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Here's what we've learned from 3 years of working remotely

There has been a decline in remote working opportunities in the US.

There has been a decline in remote working opportunities in the US. Image: Unsplash/sigmund

Stefan Ellerbeck
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of Work

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  • Millions of people around the world still work remotely despite the waning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • But some global business leaders say they are keen for their staff to spend more time back in the office.
  • This round-up explores five recent articles from the World Economic Forum on the remote working phenomenon.

“Remote”, “Hybrid”, “Compressed” and “WFH” – many buzzwords have emerged since the advent of the pandemic to describe the new world of work. And many millions of people around the world now spend as much – if not more – of their working week out of the office than in it.

But the rapid shift towards remote working remains a controversial workplace issue. Some business leaders have been pushing back as the threat of COVID-19 has receded, and begun demanding that staff spend more time on-site.

Mark Zuckerberg said in March he believes engineers at tech giant Meta benefit from in-person contact with their colleagues and encouraged employees to make an effort to work in-office.

“Our early analysis of performance data suggests that engineers who either joined Meta in-person and then transferred to remote or remained in-person performed better on average than people who joined remotely,” Zuckerberg said in a memo to Meta staff.

“This analysis also shows that engineers earlier in their career perform better on average when they work in-person with teammates at least three days a week. This requires further study, but our hypothesis is that it is still easier to build trust in person and that those relationships help us work more effectively,”

But remote-working models still have many proponents. As the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 points out, they still offer advantages post-pandemic, not least enabling businesses to expand their talent base – 20.5% of organizations surveyed believe flexible working among countries is essential to securing the right skills.

Much has been written on the Forum’s Agenda pages about the remote working phenomenon – here’s a round-up of some of the latest trends.

1. Where remote jobs are growing fastest – 4 charts show the locations and sectors

The US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has been looking at remote working trends since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. It examined over 250 million job postings in five English-speaking countries to determine which places and sectors have experienced the fastest growth in remote jobs.

The UK leads the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand when it comes to offering remote working opportunities, and the countries most affected by the pandemic have shown the biggest uptick, says the NBER.

Jobs with higher levels of computer use, higher pay and that require higher levels of education are more likely to engage in remote working. The jobs least likely to offer flexible working are those that require customer interactions or use of specialized equipment, according to the report.

Data showing the professional, scientific and computer-related occupations.
Jobs with high levels of computer use, higher pay and education levels are more likely to offer remote working. Image: NBER/WEF

2. Boost your collaboration to become a top remote and hybrid working team

Global consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlight led a survey of 2,000 executives and thought leaders to discover how collaboration in remote and hybrid teams can be improved.

It found that such teams do not always experience a loss of group connectedness, especially if bespoke team-bonding practices are introduced. Collaboration can be maximized in teams designed with asynchronous working methods – where team members can work on a project in their own time – it says.

3. Is this the end of the remote work era?

There has been a decline in remote working opportunities in the US.
There has been a decline in remote working opportunities in the US. Image: Business Insider/WEF

This article looks at the cause of this drop in employer flexibility, such as the recent wave of redundancies as the economic climate deteriorates and what researchers have been calling “productivity paranoia”. Despite evidence that many workers feel more productive working from home, it appears that not all employers agree, with more firms wanting workers back in the office.

4. 5 workplace trends to watch in 2023, according to an expert

Lynda Gratton is a professor of management practice at London Business School and an expert on the future of work. She spoke to the World Economic Forum’s Book Club podcast about her book Redesigning Work: How To Transform Your Organization and Make Hybrid Work for Everyone. Here, she highlights several workplace trends, including the introduction of a four-day week and an increase in workers wanting to return to the office.

“It turns out the reason that many of us are going back to the office is because we have a friend at work. I just spent the day today at London Business School, and I just walked around to talk to all my friends, and it was absolutely brilliant. Do I want to do it every day? No, I don't, because I'm a writer, and I like to write from my home. But friendship is something that we really love.”

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5. What does remote working look like around the world?

Remote workers’ rights can vary considerably depending on where they live. However, employment laws are gradually pivoting and offering greater protections.

Many countries have enshrined the legal right to request remote or flexible working. The UK, for example, has recently removed a 26-week qualifying period to make it a right to be able to work remotely as soon as new employment begins. And Spain and Norway require employers to undergo safety assessments of remote employees’ workstations.

At least 49 nations are now granting special visas to non-nationals to work remotely in their countries. Some of these “digital nomads” are even being offered generous tax breaks as well as the opportunity for future residency status as incentives.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalJobs and the Future of Work
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Institutional update

World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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