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The Evolution of Remote Work: Trends and Predictions for 2024

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While the remote work revolution may have hit its media peak during the height of the pandemic, in the 4-5 years since the first lockdowns, the demand for alternative work models has continued to grow among the global workforce. Between 2019-2021, the number of Americans working remotely grew from around 9 million to over 9 million to over 17.5 million, ultimately resulting in the current landscape in which almost 41% of staff work either remotely or within a hybrid model.

Of course, the original benefits stemmed from a necessity to maintain a physical separation between members of the workforce, but in recent years several studies have highlighted just how transformative alternative work structures can be. From productivity improvements to measurable mental health benefits, our understanding of employment has forever changed.

With experts projecting that at least 50-80 million previously in-office jobs will be performed remotely a majority of the time by 2030, the longevity of alternative work models is not really up for debate. However, the way that businesses and employees approach remote work will likely continue to change as more industries look to adapt key processes for remote workers.

Drawing on recently published studies, statistics and insights regarding the current state of alternative work models, this post will explore a variety of likely remote work trends for 2024.

Hybrid work will grow in popularity

While 98% of surveyed workers say they want to work remotely for the rest of their careers, this overwhelming support for remote work isn’t necessarily shared by all business leaders. 

Whether it’s due to funds tied up in commercial property leases or a desire to foster a sense of physical community in the workplace, as many as 90% of companies plan to return to the office (at least partially) by the end of 2024. Of course, there are still some employers that see the benefits in shifting to fully remote models, but for the most part teams need to find some middle ground.

It’s for this reason that hybrid work is likely to become increasingly important in 2024, with employees and managers able to balance the benefits of remote and in-office roles a little more evenly. Staff retain some of the flexible benefits associated with remote work, while business leaders gain the reassurance that face-to-face collaboration will remain possible.

This prediction is reflected in recently released research by Litter, where over 70% of US employers said they intend to embrace hybrid work models in 2024. Additionally, supporting data suggests 68% of employees consider hybrid work to be the most desirable work structure, compared to only 28% preferring entirely remote work and 8% wanting strictly in-office roles.

A continued focus on employee wellbeing

Numerous studies have been published in recent years proclaiming that the rise of remote work has been significantly beneficial to employee wellbeing. One such study conducted in 2020 found that staff engaged in full-time remote work models demonstrated a reduction in psychological and physical stress responses, but productivity levels were also seen to drop.

These findings illustrate some of the complications associated with remote work research, in that for some people remote work both reduces stress and improves productivity, while for others the effects may range from non-existent to detrimental. Generally speaking, however, affording staff more flexibility at work seems to have a positive impact on mental health, with 56% of workers agreeing with this statement and 96% of workers believing hybrid roles boost wellbeing in a study by FlexJobs.

With this in mind, it’s safe to predict that a continued focus will be placed on finding reliable ways to support employees in hybrid and remote working environments throughout 2024. In many cases, simple solutions may involve increased investments in digital tools designed to help flexible staff better manage stress, with HR teams focused on continual communication.

“Ensuring employees have easy access to mental health and mindfulness resources such as resilience training and responsive communication tools may help to alleviate stresses among flexible workers,” says Carlos Escoboar, a licensed mental health counselor at Real Recovery.

Expect HR departments to explore new and innovative ways to reach out to and engage in meaningful conversations with employees as flexible work grows during 2024.

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Cybersecurity best practices will evolve

As increasing numbers of businesses adapt sensitive systems to function effectively within remote work environments, cybersecurity and data privacy best practices must be evolved. In recent years, the number of significant cyber-attacks targeted towards remote and hybrid workers has increased, with reported threats rrising by almost 40% globally throughout 2022, according to Security Magazine.

Moreover, a study by Zipdo revealed 91% of surveyed cybersecurity professionals believe the growing prevalence of remote and hybrid work models may be contributing to this increase in cyber-criminality. In particular, a lack of strict organizational policies detailing how employees are to safely access and utilize sensitive systems, devices and confidential information may be exacerbating privacy issues.

For example, almost 40% of employees are known to access corporate data using personal devices, 70% use work devices for personal tasks, and 30% of remote employees admit to sharing work devices with friends or family. If remote work is to continue rising in popularity, more must be done by businesses to ensure sensitive data is properly stored and secured.

As more organizations adapt to remote work models in 2024, IT and cybersecurity experts will be required to strengthen existing data security policies. Advanced policies such as zero trust will likely become more widespread, with 80% of security professionals highlighting this practice as a top priority.

Additionally, multi-factor authentication, automated threat detection, virtual private networks and custom access control models will each become more prevalent.

Upskilling and professional development 

Now that organizations have had time to adapt core processes with remote and hybrid work in mind, many aspects of traditional roles have been adjusted. This could mean existing staff are expected to take on new responsibilities, or traditional processes have been adapted in keeping with remote work requirements. Either way, training programs must be restructured. 

To help remote workers make the most efficient use of their time and overcome workplace monotony, more emphasis should be placed on continuous learning. This principle will likely become increasingly important as companies continue to ramp up their investments in smart technologies and AI tools, with 67% of leaders planning to utilize such solutions during 2024.

HR teams may be encouraged to improve access to online resources, training programs and skill development courses, with a particular focus placed on adapting traditional roles to best utilize AI technologies. This prediction is supported by recently published data revealing that over 75% of workers have not yet received sufficient training in the effective use of AI tools.

Furthermore, optimizing existing training practices and providing staff more opportunities to learn new skills will likely be well-received by the workforce. This can be seen in research by Axonify revealing 92% of workers believe formal workplace training positively impacts engagement, while 94% would stay at their companies longer if continual training programs were offered.

Summary

With remote and hybrid work environments now commonplace across most major industries, business leaders have had ample opportunity to adjust their operations in line with changing demands. However, some aspects of remote work still need to be optimized and reassessed to ensure both employees and employers are suitably supported while performing their roles.

As remote work continues to evolve in 2024, expect to hear more conversations about hybrid models, to see more emphasis placed on employee wellbeing, for cybersecurity practices to be strengthened and for businesses to invest more in upskilling and personal development programs. With these considerations in mind, remote work can continue to flourish in 2024.

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About Author

Howie is a freelance writer is interested in tech, legal, health, and property trends. When she's not writing, she works in commercial property management.

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