Recruiting News

Remote Workers Here to Stay

A recent survey by Upwork has revealed that remote workers are still on the rise, and that won’t likely change anytime soon. Today, we are joined by Upwork’s Zoe Harte, Senior Vice President of HR and Talent Innovation, to help answer some questions about the research.

Source: GregorBister / iStock / Getty

You can check out the survey here.

Survey Highlights:

  • Ninety-one percent of hiring managers had open positions on their team at some point in 2017.
  • Positions are typically open for 36 days. Engineering positions were open for 45 days on average, and accounting and finance positions were open for 39 days on average.
  • More than three times as many hiring managers said that hiring was more difficult in 2017 than those who said it was easier.
  • The top hiring challenges in 2017 were access to skills (53%), cost and budgets (45%), and internal hiring processes (33%).
  • Fifty-two percent of hiring managers say that talent shortages are driving the adoption of more flexible models in the workplace.
  • Sixty-three percent of companies have remote workers, but 57% lack work-from-home policies.
  • Forty-eight percent of companies use freelancers, which is up 5% since last year.
  • Thirty-eight percent of survey-takers said that full-time/permanent employees will work largely from home.

Daily Advisor: According to your research, there has been a steady rise in remote workers. What has your research shown to be the major factor in the steady rise in remote workers?

Harte: Technology is fundamentally changing the way we work. Thanks to remote collaboration tools like Slack, Google Hangouts, and Atlassian, to name a few, it’s now possible to work without time and place restrictions. We’re no longer constrained by the walls of the office. While technology is the main enabler, another major force that must be recognized is that people recognize the ability to have more freedom and flexibility today, and they want to be able to work anytime, anywhere. In fact, the most talented professionals are increasingly used to being able to call the shots and shape their lives as they want to live them rather than as traditional 9-to-5 work required. This means that companies that want access to these talented pros need to allow remote work.

Daily Advisor: If the need to be flexible is being driven by the need for talent, what happens to the remote workforce if there are no longer talent shortages? In other words, are remote workforces only valuable because they help people fill their skill gaps?

Harte: The skills gap is not something that’s likely to go away anytime soon. Innovation is progressing faster than ever before. The underlying challenge for companies will be making sure there are enough people with the skills needed to support innovation. Technological and sociodemographic changes are shortening the shelf life of today’s skills. The World Economy Forum predicts that by 2020, more than 30% of the workforce’s essential skills will be new. Outside of access to skills, the other major benefit of having a remote workforce is the ability to scale teams up and down quickly to meet the demands of the business.

Daily Advisor: It was big news when IBM ended its work-from-home policies. What does it know that other companies don’t? What problem did it think it was solving by rolling back work-from-home policies?

Harte: IBM made the decision to colocate teams in what it claimed is an effort to inspire creativity and foster greater collaboration. While collaboration is a critical factor for success, location is not. Only 9% of hiring managers believe having a physical presence in the office is important to a new hire’s success. IBM’s decision to revoke its remote work policies was shortsighted, as its best talent will easily find new jobs with companies that are more open to remote work.

Daily Advisor: My understanding is that STEM workers, like those who would work at IBM, are in short supply. In your opinion, has IBM made a mistake by taking away the flexibility offered by allowing remote workers?

Harte: IBM’s reversal of its remote work policy was alarming and a big misstep. Remote work is not just the future but also the present. Forcing workers back into offices is archaic and a surefire way to lose your best talent. People today expect the freedom that technology provides. Not only do flexible work arrangements top job seekers’ lists of priorities but also making successful hires depends much more on relevant skills than on physical location. Companies that refuse to support a remote workforce risk losing their best people and turning away tomorrow’s top talent.

Daily Advisor: Working from home seems to go hand in hand with freelancers, contractors, and temporary staff. Your research shows a shift toward full-time and permanent employees being likely to work largely from home. Why is that?

Harte: The nature of work is changing. Employees are pushing companies to break down traditional time and place barriers that are relics of the Industrial Era and no longer make sense now that work can be done online. Flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities can be a major factor in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job. Innovative companies are realizing the value of nontraditional work models and are opting for more hybrid, flexible teams. In fact, 63% of companies today have remote team members. This will only continue to increase as companies see the benefits of remote work, including increased productivity and engagement.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at the rest of Harte’s answers, especially concerning workplaces without work-from-home policies. Additionally, we’ll look at their survey results infographic.