Remote work is here to stay. According to research quoted by CityAM, “84% of UK businesses plan on having a hybrid, flexible or remote workforce after the pandemic.”
Advocates of remote work point to a range of benefits, from social and financial to those who see a positive impact on their wellbeing. Its inherent flexibility is also helping to level the employment playing field on a global scale, enabling a more connected global community where people work from anywhere and everywhere in the world.
Across minority and underrepresented groups, for example, remote working is credited with a transformational impact. According to Guardian columnist and author Frances Ryan, remote has been “life-changing for disabled people” and the “shift to working at home over the past year brought new opportunities to those previously excluded from the workforce.” And for some people in the LGBTQ community, remote work has been a “game-changer for inclusion”.
On a global level, it has helped build a more connected global community, where people are working efficiently towards shared missions – from anywhere and everywhere in the world. But as we look ahead to the prospect of a post-pandemic recovery, how will remote work deliver on these nascent positive trends to benefit society as a whole?
- Remote work is a job creation opportunity
Companies that are remote-first understand that what their employees have to offer is much more important than where they are. Any recruitment process that puts limits on location automatically puts limits on the talent they can bring to their team.
Setting out to hire the best in the world, not just the best who can commute to the office, automatically diversifies both the available talent pool and the roles available to candidates, many of which are found in emerging economies.
Progress is vital. The World Bank estimates that with the growing world population, 600 million more jobs must be created in the next decade, stating: “Above all, job creation will be the key factor for emerging countries to reduce poverty, improve people’s lives, and reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”
- Remote work has helped broaden venture capital investment
When the pandemic took hold and economies were put under huge strain, concerns were raised about the availability of venture funding and the continuity of investment activity. Eighteen months on, and investment capital cash has rarely been more plentiful. Why? Venture capitalists never truly needed to meet entrepreneurs in person to identify a business plan with the right potential.
In November last year, for example, Harvard Business School reported that COVID was not slowing VC investment and “despite the economic uncertainty, most venture capitalists expect their investments to outperform major equity indexes and are still funding new endeavours”.
- Remote work can help address chronic skill shortages
With talent gaps in the richest economies growing ever larger, companies face a skills deficit that could significantly harm their growth. A Korn Ferry Institute study, for instance, suggests that the financial and business services industries in the U.S. and UK could suffer a US$1.3 trillion revenue loss due to the talent shortage.
Yet, remote work offers the opportunity to connect people with the right skills to employers who desperately need them. By opening their doors to talent on a global scale, businesses can fill vacant roles and build an effective international presence that can help maximise their potential.
Despite the opportunities created by remote working, some major challenges remain. As of October 2020, only 59% of the world’s population had Internet access. Expanding infrastructure to support a global remote workforce is clearly one of the top priorities if organisations and workers are to fully reap the benefits.
In addition, many communities with Internet infrastructure don’t have the resources to access it – costs may be too high, or they may simply not have adequate infrastructure at home. Even in the richest countries, many rural communities still don’t have access to high-performance broadband, often making video calling and other digital services impractical in the working context.
Driven by the most unwelcome events, remote working has been brought into the spotlight. Organisations once completely opposed to the idea have changed perspective and are now focused on maximising the financial, operations and employee wellbeing benefits that offering remote work can bring. At the same time, this major shift in workplace culture is also driving positive change and bringing new opportunities to people with all the right skills, irrespective of where they are based.