that returned, 78% feel more included in the workplace, showing the desire for interpersonal connection. It could be why some employers are reducing time spent away from the office — WFH Research’s report shows that between 2020 and 2022, the average number of remote days per week declined to 2.2 days.
But while there’s been a gradual return to in-office work, a significant percentage of employees still prefer remote work. The best bet for organizations to avoid turnover is to meet employees in the middle. Hybrid arrangements can accommodate both sides by allowing employees to work from home sometimes.
A FlexJobs report shows that 32% of employees prefer a hybrid workplace, potentially attracting more talent to your company that demands flexibility.
Organizations can create a work culture that promotes productivity, engagement, and overall employee satisfaction by understanding and addressing employee preferences.
Employees find remote work beneficial
Remote work comes with a range of benefits for employees. Here’s a look at some of the top reasons people prefer to work from home:
- Work-life balance: 22% of workers in Buffer’s survey value flexibility in time management, allowing them to attend to personal commitments without sacrificing professional responsibilities.
- Freedom to live anywhere: Not only do remote workers get to work whenever they want — they also get the option to move anywhere. Around 19% of remote workers in Buffer’s report appreciate the option to choose where to live and still work for companies anywhere in the country or the world.
- Ability to work anywhere: Who says you must work at a desk or co-working space? Some take to coffee shops, lakefronts, or their bedroom. And 13% of workers in Buffer’s survey value this flexibility to choose where they feel most productive.
- Capacity to provide caregiving: Young children, aging parents, and pets need special attention and care. During the pandemic, 70% of remote workers in Owl Labs’s survey had to care for kids or dependents. The ability to work from home was convenient and saved money that would otherwise have gone to day cares and sitters.
So if you want to offer perks to your employees to attract and retain talent, then these are good ones to highlight in your job descriptions.
The well-being and happiness of remote workers are better
Remote work isn’t just about the convenience and flexibility it offers. It also has a profound impact on the well-being and happiness of employees. Here’s what the data has to say about the wellness of remote workers:
- 76% of workers in Owl Lab’s report say that working from home post-pandemic would make them happier
- 75% of remote workers in Owl Lab’s survey say remote work is better for their mental well-being
- 84% of workers in FlexJobs’s survey believe remote or hybrid jobs would make them happier
The elimination of long commutes, saved money, and more time with family and friends likely play a role in this. And as a result, more workers desire to start or continue working remotely, even if it means making sacrifices. For example, 38% of workers in Owl Labs’s survey would take a 5% pay cut if it meant that they could continue working remotely.
For many, remote work is non-negotiable, with 25% of workers saying they’ll quit if they can’t work remotely.
Organizations that adopt remote work options may find it easier to attract talent and prevent turnover. It can also create a happier workforce, boosting productivity and morale.
Productivity in remote work
The idea of employees working from home often triggers ideas that they may be sitting around watching Netflix, eating snacks, being lazy, or otherwise not doing their jobs. But this is a myth that data busts time and time again. Owl Labs’s report proves this, with 83% of workers reporting being just as or even more productive when working remotely than in the office.
Another 55% revealed that they work more hours when working from home compared to at the physical office. And 58% of remote workers in Buffer’s report feel more engaged in their jobs.
While this may raise concerns about work-life balance, it indicates many remote workers’ dedication and commitment to their roles. However, it’s essential to strike a healthy balance and avoid burnout by setting boundaries and practicing effective time management as a leader.
Remote work challenges
While remote work offers numerous benefits, it presents its fair share of challenges. From the struggle of feeling isolated to the never-ending cycle of virtual meetings — the data explores the common challenges remote workers face.
For example, Buffer’s report shows that the largest challenge for remote workers is staying home too often and not having a reason to leave. This can cause feelings of isolation, loneliness, and boredom in some workers.
One way to counter this is to encourage employees to work in coffee shops, co-working spaces, and other locations to switch up the scenery.
Another issue with remote work is that it can lead to excessive meetings. Buffer’s report shows 75% of remote workers spend one to 10 hours of the workweek in meetings. Some managers feel the need to over-communicate with their teams through virtual meetings, which can hurt productivity. The more time you spend in meetings, the less time your employees have to perform deep work.
Work-life balance and boundary issues
Finding a healthy work-life balance has always been important, but it becomes even more crucial in the remote work landscape. Unfortunately, working from home doesn’t always lead to better work-life balance and healthy boundaries.
For example, 81% of remote workers in Buffer’s report admit to checking work emails outside of work hours, 63% do so on the weekends, and 34% check work emails while on vacation.
This is a challenge that some overcome with a healthy routine and mindset. FlexJobs’s report shows 87% of respondents say remote or hybrid work arrangements improved or would improve their work-life balance.
Help your remote workers improve work-life balance by creating boundaries between team members and leaders, like no emails or texting outside of work hours and weekends.
Remote work is here to stay, and it brings with it many benefits for workers and organizations alike. The key for companies is to encourage workers to find a healthy balance between their work and personal lives, by setting boundaries when necessary. With the right mindset and support, remote work can be an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved.