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The future of work
is heading toward
work from anywhere

Author: Mike Elgan

Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workforce, you've likely heard that remote work is here to stay. That couldn't be more true. In fact, remote work was on the rise even before the pandemic hit, but the need for social distancing accelerated the trend and has had vast implications for the future of work.

Remote work in the pandemic era

Before the pandemic, remote work was part of a much larger, technology-enabled movement for flex work, which means a broad loosening of the nine-to-five work routine. Some working parents wanted to come in later after dropping off their kids at school. Others insisted on swapping some hours during the week for a few hours of work on weekends. Still, other employees wanted to work from home part or full time. And the most extreme version of remote work—going full digital nomad—has been on the rise for years.

Because of this employee demand, businesses have responded with flex work as an incentive. LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends 2019 report revealed a 78% increase in LinkedIn job posts mentioning flex work between the years 2016 and 2018. A Global Workplace Analytics report pointed to a dramatic rise in remote work before the pandemic: It rose by 216% between 2005 and 2019.

The pandemic kicked remote work into overdrive, setting the stage for the future of work. The remote work experience eroded skepticism about work from anywhere and boosted confidence in technologies like video meetings and other cloud-based collaborative tools.

An AngelList and Buffer survey revealed that 98% of the 3,500 global respondents said they would rather remain as remote workers for the rest of their careers. And a LiveCareer survey even found that 29% of remote workers would quit their jobs if forced to return to the office.

The future of work: Work from anywhere

It goes without saying that flex work in all its forms has been enabled by digital technology, which fostered a disconnection between work, time and place.

As employees increasingly take advantage of the freedom remote work enables, more are looking to not just work from home but to work from anywhere. In the past, remote work and digital nomad living heavily favored consultants, freelancers, part-timers and non-management employees. Now, white-collar workers—from help desk workers to sales staff to operations personnel and leadership right up to the C-suite—are going remote in large numbers for the first time ever. Moreover, thanks to videoconferencing technology and other remote tools, they're able to work from their home offices, their local coffee shops, their vacation homes or even on the road.

The work from anywhere benefits are many: Sales staff can manage their prospects while traveling to see clients; an employee in New York can use video to easily and efficiently collaborate with teammates in California; and a parent can move their home office to the local coffee shop to get an hour of quiet and focus. In all of these cases, employees and leaders can use digital tools to stay connected to their teams and colleagues, save money and time on commuting, and have the freedom to work from anywhere they feel most productive.

Implications of work from anywhere on businesses

Radical changes in work-from-anywhere structures in both scale and kind will result in a new reality for nearly every organization that participates in the trend. More than most, HR departments will be tasked with reworking hiring, benefits, compensation, compliance and tax policies. A company with employees in 20 states, for example, must comply with 20 sets of employment laws. This change alone has implications far beyond yesterday's HR.

Cyber security is another challenge. With employees frequently changing their work locations and working over potentially unsecured consumer networks, the attack surface is greatly magnified. Fortunately, businesses that enable zero-trust infrastructures that rely on detection and response tools are better situated to prevent and handle breaches if they do occur.

Without daily in-person, in-office communication, new styles of management and communication are called for. Work assignments will need to be more explicit and outcome-oriented. Managers will increasingly play the role of coach and mentor. Remote workers can benefit from clear expectations for collaboration and better collaboration tools (and better training for those tools).

The new world of remote work is ushering in a revolution in technology, culture and business. It opens up talent pools for businesses looking to hire across the county, state, nation or even the globe. There's no question that remote work is here to stay. Businesses that keep up with the next evolution of remote work—the work-from-anywhere model—and build their technology infrastructure to support that model will be well poised to fully realize the enormous potential the model offers.

Discover how Verizon's digital transformation solutions can help your business adapt to the future of work.

FAQs

What does working remotely mean? +
  • Working remotely—also known as telecommuting—is when an employee performs their job duties from a location outside their on-premises work office or location. Typically, remote workers use digital tools like videoconferencing to collaborate from their homes.

What is work from anywhere? +
  • Work from anywhere is an extension of remote work that allows employees to work from any location (even outside their homes), embrace a more flexible model, and remain connected to teammates and company culture.

How do you prepare for the future of work? +
  • Since the future of work is the flexible work-from-anywhere model, businesses can prepare for this inevitability by equipping their employees with digital conferencing tools, investing in their cyber security infrastructure and adjusting company culture to give employees more freedom.