This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
The year 2020 has certainly been one to remember. Between a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the unprecedented transition to working from home for millions of people all over the world, remote work has had a big year.
Indeed, the world of work as we know it has dramatically shifted in the last 12 months. As we look forward to a new year and new beginnings, examining how the past year has shaped remote work helps us see the potential of where it can continue to grow.
Here at FlexJobs, we like to keep a close eye on all the new work-from-home trends to see how they can benefit workers and employers everywhere. Here are our top remote work predictions for 2021!
The end of the coronavirus pandemic is in sight, but not quite here yet. As we wrap up 2020, companies are still figuring out their remote work plans for the foreseeable future. Although some will undoubtedly go back to the office as soon as it’s safe, many companies have made the leap to long-term remote work.
During 2021, businesses will continue to make their remote plans official — whether that’s remaining fully remote through the summer, allowing employees to work from home permanently, or coming up with a hybrid remote/in-office plan. In one report, 86% of surveyed companies expect the physical and digital workplaces to coexist moving forward, and 78% expect remote work to increase.
Our best estimate? With so many companies realizing the benefits of remote work (like increased productivity, better job satisfaction, and cost savings) and 72% of workers wanting to keep working remotely at least two days a week, more and more will choose to permanently incorporate remote work in some form.
If there’s one benefit to remote work that employers may not have initially considered, it’s that the ability to work from home makes those high-rent office digs a bit … redundant. As such, companies that have moved to permanent remote work are using the opportunity to move out of expensive real estate markets like Silicon Valley.
With so many employees now working from home and able to work from anywhere, businesses like Oracle and Palantir are moving their headquarters out of California and into the less expensive markets of Austin, Texas, and Denver, Colorado.
Another company making a big real estate move is REI, which traded in their brand new, sprawling 400,000-square-foot campus for smaller headquarters located across a wider geographic area to address the needs of newly-remote staff. In its own quest to address the future of remote work, Facebook purchased REI’s campus in Washington state to diversify its workspaces.
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are officially making their way through the health care system and a return to normalcy is on the horizon, companies will inevitably need to address the safety of bringing employees back to the office.
While businesses can set health and safety work conditions that require vaccinations, AARP reports that they’re more likely to take a softer approach and simply encourage vaccination. However, high-risk industries, like travel and retail, are within their rights to require vaccinations against COVID-19 as long as their policies are job-related, have exceptions, and are consistent with business necessity.
Thankfully, remote work enables companies to make reasonable accommodations for those who cannot get the vaccine.
There’s no doubt that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for working women. More than 800,000 women left the workforce entirely between August and September 2020, many opting out while trying to balance work with home responsibilities.
Why have women been so inordinately impacted? After all, only 216,000 men left the workforce during the same time period. Families buckling under the pressure of having kids home or caring for loved ones while trying to work full-time have decided to cut back — and the lowest income position is generally the one to go. Unfortunately, that is generally the woman’s job.
In FlexJobs’ survey of 2,500 working parents, 63% of working mothers said they primarily handled child care duties during the pandemic, and 17% quit their jobs to make it all work (compared with 42% and 10% for men).
The good news is that flexible and remote work can help women find their way back to both the careers and work-life balance they need. As opportunities for remote work increase in 2021, so should women’s ability to find work that supports them.
During 2020, amid calls for racial justice all across the country and the world, companies made a renewed commitment to focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) moving forward.
A report from ADP indicates a 74% increase in searches from employers looking for data on the cultural and racial demographics of their workforce. In another survey from PwC, 76% of organizations say that diversity is a value or priority in their workplace.
Remote work can help support diversity by giving companies access to a much broader pool of candidates. When employees can work from anywhere (or remotely from a more specific location), businesses are no longer limited by hiring only within their small geographic area. With more candidates to choose from, companies can improve workplace diversity by focusing on looking for a “culture add” versus a “culture fit” when they’re hiring. In other words, rather than just fitting into the existing company culture, who can fill in gaps and add value?
Freelance work has been immensely helpful as a way to bring in income for people who lost jobs or hours due to the pandemic. According to an Upwork survey conducted between June and July 2020, 59 million people (36% of the American workforce) had freelanced in the previous 12 months. Twelve percent of respondents started freelancing during the pandemic — 54% out of necessity and 75% in search of financial stability.
With continued economic uncertainty and a fluctuating job market, freelancing — and the supplemental income it brings — is likely here to stay for the long-term. In fact, 88% of freelancers say they are likely to keep freelancing in the future.
Companies stand to benefit from a growing freelance job market as well, particularly if they don’t have the funds to hire full-time employees. As businesses evaluate their long-term needs, freelance and contract work can help them fill in staffing gaps.
Many people’s finances have taken a hit during the pandemic, including those who are close to retirement. Not only are 12% of older workers having to dip into their emergency savings to make ends meet, but some are adjusting their retirement contributions or taking withdrawals from retirement accounts.
This means that those who thought they were ready to retire may have to put it off for a bit longer until they can recoup some of their funds. As a result, 32% of older workers are looking for side work to help bring in some income.
Statistics show that 94% of workers planning to retire would actually prefer to work flexibly during retirement — 56% looking for flexible hours and 20% hoping for a remote work arrangement. Remote work can help retirees or those who are close to retirement shore up their finances for long-term stability.
As more companies make remote work a long-term or permanent arrangement, in-demand career fields will have the most available remote jobs for job seekers.
According to FlexJobs’ Flexible Job Index, these were the top five categories for remote and flexible jobs in quarter three of 2020:
Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.