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When the world went into a lockdown in 2020 due to the pandemic, the corporate world had no choice but to rethink how it functions. What initially seemed like a temporary arrangement soon became a global trend, with many companies offering remote work options to their employees.
Cut to 2023 - we're now coming out of the pandemic, and the world is slowly going back to normal. However, we've learned that remote work can be more than just a remote arrangement - it's now an expectation! And why not? After all, we've seen that performance and productivity are just as high, proving that physical presence isn't really required for most roles and industries.
Why do we need to talk about remote work trends in 2023?
As per the EY 2022 Work Reimagined Survey, only 14% of workers are looking to return to the office full-time. And just 20% of workers voiced dislike toward fully remote working.
These are staggering numbers, and as a business leader, they're essential insights that you must consider. Remote work helps employees save a lot of time and money on commuting. As for employers, they save on real estate and other costs such as coffee, housekeeping, electricity, etc.
Besides, remote working also reduces traffic congestion due to rush hours. Fewer people commuting also means a reduced carbon footprint. This may seem like a far-fetched benefit, but it's there nevertheless.
Between 2020 and 2023, remote work has evolved quite a bit thanks to innovative remote work policies.
So what are these trends? What does the workplace look like in 2023? Let's find out!
8 Remote Work Trends
Here are eight of the best remote work trends that are set to be game-changers for 2023.
#1. Outcome-based performance management
Assessing performance in a remote work environment is a challenge that has left many decision-makers scratching their heads. It's just easier when employees are physically present on the premises.
That's why leaders are now placing more focus on results over anything else. There are multiple reasons for this:
- Presence and availability don't necessarily mean the employee works hard.
- Showing enthusiasm and initiative for all new projects may look promising, but the employee may not deliver on anything.
- Silent, passive employees may actually do more for your business than those who are more outspoken.
And yet, in a remote world, it's easy for business leaders to mistake constant availability, enthusiasm, and confidence as signs of productivity. That's why companies are moving to a more outcome-based performance management mechanism, giving value to what's done over what's promised.
#2. The 'third' workplace
Working remotely doesn't necessarily mean working from home. It can be a third location, such as a cafe, a coworking space, or even a holiday destination.
There are those who want to continue working from the comfort of their homes, and there are those who want to work in an office environment. Then there are those who do want to work in an office space - just not your office space. And there are valid reasons for this:
- The space of their choice is closer to their home.
- They need just a few hours of quiet time away from home and therefore don't want to spend all day at the office.
- They can skip heavy work traffic.
- The space of their choice may be closer to other places of interest for them - the gym, the park, the swimming pool, etc.
In 2023, this 'third' workplace is definitely a trend worth looking into and leveraging. This provides greater flexibility to employees and keeps them happier.
#3. “Employee engagement” has become a buzzword
Although employee engagement was already a trending topic in the HR world before the pandemic, it gained more importance in the remote workplace era post-pandemic.
Employees automatically have opportunities to feel engaged in a physical workplace. They have opportunities to chat, build connections, and, overall, have a sense of belongingness. This also makes it easier for employees to feel aligned with company values and goals.
In a remote environment, these aspects of work are completely missing. As such, the need for robust employee engagement strategies has taken the front seat. Companies are hiring whole teams to try and bring back at least some of the interaction employees enjoyed in the office. Think of it as bringing the benefits of 'work from the office' to remote working employees. Best of both worlds!
#4. Gig economies are the in-thing now
Today, companies are rethinking not only workplaces but also job roles. There are so many roles that are not always needed. And yet, companies would hire for these roles and wonder what to do with these employees once the purpose is served.
However, in the past couple of years, businesses have gotten smarter and either hired temporary employees or outsourced some tasks to third parties. Thanks to innovations that have made remote work possible, it's easier than ever before to hire employees on contract. Companies save on hiring costs and also on costs related to employee benefits.
As for contract employees, they don't have to spend time and money on travel. And so they can easily take on more clients. It's a win-win!
#5. More diverse workplaces
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are not just talking points anymore. It's never been as easy to integrate people from all backgrounds and time zones as it is now.
Companies are not uncommon to hire people from different countries and continents today. This means workplaces are becoming melting points of diverse cultures. As such, companies have to shape their policies to suit a diverse workforce. Flexible work timings, more inclusive holiday lists, renewed diversity training, etc., are becoming more common.
#6. Increased investment in cybersecurity
While cybersecurity was always important, its need has only amplified in the remote workplace. Think about it - almost every conversation now happens online. This includes crucial meetings, messages, emails, and so on. While conversations have become faster, easier, and more convenient, they've also become more risk-prone.
Remote employees may use the internet over public Wi-Fi networks that could be exposed to unauthorized access. Employees may also use their personal devices for office work. Advanced cyberattacks can use such weaknesses to steal sensitive worker and company data.
HR and IT Teams are giving renewed attention to ensuring data security and secrecy at every layer - from hardware to network and applications. About 88% of the HR Leaders in a survey by PwC cited improved data security as a positive work outcome after the deployment of cloud HR. They increasingly opt for cloud-based remote teamwork apps with in-built security and work continuity mechanisms. These applications also allow configuring role-based access and maintaining automated audit trails to ensure accountability.
#7. Increased use of technology and automation
Work management and smooth communication are challenging in a remote environment. Things can get confusing and chaotic pretty fast, and prioritization of essential tasks takes a hit.
Companies are coping with these challenges effectively by using apps such as Slack, Asana, Clockwise, and so on.
There's an increased use of automation today in as many areas of business as possible. This saves a lot of time and effort and, in the long run, can prove to be financially rewarding as well. These innovations help reduce work stress by helping employees manage their tasks and meetings easily.
It also helps team members stay up-to-date with progress on ongoing tasks. For HRs, tasks, such as the computation of salaries, leave tracking, and processing of employee documents has become super easy and quick.
#8. The rise of “workcations”
Because employees don't have to work from a designated location, they no more have to take leaves to go on vacations. That's why it's not surprising to find people working in the mountains or on beaches whenever they want to. This is probably the best and most loved trend of the remote work era.
However, this also means companies have to pay special attention to developing unique policies that cater to employees who are working from anywhere across the globe. This also changes the way HR approaches its hiring processes. Remote work has become an expectation rather than a luxury, and HR teams have to accommodate such new expectations.
Work-life balance can be a challenge
Nothing can ever be 100% perfect - and the same goes for remote work culture. While we saw the eight remote work trends discussed above develop over the past couple of years, we also saw an increase in work-life balance issues.
There are many reasons for this.
- Constant accessibility to work assets means employees can be expected to work anytime.
- The lines between workspace and personal space have blurred.
- Lack of physical presence has increased dependency on meetings and text-based communication. This has increased screen fatigue.
- Interaction with coworkers is limited to work.
In a 2021 study, Microsoft found that "high output is masking an exhausted workforce. 54% of the 30000+ survey respondents feel overworked. 39% of them [respondents] feel exhausted."
This is probably why employee engagement has gotten so much attention recently, as mentioned earlier. HR teams have to think innovatively to solve this challenge at the grassroots level. For example, specialized tech platforms and Slack apps delivering hosted events can help you create immersive virtual experiences for your teams. They provide animation, backdrops, and event dynamics at the backend. They help your workers enjoy team activities.
However, technology and policies are the only tools to help reduce digital overload. In order to really solve this challenge, companies must make changes in their corporate culture itself. And the best way to do that is by ensuring leaders themselves follow healthy work-life balance practices and encourage their teams to do the same.
Remote work is here to stay, and it's going to be exciting to watch how it evolves in 2023. We hope that reading this piece on remote work trends has helped you gain some useful insights you can use at your workplace. We also discussed why remote work is important and the biggest challenge of remote work - work-life balance.
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