The state of remote work in 2021 and what it means for 2022.

December 23, 2021

What is the state of remote work in 2021 and what it means for 2022? Here is a digested list of industry reports to help you understand where we're going

Remote work has been on the rise for a number of years now, but with the sudden outbreak of the pandemic things have accelerated quickly in many ways and are very unlikely to be the same again. 2020 was the beginning which forced many of us into working remotely, whether we liked it or not. 2021 lead to many of us finding our feet as remote workers and maybe figuring out that remote environments could work for our organisations, and that would not just suffice -but could allow us to thrive. Many employees had personal realisations about their own working practices and can see a new working future for themselves. In a sense, we realised the remote working is not all that scary.

Now that we are beginning to understand this new world a little better and have some data to add context to the story, we thought it would be an interesting time to look back on some of the most significant remote working statistics in 2021 - and project into 2022 to see how remote and hybrid working will continue to evolve going forward.

We have trawled through 1000’s of pages of reports and selected a couple of the standout topics that we believe are critically important to how we frame this discussion going forward. The main sources we reference in this article are from the Buffer State of Remote Work & Owl Labs Report. They have done fantastic work in researching and compiling these insights. It is worth reading through both of these reports for even further insight.

Below are some of the most important remote and hybrid work developments that have emerged in 2021.

Remote working in 2021

1 in 3 would would quit their job if they could no longer work remotely after the pandemic, with an additional 18% still undecided

Owl Labs

This has huge consequences for employers who have maintained some optimism of a return to office migration when we finally put the pandemic behind us. Employers are now seriously reassessing return to office policies, and are focusing more on how they can evolve their communication and collaboration approaches across remote and hybrid teams.

Better work-life balance is the main reason why people choose to work remotely.

Owl Labs

People have adapted and have seen that there is a new way to work that maybe previously wasn’t on their radar. Work from home employees cite less commute time, more focus time and flexibility as the main benefits. There are drawbacks also to contend with, but for many it seems that the advantages strongly outweigh the disadvantages.

85% of managers believe that having teams with remote workers will become the new norm.

Owl Labs

Although a few managers might still have some doubts about remote work and its benefits, most  believe that hybrid teams of remote and in-office employees will be the norm in the future. This means big changes for how we think about modern leadership in the remote environment. We have written about these topics before here

74% of workers say that having the option to work remotely would make them less likely to leave a company.

Owl Labs

As employees have adjusted to a the remote environment, many of them are clearly signalling that they want to maintain some element of remote work in their life. Employers must listen and adapt their plans to the needs of their workforce or be in danger of losing some of their key team members.

The three biggest challenges associated with remote work are unplugging after work (27%), loneliness (16%), and communication / collaboration (16%).

Buffer

Unplugging after work is a tough challenge when the same physical space you occupy for work is also where you relax. We must develop a new discipline and skill, learning how to switch off better. We have written about this here.

Loneliness is a growing issue, and we are quickly realising how important face to face engagement is, while others are realising the value relationships at work can provide.

Communication and collaboration more than any one factor determines the success and impact of an organisation. Its why we founded Clearword and believe creating better ways to collaborate remotely will lead to the next generation of world changing companies.

Remote work in 2022

Expect significant improvements in our ability to work remotely. The transition has been quick, and in many ways we are still playing catchup - but in the background there are many great minds at work, developing tools and products that will make working remotely significantly better in 2022

There will also still be disruptions and uncertainty as we try to get too grips with the pandemic and the emergence of new variants. But as we plot a path out of the pandemic and a return to some kind of normal - it is clear that remote/hybrid working will occupy a significant, permanent role in our future.

There is one key insight collected from 2021 above all others that we think sets the perspective for 2022.

At least 97% of workers want to keep working remotely at least some of the time.

Buffer

It shouldn't come as any surprise that we now have a workforce who understands that many jobs can be done from anywhere, and will expect their employers to offer remote-friendly work environments. It is a fundamental shift in how we think about work and life. This shows there is a clear path forward post-pandemic

Remote/hybrid work is here to stay for sure and only get better.

If 2020 was the catalyst, 2021 was becoming familiar - then 2022 is when remote/hybrid starts to thrive.