“There’s a new generation of workers who won’t be tied to any one place. They can’t be restricted by the confines of an office, or bound by the standard 9-5. The future of work is anywhere,” a recent report begins.
Based on a recent survey by AND CO, a business software firm targetted at freelancers, and the Remote Year, who run work-travel programs for professionals, the report collates the opinions of this new generation of workers. Titled ‘Anywhere Workers’ it gives a unique insight into this growing trend and how it is changing the employment landscape.
Of the 3,755 respondents; 32.6% had been working remotely for a year, 40.5% for 2-4 years, 13.3% for 4-6 years, and a further 13.7% for seven years or more. 24% of respondents describe themselves as digital nomads; 17% of those travel to 5+ countries a year. Those who’ve worked remotely for 7+ years were far more likely to intend on working remotely forever than those who are freshly remote (0-1yrs).
Employers are increasingly accepting the benefits of remote work too, not least the reduction of office space and rent, some companies even maintain 100% remote workforce. 29% of respondents within the Anywhere Workers survey classified their employment status as “full-time” where they are likely to enjoy the benefits of a traditional job but with the benefits of working from wherever they want. That freedom is the key reason for this growing trend. 62% of respondents in the survey said them became a remote worker for the flexibility to live and work from wherever they choose.
It’s not all beaches and relaxation for this new generation, however. In fact, the lack of structure and the potentially unlimited amount of work available means many freelancers end up overworking. 33% of respondents on the survey listed “overwork” and “trouble shutting down at the end of the day” as the number one challenge to productivity as a remote worker. A further 20% listed time zone differences as a key challenge, 18% claimed their co-working space or home office has too many distractions, and 17% complain that the absence of face-to-face communications makes meetings less efficient.
Workplace technology has evolved beyond the walls of the office just like the workers themselves. 44% of respondents highlight real-time communication tools - like Slack and Workplace by Facebook - as vital to their ability to work remotely, 20% consider project management tools - like JIRA, Asana, and Trello - as crucial, while 18% rely on video chat services such as Google Hangouts and Zoom. Software and services targetted at supporting remote workers is a growing niche in the sector with potential for development. Respondents were relatively evenly split as to whether there is still a whitespace for tools and technology for remote workers, with 47% saying yes against 53% saying no.
They type of remote jobs available covers a broad spectrum of fields, however, creative and design work “the stereotypical remote job” still holds the largest share with 47% in this survey. This type of work lends itself to isolated work on assigned projects, where briefs and the feedback loop can easily be facilitated by digital communication technologies. Marketing and PR (15%), engineering (11%), administration (5%), make up the other most common roles according to the survey.
Incomes also vary in the remote working group, although 57% of respondents in this 2018 survey state they earned between $0 - $49,999 in 2017. A further 25% earned between $50,000 - $99,999 over the course of the year. While 24% of respondents do site a “lack of opportunities for career progression” as a challenge for remote working, it should be noticed that the cost of living and value of money hold different roles for many remote workers. One can live like a king with $40,000 per anum in a sleepy beach town in Southeast Asia, for example, and those choosing a remote lifestyle are generally not money driven. Work is simply a means to gain their freedom, and remote work offers a lot of freedom.
This is representative of the new world of remote work. Seeking such freedom a decade ago was fraught with a host of other challenges but with the evolution of digital technology today’s remote workers have it easy, and in the future, we should expect remote work to become a large and widely accepted part of the employment landscape.