Remote work is fast on the rise around the world, and what’s driving that change is technology in the hands of today’s young generation of workers. According to Upwork’s Future Workforce Report 2019, by 2028, Millennials and Generation Z (those born after 1996) workers will comprise 58% of the workforce and 73% of all departments will use remote workers.
Tools like Slack, Jira, Asana, and Google Drive allow all kinds of people to work remotely. Couple that with Generation Z entering the workforce and changing it altogether. But, some workers don’t want to just work from home; they want to be “digital nomads.”
You might be wondering what the difference is between a digital nomad and someone who works remotely. The main difference lies in the word “nomad.” Digital nomads can be remote workers, but remote workers aren’t always digital nomads. Most digital nomads don’t like to be tied down to any one place for long. Often, they won’t own a home or have any major responsibilities that would restrict their movement. Think of digital nomads as a small (but growing) subset of the larger remote worker population.
Freelance work lends itself well to being a digital nomad. You can usually set your own hours and choose your work location. If you’re disciplined enough, you can travel the world and earn enough to support yourself at the same time.
Generation Z workers have grown up with parents who commute to a job daily and who struggle to balance work and life responsibilities. This new generation doesn’t want to work or live as their parents did. They don’t want to struggle as they did. Generation Z values different things and this new value system is changing the way we live, work and think about the world.
Read on to find out how this new generation of workers is helping to redefine the workplace and kill traditional hiring in the process.
We Want to Work the Way We Live
Many of us live in smart homes, we shop online, order food for delivery online, talk to friends and family through video calls, and apply for jobs. Now, Generation Z workers especially want to work the way that they live, and that’s part of what makes remote work so attractive. This generation of young workers tends to value freedom and flexibility over corporate benefits and retirement plans.
Wanting flexibility and freedom doesn’t mean that Generation Z workers don’t want to work; they just prefer to work on their own terms. For some, that means becoming a digital nomad, and exploring the world while working from cafes, communal work locations, or anywhere with a decent Wi-Fi connection. Other young workers simply prefer to work from the comfort of their own home rather than being confined to a desk in an office.
Employers can leverage this desire for remote work to their advantage, but they must adjust their hiring practices in order to keep up with the changing world.
Today’s Technology Enables Remote Work
While the internet and high-speed connectivity aren’t new concepts, how we leverage them as a society and as workers is vastly different than it was even 20 years ago. Today, we can use technology to replace almost any facet of the traditional office.
Remote workers can communicate with one another via email, direct message clients (Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc.), or video meetings. Thanks to cloud computing, employees can share documents easily and securely, and meetings can be held via voice or video software. All these tools mean that remote workers from all around the globe can collaborate just like employees in the same office can.
Thanks to advances in online banking, it’s easy for remote workers to get paid via non-traditional methods. And, online banking is more sophisticated than it once was and is available throughout the world, making it available to almost anyone.
3 Ways Remote Workers Can Benefit Employers
Many companies have always operated virtual offices, while some larger employers are starting to phase in remote work slowly. Many employers are starting to consider at least a partially remote workforce because there are several advantages:
- Increased productivity
- Larger candidate pool
- Lower costs
While traditional office workers report for an eight-hour shift, that doesn’t mean that they do eight hours of work. Between meetings, watercooler conversations, lunch, and other company activities, many employees don’t do more than four hours of actual work in a given day.
Some companies started experimenting with the idea of letting their employees work from home a couple of days a week. Tests like these were usually steeped in a lack of trust, because the company thought that if they couldn’t see the worker, then the work wouldn’t get done. What many companies found, however, is that remote workers did more work than those in an office environment.
As long as the remote team has a solid, reasonable schedule and good communication, they tend to stick to that schedule more than traditional in-house teams do.
Larger Candidate Pool
Being open to remote workers means that employers don’t have to restrict themselves to candidates in the geographic area. The candidate pool expands from the local area to almost anywhere in the world, meaning that the employers can have access to talent that they wouldn’t through the normal hiring process.
It’s more expensive to search for, hire, and train new employees than it is to retain current ones. If an employer needs certain highly skilled positions filled, it’s important that they hire the right candidate, because starting over is costly. By having access to a larger talent pool, employers can increase their chances of finding the right candidate for the position and hopefully reduce attrition.
When employers open themselves up to a larger, more global pool of remote workers, they’re not only helping to support and grow the global economy, but they are also fostering inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
Offices are not eco-friendly or cost-friendly. Not only do companies have to pay the rent and keep the lights on, but there are also supply costs (equipment, paper, printer cartridges, office supplies).
While there are always costs associated with the hiring process (traditional or remote), employers who hire remotely can adjust the salaries based on the cost of living in the remote worker’s home city or country.
Some employers who hire remote workers have a mutual tryout period, rather than hiring someone immediately. This also gives the employee the opportunity to evaluate the company, just as the company evaluates them. Other employers offer a contract-to-hire opportunity, where they offer the employee a lower rate during the contract period and increase the pay if the employee passes the trial period.
Why Remote Work?
For people who are inclined, remote work allows them to earn a living while still having freedom and control over their lives. Remote work allows people to achieve some work-life balance. Not only does remote work enable people to work from anywhere, but it also helps people with children. These days, both men and women stay home with children and both men and women need to work. Remote work provides some flexibility for mothers and fathers to stay home with young children while still earning a living.
You could also argue that remote work helps to bridge the gender gap that exists in the conventional workplace. According to The Atlantic, 43% of women with children left their jobs in order to care for their children. These women intend to return to the workforce at some point, but they off-ramp for a period when their children are young. Remote work provides an outlet for these women to return or remain in the workforce while also being present for their children.
How Hiring for Remote Work Differs from the Traditional Hiring Process
While the remote hiring process is similar to the traditional hiring process, there are some important differences. Remote work isn’t for everyone, so employers need to pay attention to how quickly the candidate responds to pre-employment surveys, questions, or interview requests and how well the candidate communicates. For the younger generation of workers, this may come more naturally, but that doesn’t mean that remote work is only for younger generations. The new generation is used to (and often prefers) communicating electronically, through social media, texts, and emails.
The communication method(s) is only part of the equation. While remote work does give workers the freedom to work from anywhere (and often with flexible hours), remote workers need to excel at timely communication so that the employer feels confident that the work is getting done and that any issues are escalated appropriately.
For employers, the biggest reasons to enable virtual work environments and hire remote workers are simple: money and productivity. Companies can save money by reducing the need for physical office locations, hiring the right people for the job (regardless of location), and increasing productivity.
Employees benefit from remote work by being able to strike a better work-life balance. These employees have more freedom to structure both their work and non-work time, which leads to increased happiness and increased employer satisfaction. Happy workers equate to higher productivity and retention, both of which can save organizations a significant amount of money.
In short, remote work environments will continue to increase as this young generation and ones to follow drive meaningful change in the way we live and work. Employers need to understand the benefit of remote workers and how best to leverage and manage remote employees in order to grow their businesses.