What Remote Work Looks Like in 2021 and Beyond
December 15, 2020
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Remote work has been growing in popularity for a while now. In fact, before the novel coronavirus, over 50% of younger generations worked from home at least some of the time, according to a study from CloudApp.

The pandemic completely shifted the professional landscape. According to a Stanford study, 42% of the US labor force began working from home full-time in 2020, while just 26% of them operated out of a traditional business premise. (The remaining 32% weren’t able to work.)

In other words, remote work went mainstream. The question now is, how long will it last? Keep reading to learn our remote work predictions for 2021 and beyond.

7 Remote Work Predictions for 2021

So, what will remote work look like in 2021? We dusted off our crystal ball and took a look into the future. Here’s what we see happening in the coming year:

1. Remote Work Will Continue to Grow

In 2021, many workers will return to the office, construction site, warehouse and retail sites. Wherever it was, they worked before the pandemic hit. But many of them will also continue to operate out of their home offices. This return to the workplace is especially true for white-collar workers.

For example, major tech companies like Twitter, Shopify, Square, and Slack have announced that their employees can work from home indefinitely if they choose.

So, while we don’t expect to see 42% of American professionals working remotely for all of 2021, we do think that the percentage of remote workers around the world will continue to grow beyond the 2019 statistics.

business
Remote Work growth in 2021 and beyond.

2. Asynchronous Communication Will Become the New Normal

As more and more workers adopt a permanent remote work lifestyle, the need for asynchronous communication will skyrocket.

If you’re not familiar with the term, asynchronous communication is any form of communication that does not happen in real-time. In general, emails, Trello comments, phone messages, etc., fall into this category.

Synchronous communication is the opposite. This communication type happens in real-time, which means that in-person meetings, voice calls, and Zoom meetings are included.

The benefit of asynchronous communication for remote workers is clear. These folks can’t simply walk down the hall and talk with their colleagues. They might also be located in different time zones from their teammates. Asynchronous communication allows remote workers to converse with each other despite these hindrances.

If you plan to work from home (or somewhere other than a company office), we suggest using asynchronous communication tools like email, Slack, Trello, etc.

A screen recorder can also be useful for explaining complex processes and workflows to colleagues. You simply hit the record button, perform the process, and send the footage to your team. They can then watch the recording and grasp what you’re trying to tell them.

chatbot persona
Remote Work growth in 2021 and beyond.

3. Use of Visual Communication Tools Will Grow

We believe the use of visual communication tools will also increase in 2021, which totally makes sense when you think about it…

Again, remote workers aren’t able to converse with colleagues in-person — at least not on a regular basis. But seeing who you’re speaking to has numerous benefits. That’s why, according to Hubspot, nearly 100% of people claim face-to-face communication is vital to long-term business relationships.

Fortunately, visual communication tools will allow you to see your colleagues (and the projects they’re working on) while you speak to them, even if you’re working thousands of miles apart.

  • Video Conferencing: The pandemic made Zoom a household name. In all likelihood, you’ve attended a Zoom meeting or two (or 20) in the past few months. But there are other video conferencing tools that will allow you to host face-to-face meetings remotely. Some of our favorites include Highfive and ClickMeeting.
  • Screenshot Tools: Written communications are often unproductive. It can take a while to write and edit complex messages that are easy to understand. Fortunately, a screenshot tool can be used instead. Simply snap an image of your screen, annotate it with arrows and text boxes, and send it to your teammates.
  • GIF Creators: A GIF is a soundless video that loops continuously. You see them all the time on social media. As it turns out, they can be handy business tools as well. Record a quick GIF of your screen (or yourself via your computer’s webcam) and send the footage to your team. They’ll definitely appreciate the fun communication channel.

4. Company Culture Will Take Another Leap Forward

Organizations in every industry obsess over company culture. After all, if your culture isn’t great, nobody will want to work for you, which is obviously not ideal. This is why the “cool” companies offer catered lunches and technology budgets to their staff.

But when it comes down to it, culture is really about engagement, not fun perks. If you can engage your teams in their jobs, your company culture will naturally improve.

Engaging remote employees has unique challenges. Because these workers operate independently so frequently, it’s easy for them to lose touch with the businesses they’re employed by and become disengaged.

In 2021, company culture will need to take another leap forward and find ways to keep remote workers engaged. We predict that many organizations will stay connected by stressing communication more than they have in the past — and they’ll encourage employees to connect with each other socially during work hours.

remote team video conference
Image credit: Anna Shvets from Pexels

5. Organizations Will Re-Evaluate Their Retention Strategies

As remote work becomes normal for many professionals worldwide, organizations will need to reevaluate their retention strategies. After all, staffers will have more employment options than ever before because geography won’t keep them from accepting new job offers.

With this in mind, companies of all kinds will need to think long and hard about why their employees want to work for them and not a competitor. Perks like stipends, unlimited paid time off, and technology budgets can help in this regard.

But we also suggest going deeper. Try hard to connect your employees to your company’s mission and values. If they believe in the work they’re doing, they’ll stick around for longer.

Retention is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be. According to PeopleKeep, it can cost anywhere from 16% to 213% to replace an employee, depending on the position they vacate. You don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on turnover in 2021, do you?

6. Communication Skills Will Increase in Importance

We’ve talked a lot about communication so far…

Yes, we believe that asynchronous communication strategies and the use of visual communication tools will explode in 2021. But that’s not all. We also predict that the need for dynamite communication skills will increase in importance as well.

Both managers and the remote employees they oversee will need to become communication experts to maintain productivity and effectiveness.

What will this look like? Here are a few ideas:

  • More Effective Tools: Communication is easier with the right tools. We encourage you to experiment with different options like Slack, Zoom, Trello, CloudApp, and others. Then choose the ones that work best for your organization and run with them.
  • A Hands-On Approach: Management professionals will need to get more hands-on with their staff in order to keep them in the loop and engaged. This probably means regular check-ins, pep talks, and making sure they’re always acting with empathy.
  • Total Commitment: Lastly, managers and remote employees will need to commit to communication. Both parties need to make staying in contact with other colleagues and managers a priority. If either side drops the ball in this regard, communication will suffer.

7. Virtual Onboarding Will be Essential

Did you know that great employee onboarding can boost retention by 82%? Unfortunately, 88% of companies don’t onboard well…

Here’s the thing: onboarding is even more important when dealing with remote workers. Why? Because you can’t simply give new hires an employee handbook and say, “Come find me if you have any questions.” Well, you could, but it would be horribly ineffective.

At least an in-office employee in this scenario has a few coworkers nearby they can talk to. Remote staff will be all alone in their home office, thinking, “Wait, what?”

A remote work maintains its prevalence in 2021; companies will need to find ways to improve their virtual onboarding processes. A few ideas include investing in cutting-edge onboarding technology, asking experienced team members to mentor new hires via phone calls, Slack chats, Zoom meetings, etc., and getting to know new hires on a personal level.

The Future of Work

Remote work is the future. Take another look at the seven predictions above to prepare yourself and your company for the coming changes. You’ll be glad you did! But don’t stop there. Begin to implement them into your organization’s strategies and workflows.

What do you think? Will remote work look differently in 2021 than what we laid out in this blog post? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Top Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels

Joe Martin

Joe Martin

VP of Marketing

Joe Martin is currently the GM and VP of Marketing at CloudApp, a visual collaboration tool. He has more than 13 years of experience of marketing in the tech industry. Prior to his role at CloudApp, Martin was the Head of Social Analytics at Adobe where he led paid social strategy and a research team providing strategic guidance to organizations within the company. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, Executive education in Entrepreneurship from Stanford Graduate School of Business, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Utah and a digital marketing certificate from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published in the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and other top tier outlets.

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