A report charting the huge number of jobs that can now be completed remotely will make for grim reading for bosses anxious to get their workforces back into offices.
The figures are the latest addition to the global debate about whether workers should be given the freedom and flexibility of being able to work wherever they want – a position that has been bolstered by advances in video conferencing software – and whether offices really are that important for productivity.
Some of the world’s biggest companies have given their employees the chance to work from home, and these sorts of reports are likely to persuade more to join them.
Remote Jobs Rapidly Rising
According to The Ladders’ Q1 2022 Quarterly Remote Work Report – which analyzed data from over 50,000 North American companies – before the pandemic, just 4% of US & Canadian jobs were non-office based. The roles were typically restricted to sectors like technology and sales.
Of course, when Covid hit, this changed drastically. But still, by the end of 2020, only 7% of jobs were remote. This went up to 18% at the end of 2021, meaning almost two out of every 10 jobs were being completed without employees venturing into the office.
In the first quarter of 2020, only 1.61% of roles in HR Compensation and Benefits were remote. Now, that number is 28.40%.
In the first quarter of this year, that’s risen to a huge 24% – and Ladders expect this number to climb to 25% by the end of 2022. If that materializes, over one-fifth of all US & Canadian jobs (21%) will have gone remote in less than two years.
Back-to-Office Bosses Won't be Pleased
According to Ladders, the five fields most likely to have remote employees are Brand Marketing & Management, Account Management, Sales Engineering, DevOps & Site Reliability, and Quality Assurance.
But bosses in other industries have been much more reluctant to put any permanent stamp on their employees’ covid-era flexible working arrangements.
“Knowing how to work in a conference room, to say something clever at the watercooler—those are skills they picked up over 40 years” – Marc Cenedella, Founder of The Ladders.
Marc Cenedella told Fortune that “On one hand, big executives say, ‘We’ve really got to head back to the office,’ and a lot of that is based not on what employees think, but on boomer-aged bosses’ comfort with influencing management in a physical environment.”
Younger employees, Cenedella says, spend much more time online and are much better accustomed to using precisely the kind of programs needed to perform in remote environments.
Are There Really any Downsides to the Mass Shift to Remote Working?
Cenedella did, however, identify one thing that had taken a knock during the mass shift to remote work – training. It's not difficult to imagine new employees struggling to draw out the same level of value from remote training programs that they would be able to in the office.
This echoes the comments made by Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomons at the beginning of 2021.
“I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us” Solomons said. “And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible,” he told a conference.
Whether this is really the “new normal” is still an open question – and only time will tell. But the question is a lot less open than it was last year. With every passing day, it looks like there's no going back to the day-to-day life of the pre-pandemic world.